Retaining International Employees: You Need to Know | Teami

Retaining International Employees: What You Need to Know

Learn proven strategies to retain and support international employees across cultural bounds.

In today's globalized workforce, effectively retaining international employees is crucial yet challenging. With diverse perspectives come obstacles like culture clashes, communication breakdowns, and confusion navigating laws across borders. Without proper support, international hires quickly become disengaged, harming productivity and spurring turnover. 

This article will explore proven strategies to foster inclusion, meet local expectations, and build trust across cultural bounds. Gain valuable insights on tailoring policies, smoothing operations, and unlocking global teams' full potential. Learn how leading with empathy and flexibility provides a competitive edge in harnessing workplace diversity worldwide.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Impact of Cultural Differences

Globalization has led to increasingly diverse and multicultural workplaces. However, cultural differences can present communication challenges and misunderstandings that negatively impact employee retention and satisfaction. A recent Gallup poll found that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. For international teams, clashing work styles and values can exacerbate disengagement.

Cultural tendencies relating to power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and collectivism versus individualism, shape workplace norms and expectations. For instance, the direct style of communicating feedback valued in individualistic cultures like the US, could be seen as rude in collectivist cultures that emphasize group harmony.

Lack of cultural awareness leads to misconstrued messages and strained relationships between colleagues. Tensions may arise from differing approaches to punctuality, work-life balance, autonomy, hierarchy, modesty, social interactions, problem-solving and more. If unaddressed, these issues create feelings of isolation, frustration and ultimately higher turnover.

Strategies to Bridge Cultural Gaps

Bridging cross-cultural differences requires shifting from an ethnocentric view of one's own cultural values as superior, to a culturally relative mindset of mutual understanding and adaptation. Leaders should foster open communication through forums for discussing cultural perspectives and expectations, allowing for clarification, building empathy, and adapting practices as needed. Assigning culture mentors to guide new hires can aid integration. Providing cross-cultural training through workshops facilitates communication, conflict resolution, and trust building across cultures, with tools like Hofstede's cultural dimensions used to clarify company values while allowing flexibility in work styles.

Encouraging social interaction through team building activities, buddy programs, and chat groups enables the interpersonal bonds that unite teams. Remote teams can bond through video conferencing. Onboarding should be customized to orient international hires on company culture and regional differences, setting clear work norms while reassuring that cultural traits are valued. Leadership styles should adapt to be more inclusive, with delegation, directness, feedback, and autonomy adjusted based on cultural preferences. Diversity's advantages in spurring creativity, problem-solving, and global market insight should be highlighted to convey the competitive edge it brings. Simplifying language by limiting jargon and checking for understanding aids communication across accents and fluency levels, with language training resources offered. Any inequities must be addressed through consistent policies and equal opportunity, navigating unconscious biases through ongoing training and data reviews.

With concerted effort, self-awareness, and empathy on all sides, teams can bridge cultural differences, resulting in an engaged cohort unified by its diversity, with low turnover driven by intercultural synergy and belonging.

Building a Culture of Trust

Trust-Building Strategies

For international teams, establishing trust is imperative yet challenging. Without ever meeting face-to-face, virtual workers must build bonds transcending cultural and geographic divides. Managers play a pivotal role in cultivating trust through consistent communication, demonstrating respect, and promoting collaboration.

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to touch base on progress and concerns. Be accessible and provide timely responses, as silence breeds mistrust. Give praise when earned to reinforce positive behaviors. Seek input before decisions and acknowledge contributions. Lead by example maintaining integrity and owning mistakes.

Clarify goals while allowing autonomy in how they are achieved. Don't micromanage. Offer training to hone skills. Cyclically evaluate performance based on clear metrics, delivering constructive criticism to help employees develop.

Foster camaraderie through team building activities. Virtual happy hours, cooking classes or game nights present informal settings to interact. Occasional in-person retreats also build rapport. During meetings, take time for personal check-ins and chit-chat.

Overall, exhibit care for staff's wellbeing. Be flexible accommodating needs. Ask about family and hobbies. Make sure workloads are reasonable to avoid burnout. Showing individuals they are valued motivates engagement and loyalty.

Remote and In-Office Collaboration

With international teams, some employees work remotely while others are in-office. This can breed distrust if the groups feel segregated. Managers must purposefully unite these cohorts through initiatives bringing them together.

Remote staff should have equal standing in meetings, discussions and decisions. Their opinions shouldn’t be dismissed or overlooked. Set up video calls so they have a visual presence. Circulate agendas beforehand so all can prepare.

After sessions, share recaps and next steps over email or project management platforms like Teami. This keeps remote workers informed. Store reference documents on intranets they can access.

Schedule overlapping hours for urgent matters requiring quick collaboration. Timezone differences otherwise obstruct this. Calendar notifications and status reports also update on progress.

Occasionally convene offsites, inviting remote participants. Pay for transportation and lodging. Design team building activities facilitating relationship building. Return, remote workers should share learnings with in-office peers during meetings or presentations.

With deliberate inclusion, managers prevent remote staff feeling like “outsiders.” Workers unite around shared goals, not location. Barriers melt away as all parties build understanding and trust.

When bringing employees aboard from overseas, companies must navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding international hiring. From immigration laws to work permits and visas, managers need a firm grasp of employment regulations to avoid penalties.

Securing proper work authorization constitutes the first priority. Most countries require non-citizens to obtain visas or work permits before starting employment. The visa type depends on factors like the role, company, and employee's citizenship. Common options include H-1B for specialized skills and L-1 for intracompany transfers.

Employers should consult immigration attorneys to identify appropriate visas. The application process can stretch 6+ months, so start early. Lawyers also ensure full legal compliance, for instance paying required visa fees and minimum salaries. Using a timesheets software helps document hours and wages.

Beyond work permits, companies must abide by destination country labor laws. Key areas concern minimum vacation and leave, overtime pay, terminations/layoffs and non-discrimination. Ignorance of foreign laws risks major lawsuits. Partner with global HR services to stay updated on each country's evolving regulations.

Compliance Challenges and Solutions

Managing international teams creates several key compliance challenges. Calculating payroll and taxes across borders proves complex, with little room for error that could lead to fines or penalties. Options to simplify payroll include contracting accredited global payroll providers or using HR software with built-in payroll features. Data privacy regulations also vary significantly by country - for example, EU GDPR rules heavily fine companies for mishandling European citizen data, requiring investments in data governance training and access controls. Cloud solutions with country-specific data centers aid compliance. Government agencies frequently audit legal compliance regarding international employees, so centralizing compliance records like I-9s, visas, and timesheets enables quick response to information requests and site visits. Language barriers must also be addressed to ensure employees clearly understand workplace policies and legal rights through translated handbooks, contracts, and communications, plus on-site translators or language training.

With preparation, including experienced legal counsel, HR tech, centralized documentation, and employee input, businesses can adeptly traverse the legal landscape of international hiring. The reward is a productive global team unhindered by compliance pitfalls. Staying on top of diverse regulations across borders is a continual process, but necessary to unlock the advantages of a worldwide talent pool while avoiding costly penalties.

Compensation and Benefits

Tailoring Compensation Packages

When hiring internationally, companies must offer competitive compensation tailored to each market to attract and retain top talent, rather than blindly transferring domestic salary structures abroad. Key steps in developing localized packages include researching pay scales by role in the destination country using resources like PayScale, and Glassdoor, while benchmarking against multinational firms. Consulting specialized international HR providers gives insights on appropriate salary ranges, incentives, and legal requirements based on location. Cost of living differences must be factored in, with salaries aligned to match purchasing power as determined by COL calculators comparing regions. Skills shortages in certain countries may necessitate higher pay to attract applicants. Experience levels also impact packages, with seniority commanding increased compensation across borders. Benefits should match local practices and preferences like vacation days, retirement plans, and health insurance. Accommodating cultural values is also important - collectivist cultures may prioritize family benefits while individualists want flexible hours or remote work.

Strategically tailored comp allows employers to attract top talent abroad while maintaining fiscal prudence. Employees feel equitably valued when paid on par with regional counterparts. Regular package reviews and market research help keep compensation aligned as conditions evolve. With thoughtful customization, companies can build an equitable global compensation structure.

Understanding International Market Rates

Many variables influence prevailing international market rates for compensation. National economic factors like inflation, GDP, unemployment levels, and income distribution impact pay - countries with higher costs of living or skill shortages will see higher salaries. Industry standards within a country also play a role, with finance roles garnering larger pay than teaching. Supply and demand dynamics drive rates as well - talent shortages allow applicants to expect premiums while surpluses lower pay. The costs of expatriate assignments, including relocation and hardship compensation, boost salary levels. Company size matters too, with large multinationals paying more than small local firms. Individual credentials like education, certifications, and experience allow top performers to earn above-average rates. Government regulations may impose minimum wages and benefit requirements.

With so many influences, organizations must research meticulously to benchmark against the international market by consulting reputable salary surveys, cost of living calculators, multinationals' pay data, and localization specialists. This understanding prevents compensation costs from ballooning while still attracting talent. Regular reviews of market data allow pay adjustment to rapid global shifts. Aligning compensation with dynamic international rates through rigorous research ensures equitable, competitive rewards across borders. Market-informed pay enables organizations to secure a strong global workforce.

Training and Development

Training Programs for International Employees

Onboarding international hires requires dedicated training programs tailored to their specific needs. Given language barriers and unfamiliarity with the local corporate culture, international employees cannot simply be thrown into generic training regimes. Localized orientation guided by HR immerses staff in destination country work norms, explaining cultural nuances and providing language classes as needed. For remote teams, interactive virtual seminars accommodate varied time zones through webinars and prerecorded videos. Mentor assignments pair new hires with cultural mentors, ideally compatriots already on staff who can guide newcomers through unwritten rules and informally resolve questions, facilitating integration. Feedback loops through quizzes, discussions, and surveys identify knowledge gaps across language and cultural barriers to target training reinforcement. Periodic refresher courses prevent knowledge erosion on protocols, systems, products, and compliance.

With training customized to international hires' needs, employers equip these employees to excel in their new cultural work context. Ongoing reinforcement also keeps skills sharp amid constant workplace changes. Training must adapt to cross both cultural and language divides through thoughtful localization, interactive delivery, mentors, reinforcement, and refreshers. The result is confident, productive international teams.

Career Development Paths

Beyond initial training, managers should nurture international hires' long-term career growth to boost their capabilities and convey they are valued beyond temporary needs. Sponsored certifications like PMP and SHRM-CP enhance skills and credentials, with some firms providing exam prep support. Job rotations through different roles, teams, or locations provide well-rounded experience, expanding skill sets and global perspectives. Tuition assistance contributes funds towards continuing education at local colleges and online universities, prioritizing career-elevating courses. Stretch assignments on special complex projects unlock leadership abilities by handing high-potential international staffers unique challenges. Peer mentoring groups share ideas and advice around growth goals across cultural bounds. Promotion transparency through clear criteria and timelines sets expectations so internationals can chart an upward path.

With deliberate career development investments in their talent, employers gain more capable international staff while employees feel invested in long-term. This symbiotic relationship secures returns on international hiring and lowers regrettable turnover. Ongoing development through rotations, education, mentoring, and challenges nurtures talent and loyalty across borders. International employees who feel valued and see a future with an organization will contribute more fully to its success.

Communication and Collaboration

Effective Communication Strategies

Clear communication constitutes a linchpin for global team cohesion and performance. With international employees spanning diverse cultures, languages and time zones, managers must hone inclusive communication strategies. Begin by surveying staff's preferred mediums, availability and language fluencies. Multimodal communications suit diverse preferences.

Schedule regular video conferences enabling face-to-face interactions. Circulate agendas beforehand so participants can prepare. During meetings, do quick "temperature checks" to ensure all follow and feel heard. Summarize action items before closing.

For urgent needs, identify optimal hours for quick collaboration despite time differences. Calendar notifications help update on progress. Provide recordings and notes after for absent members.

In emails, limit jargon and slang that may confuse non-native speakers. Check for understanding by asking direct questions. Offer translation apps and localized language training.

Enable anonymous forums where staff can pose questions freely without judgement. Managers can clarify expectations or cultural nuances without singling employees out.

Overall, exhibit patience and empathy. Recognize limitations stemming from language or technology barriers. With compassion, teams build trust and connection transcending borders.

Collaboration Tools and Techniques

Technology presents myriad options for facilitating seamless collaboration within dispersed international teams. Begin by selecting platforms suiting the team's needs and skill sets.

Project management tools like Teami and streamline task coordination across locations. Shared dashboards display individual workloads, deadlines and reporting hierarchies. Integrated messaging enables direct communication.

File sharing apps like Dropbox, Box and OneDrive centralize documents, data and images. Role-based permissions allow controlled access. Version histories prevent work overlap.

Instant messaging software like Slack fosters real-time chat, questions and updates. Integrations extend its utility seamlessly into other workplace systems. Custom channels organize discussions by topic or team.

Whiteboard apps like Miro replicate in-person brainstorming virtually. Employees can collaboratively flowchart ideas, mind map concepts and annotate strategies across devices.

Besides helpful tech, managers should nurture a collaborative culture abroad. Discourage siloed work in favor of sharing insights cross-functionally. Bring remote staff into brainstorms and meetings. Their diversity strengthens solutions.

With the right tools and practices, international teams readily share knowledge and communicate complex concepts. This cross-border collaboration drives workplace innovation.

Employee Engagement and Well-being

Engagement Strategies for International Employees

Engaging international employees requires nuanced strategies tailored to their unique needs and perspectives. With varied cultural backgrounds and geographic separation, generic engagement tactics often miss the mark. Instead, focus on fostering belonging, open communication, and pathways for input.

Build an inclusive culture that values international voices and diversity of thought. Highlight how their global insights strengthen the organization. Institute buddy systems connecting international hires with engaged employees for mentoring. Solicit honest feedback through anonymous pulse surveys, then act on suggestions. Recognize international teams’ contributions publicly.

Provide channels for global employees to participate, like virtual town halls and ideation boards. Schedule meetings when all time zones can collaborate. Circulate preread materials and post session recaps for remote workers. Offer cultural training for regional fluency. Ultimately, exhibit patience and empathy when navigating language or technology barriers. With compassion, international staffers feel respected and engaged.

Mental Well-Being Support

Working abroad often strains international employees' mental health and wellness. Isolation, cultural shocks and high-pressure deliverables take a toll. Managers should implement robust support systems to maintain engagement and retention.

Confidentially survey international teams on their stressors and needs. Look for signs of burnout like tardiness or mood changes. Develop a mental health action plan addressing identified challenges. Consider offering counseling stipends, wellness sites, and anonymous support groups tailored to displaced employees.

Train managers on supporting internationals' mental health through checking in regularly, adjusting workloads, and offering schedule flexibility. Share techniques for staying grounded like meditation apps, nature breaks and cultural meetups. Demonstrate that mental health is prioritized over stigmas.

Overall, a holistic support system signals that international staffers are valued for their wellbeing, not just productivity. This engenders lasting loyalty abroad. Simple investments like a buddy network make a world of difference for global teams' health. With the right care, international employees feel happier, empowered and engaged wherever they are.

Technology in Managing International Employees

Tools for Communication and Training

Technology facilitates seamless communication and training for globally dispersed teams. With staff spanning time zones worldwide, managers must select platforms suiting their needs.

Web conferencing tools like Zoom, Webex and GoToMeeting enable face-to-face virtual interactions through video, audio and screen sharing. These help remote international workers feel connected and foster team cohesion. Scheduling meetings when all time zones can attend ensures inclusion.

Learning management systems like Docebo and TalentLMS deliver customized online training to international staff. Built-in authoring tools simplify creating lessons on everything from company policies to cybersecurity. Managers track learning progress through dashboards. For hands-on skills development, interactive 3D simulations mimic real-world scenarios.

Messaging apps like Slack and Teams streamline communication beyond meetings. Employees collaborate through instant chat, video calls, document sharing and threaded conversations organized by topic, team or project. This facilitates real-time knowledge sharing across regional bounds.

Innovative Technology Solutions

HR tech provides innovative solutions tailored to managing international workforces. Options like Teami for time tracking and BambooHR for records management simplify navigating compliance, payroll and data privacy abroad.

Intelligent chatbots aid with onboarding international hires on company processes and cultural nuances. Using natural language processing, bots answer common questions and guide next steps. This reduces the burden on HR.

Productivity trackers like Time Doctor reveal work patterns across global teams. Managers identify inefficiencies, adjust workloads if needed and pinpoint high performers for recognition or promotions.

Sentiment analysis tools like Culture Amp anonymously survey international staffers on engagement and concerns. Automated analysis detects burnout risks and uncovers hidden challenges managers can address.

Overall, today's HR tech landscape offers powerful innovations for leading international teams. With smart adoption, managers enable smoother operations, unified cultures and optimized human capital across any geography. The key lies in selecting solutions purpose-built for global workforces.

Innovative Retention Strategies

Remote Work Strategies

The rise of remote and distributed teams presents an opportunity for organizations to implement innovative work strategies that improve international employee retention. Offering remote work flexibility through options to work from home or co-working spaces several days per week enables better work-life balance and accommodates family needs abroad. Virtual team building activities like online coffee chats, games, digital recognition, and sending care packages facilitate relationship-building and boost engagement among remote international staff. Cross-cultural training through regular workshops on collaborating across cultures, time zones, and languages develops empathy and skills for effective virtual teamwork. Digital knowledge sharing via tools like Slack, Teams, and Teami streamlines communication and idea exchange across regions through real-time messaging. Providing stipends for home office setups signals a commitment to effective virtual work so internationals can upgrade furniture, internet, tools, and tech.

With deliberate strategies tailored to remote international employees' needs, organizations can improve retention by making these team members feel valued, connected, and equipped to collaborate virtually. Flexibility, training, stipends, and digital bonding activities keep globally dispersed workers engaged despite the distance. Supporting international remote work success pays dividends in talent retention and team productivity.

Competitive Advantages in Retention

Embracing innovative retention strategies delivers key competitive advantages in today's global talent market. Leading with remote work flexibility appeals to top international candidates seeking better work-life balance and career growth without relocation, expanding and elevating the talent pipeline. Policies directly addressing international employees' needs improve engagement and satisfaction, reducing turnover risks. Location-agnostic hiring provides access to underrepresented demographics abroad, bringing more diversity and fresh perspectives. Avoiding relocation and immigration fees through hiring international remote talent reduces human capital expenditures, with optimized budgets reinvested strategically. Studies show remote employees log more hours and experience fewer distractions than on-site counterparts while taking less leave - efficiencies that directly boost output. Moreover, remote and distributed teams are the workforce of tomorrow - getting ahead of this trend through progressive policies future-proofs organizational success.

To stay competitive globally, companies must rethink traditional retention tactics and instead embrace innovative remote work strategies. This provides a distinct talent advantage through reduced turnover, an amplified employer brand, increased diversity, cost savings, productivity gains, and preparedness for the future. With innovation and empathy, global teams unite and flourish. Proactive adoption of remote best practices allows organizations to access top worldwide talent and unlock their full potential.

Challenges and Solutions in Retaining Employees

Providing Timely Support

Retaining international employees can be challenging due to cultural differences, language barriers, distance, and more. One key strategy for boosting retention is providing timely support whenever issues arise. International staffers may feel hesitant about speaking up given their "outsider" status. Thus, managers should proactively check in on how they are adjusting, offer assistance navigating unfamiliar processes, and make themselves readily available to resolve concerns.

Consider assigning an onboarding mentor or "culture buddy" to new international hires. This gives them someone familiar to consult if questions come up, without fear of judgement. Mentors can monitor for signs of culture shock or disengagement, and quickly intervene before frustration sets in. Managers themselves should schedule regular one-on-one meetings with international employees to touch base on progress, provide feedback, and address problems early. An open door policy also encourages staff to seek help when needed.

When rolling out new initiatives, carve out extra time for international employees to learn systems and protocols. Recognize that language or cultural barriers may slow initial adoption. Offer supplemental training materials and tip sheets in accessible formats. Most importantly, exhibit patience and empathy when providing support. This ensures international staffers feel valued rather than burdensome when issues arise. With timely assistance delivered respectfully, global employees gain confidence and skills to excel.

Becoming a Local Employment Expert

Developing local expertise proves key for engaging and retaining international talent, given the varied laws and cultural norms across different countries. Companies should conduct thorough market research on several factors to become local employment experts.

First, research local employment regulations surrounding payroll, leaves, terminations, non-discrimination policies, and more. Understanding the legal landscape is crucial. Second, study the prevalent cultural values that shape work interactions and expectations in the region. For instance, attitudes towards hierarchy, directness, work-life balance and teamwork often differ across cultures.

Third, perform compensation benchmarking by role to offer internationally competitive pay and benefits tailored to the local market. Fourth, analyze talent availability by function, along with forecasts of future skills shortages or surpluses in the region. This indicates which roles may need proactive recruiting efforts.

Fifth, identify workplace perks and wellness programs that resonate abroad, like meal allowances or mental health support. Offerings should align with local needs and preferences.

In addition, HR should build relationships with employment lawyers and agencies in key geographies. This provides on-call expertise when thorny questions arise. Periodically surveying international staffers on engagement levels and desired policies also yields localized insights.

With nuanced understanding of managing global workforces, companies can craft tailored initiatives fostering strong retention. Proactively addressing international employees' needs and aligning with local norms demonstrates cultural fluency. When global teams feel understood and supported within their regional contexts, they reciprocate with loyalty.

In Summary

As globalization accelerates, effectively navigating cultural differences has become an imperative for multinational organizations seeking to engage international talent. While diversity undoubtedly brings fresh perspective, without mutual understanding it can also spur miscommunications, mistrust, and turnover across borders.

Bridging these divides hinges on fostering open dialogue, empathy, and respect on all sides. Managers must hone cross-cultural fluency - not just grasping differences, but adapting behaviors to unify teams. HR can provide guardrails through inclusion training, localized policies, and robust support systems. However, true culture change starts from within.

Looking ahead, thriving in our interconnected world requires viewing diversity as a competitive advantage, not an obstacle. Companies able to foster a sense of belonging for global workers while allowing flexibility on work styles are poised to unlock innovation and outperform competitors. As international assignments become commonplace, global team dexterity will increasingly set elite employers apart.

In today's borderless economy, those who embrace workforce diversity with compassion and courage will gain an edge. By taking concerted steps to understand cultural perspectives, craft cohesive global communities, and meet international employees' needs, organizations can cultivate the agility required to flourish worldwide. The future belongs to leaders who turn global teams into a secret weapon through the bonds of empathy and trust.

The most powerful time tracking software for agencies big and small, operating globally.

14 Day Free Trial. Cancel Any Time.

Here’s why agencies love Teami

Simple, fast and modern
We really care about the experience our users have within Teami, this means we put extra effort into making sure our product is user friendly and intuitive.
No training needed
High team adoption with privacy first
Teami is anti-surveillance meaning no screen recording or privacy violations. This helps our users get high team buy-in with a time tracking solution they are happy to use.
Powerful features for everyone
We do not charge extra for our multiple currency features or billing types. You can use our full product on every plan - the banded costs depend on the size of your agency.

Trusted by the best

Join hundreds of Agencies, Contract Recruiters, Outsourcing and Outstaffing teams that run better internal operations with Teami.
Our Ukraine pledge
Our team is spread across the United Kingdom and Ukraine. In support of our friends and colleagues we pledge to donate 10% of revenue to the Ukrainian army, every single month.
Donation updates are sent out in our monthly newsletter.
Join thousands of agency team members and receive our newsletter.
We are always writing, designing and sharing agency guides with the latest industry knowledge, tips, tricks and more. These get shared first in our monthly newsletter alongside our Ukrainian Army donation updates.

The most powerful time tracking software for agencies big and small, operating globally.

14 Day Free Trial. Cancel Any Time.