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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Achieving a global vision, one person at a time

Having international and diverse employees can be a great advantage. However, hiring wisely is necessary to make global hiring work for your company.

Achieving a global vision, one person at a time
[Goffkein / andreusK / Adobe Stock]

With recent announcements by a number of major companies to allow either a fully remote or a hybrid work model, it is tempting for business leaders to want to start snapping up employees from all corners of the world. However, like all important decisions executives must make, it is best to define the goals first, outline the specific criteria, and then evaluate the results.

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Below are eight questions to ask yourself as you consider hiring overseas employees.

HOW DOES THIS COUNTRY ALIGN WITH MY BUSINESS STRATEGY?

Begin by asking yourself what you’re trying to gain by hiring international remote employees. Are you trying to gain access to a larger pool of qualified job candidates, or do you want lower-cost employees? Are you trying to get a more diverse workforce? Do you want an expansion of customer support time-zone coverage? Do you want closer access to your customer base? Geographical market expansion?

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How a country aligns with your business strategy may be the most important thing to consider before taking on a global remote workforce. Carefully think these strategy questions through with your team before making any decision on a specific country.

IS THERE ADEQUATE TIME-ZONE OVERLAP?

While managing different time zones seems like a simple matter, if your work culture requires highly collaborative work, then time zones can become a real hassle for everyone involved; there will always be someone getting up early or staying up late.

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My team and I have found that maximizing the overlap of time zones produces the greatest results and that employees should define what will be their core working hours. Unfortunately, we have found that employees who have unpredictable working hours do not last long with our company.

WHAT INTERNATIONAL TAX IMPLICATIONS WILL YOUR COMPANY FACE?

Before hiring an international remote-work-only employee, you should carefully check the tax implications for your company. Assuming that you are a company based in the United States, under various tax treaties, your company may be exempt from paying taxes in that country as long as your company doesn’t have a “permanent establishment” in that specific country.

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The definition of a permanent establishment can get interpreted in many ways, so use caution and do your research ahead of time. Otherwise, you might be surprised by unexpected regulatory filings and tax burdens.

WHAT COUNTRY-SPECIFIC IMMIGRATION AND WORK-PERMIT REGULATION WILL NEED TO BE MANAGED?

You can always count on the government to want their taxes and their national residents employed. Having remote-work employees that travel from country to country can pose an employment-compliance risk for companies.

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When my team and I thought about this early on, we came up with our own definition of a “declared remote-work location.” Employees have to declare where their “home base” is located and if they want to relocate elsewhere, they have to notify us in advance. Then, as a company, we can decide whether we are able to support the employee in that new country or not.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF DIFFERENT PAID TIME OFF (PTO) AND HOLIDAY NORMS?

Unfortunately, there is little alignment between countries on the issues of paid time off and public holidays. Early in our global expansion, I had to remind our USA employees that most others around the globe don’t think like us.

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When hiring internationally, be prepared to address questions such as, “Why do employees in other countries get 13 paid holidays and 30 days of annual leave?”

WHAT IS THE HOST COUNTRY’S RELATIVE PASSPORT STRENGTH?

Generally speaking, passport strength refers to how many countries will permit your remote employee access without obtaining a visa prior to arrival. If you have a remote worker in a sales or business development role, it is critical that they can easily travel to other countries with minimal hassle. Having to obtain visas in advance can be time-consuming and costly.

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DOES THE HOST COUNTRY HAVE A STABLE TECHNOLOGY BASE? 

In an international remote-work environment, having access to technology resources is a must. These resources include a reliable fast internet connection with a reasonable pricing model. Be aware that in many countries there are still archaic pricing models that charge for data usage, not just bandwidth speed. Nothing is worse than trying to have a video call that is unbearably choppy or constantly drops off.

Another very important technology resource is near-immediate access to technology hardware suppliers. This helps in the event of a broken or dead laptop. Depending upon the nature of your business, it becomes both expensive and a huge waste of time if you have to ship a replacement laptop to a foreign country. It is a great help to have an in-country technology hardware supplier where your employee can buy equipment off the shelf.

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IS THE HOST COUNTRY POISED FOR GROWTH AND DOES IT SUPPORT A BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT OF INNOVATION?

Countries that are poised for growth often have governmental policies, educational institutions, R&D investments, low geopolitical risks, and other factors that support a business environment of innovation. This often results in a high density of talented and entrepreneurial-minded people in the workforce.

When my team and I are evaluating countries, we use sources such as the Bloomberg Innovation Index to determine how likely it is that a specific country will remain competitive. We have discovered that rather than hire employees from all over the map, it is better to hire in specific geographical clusters and expand outward from that location. Hiring in clusters offers the advantage of being able to deeply understand the local culture and business norms. It also allows for remote teams to gather for occasional in-person meetings and have discussions in their native language.

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Having a global candidate pool of employees is a very attractive possibility. Having international and diverse employees can be a great advantage. However, hiring wisely is necessary to make global hiring work for your company.


CEO of Affygility Solutions, a global occupational toxicology and industrial hygiene service provider to the life science industry.

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