Build your team with local hires and global recruits

by Jobbatical May 26, 2016

Sameness has its place, such as when a company is manufacturing microchips. A single slip-up can result in danger and damage. But when it comes to hiring, diversity is often the name of the game.

The key, as with diet, exercise, and smartphone use, is balance, which depends on a number of factors: your business goals, timing, and the role(s) for which you seek talent.

What are the important distinctions between local and international hiring that you need to keep in mind?

Hometown advantage

The concept of “local” has spawned an agricultural movement in America, where “Locavores” aim to buy and eat food grown in their geographic region. In the same way, hiring locally can be powerful for business. Local hiring means:

Same language, similar mindset. The cultural narrative is familiar; there’s no need to orient your hires to your country, or help them learn a new language. Plus you’ll save a bundle on relocation costs.

Short-term efficiency. Your hires understand such basics as values, etiquette, and attire. At least we hope they do. Some people may need a refresher course.

Business rapport. In sales, especially, local makes sense. It’s far easier for prospects to deal with someone who speaks their language (literally as well as figuratively) during the sales call, when you want them focused on your product’s benefits and not on the salesperson’s unusual grammar.

When crossing borders brings benefits

However, quality jobs are a key driver for developing countries, and global hires can be a tremendous asset:

Independent or Interdependent? In some cultures, notably the United States and Germany, individuality is prized, and a business mindset leaves no room for the personal; in others, such as most Hispanic cultures, where decision-making is more of a collective endeavor, just the opposite is true: prospective business associates will want to get to know you before getting down to business. In this sense, if you use “culture shock” wisely, it can actually help your business.

Spanish philosopher and essayist George Santayana wrote, “There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.” Exchange students agree: over the course of a half century, 98 percent of 3400 students surveyed reported that culture shock “helped them to better understand their own cultural values and biases.”

Expanded awareness. In the same vein, the expression, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” can apply to the disorientation new hires experience when they move to a foreign country. Everything is strange, from climate to food to behaviors — not to mention the mother tongue. But this can be bracing, like an ocean plunge in springtime. Newness broadens horizons, and human beings are wonderful adapters.

Appreciation for global business customs. Globetrotters learn to get right to the point with Germans, wait a beat before speaking with Asians, and soft-pedal criticisms in the UK. These are just a few of the cultural distinctions that can make or break business success, which culturally savvy hires can help you get right, right from the start, as described above.

Long-term advantage: Expats can help local team members to grow by sharing how they adapted to a new country. For instance, they may:

  • Challenge themselves to interact with new people every day.
  • Stay balanced through exercise, meditation, or another practice that renews their energy and spirit.
  • Reach out to learn the language and culture of their adopted country — which is also a great way to meet potential business connections.

So there’s no need to hire the same type of people repeatedly, which can make your team resemble bots. Make no mistake: bots are tremendously useful, but rather lacking in personality. Embracing workforce diversity will take your company farther, faster, minus fear of the unknown.

Originally published at on June 14, 2016.

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