How to Manage Staffing for Overseas Expansion

July 7, 2015

in Staff + Space

Authored by Christophe Vanackère

How to Manage Staffing for Overseas Expansion

Staffing for a US expansion should be easy. Considering the relative lack of barriers, aspirational UK businesses can simply create a plan, obtain approval, and then begin packing boxes for American shores. Considering most countries are expanding their teams here, you can too, right?

Not quite.

This process is more complex, detail-oriented, and time-consuming than you can may think. It takes a team of knowledgeable, experienced individuals to do this right. Not only can a larger HR team handle much of the logistical legwork, but will also offer valuable perspectives during the process, helping you better map expansion planning.

Here’s how (and why) you should establish a dedicated transition staffing team before the expansion begins.

1. Establish a comprehensive team

Let’s first be clear about what we mean by “comprehensive.” Your expansion doesn’t necessarily need a full-blown committee representing all company departments. But it’s good practice to have representatives from the parts of the business that will be most affected by the project, who can investigate, evaluate, make decisions, and take action.

When choosing team members, subject matter expertise is critical. But it is equally critical to ensure you choose and develop strong team players. Their goal is to open a new, completely functioning operation, not deal solely with departmental issues. Working together will be key to your success, because almost every decision will cut across departments.

Some representatives will have opposite perspectives on what is needed, so the ability to negotiate and compromise is essential. Something as simple as the choice between hiring US staff, or transitioning expats can have surprising, cross-departmental implications.

Everything from tax liability, to transportation and housing must be planned and managed. Will employees be subject to foreign or domestic HR regulations? Will they need new equipment — mobile and office phones, laptops? Can they access domestic databases? Will they need local software?

The questions are plentiful, and the above examples are only the beginning. Having a team of proven “do-ers” will ease the transition.

2. Give the team ownership over projects

Your team will be tasked with more than planning. In addition to laying the groundwork, your transition staff will be responsible for building operations, acquiring equipment and supplies, hiring local staff, and even engaging local partners if applicable to the business.

It’s important that team members be given as much ownership of the process as possible. Take their advice on strategic issues, acknowledge smart decisions, and hold them accountable for the success of the new venture.

3. Appoint a trusted point of contact

No matter how strong your internal team will be, there’s a very good chance that some or all of them will have not previously expanded their work internationally, much to the United States. Bringing in a specialist for international expansion to help lead the team will ensure they know what questions to ask and where to turn for answers.

Given the tax and regulatory issues you can face on either side, you need someone who can help you weigh options from both perspectives, and find solutions that will be right for you.

When selecting this staff member, consider the following issues that might arise, regardless of what type of operation you open:

  • HR issues unlike anything you’ve faced in the UK, such as healthcare, work visas, employment contracts, data privacy, and unfair dismissal claims
  • A host of accounting considerations, such as reconciling general ledger entries, local accounting requirements, and other compliance matters
  • Regulatory compliance, from currency controls, to import/export restrictions, and even environmental matters
  • Tax considerations, risks, and liabilities, along with complex filing requirements
  • Working with different dialects, customs and cultures

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