With Brexit likely to offer uncertainty in the UK market for some time, many of our UK clients have been taking proactive steps to develop markets outside of Europe. At the same time, the drop in value of the pound has seen a surprising increase in inward investment as particularly Chinese companies are benefiting from lower purchase cost as well as the increase in national P/E ratios from holding foreign assets with potential to leverage back into domestic markets.
In this article, Justin Mills, MD of Cornerstone London, shares his experience of hiring on behalf of international clients and UK clients expanding overseas and what makes an international assignment relevant to the success of a local UK hire.
Recruiting successful senior hires is the cornerstone of any thriving business. But when your organisation aspires to grow overseas and reap the benefit of valuable opportunities, hiring the right person becomes a more critical factor in success – but more difficult to execute well.
We share some insights gleaned through the hands on practice of helping clients expand internationally over the last decade.
Firstly, process is king! More so when the added complication of distance, language and culture is added to the mix. But fundamentally great recruitment is all about clear processes and practices that have been honed down to remove the failure points when hiring and to improve predictive validity – that’s the term for identifying the elements of the hiring process that lead to identifying successful performers.
-Have a plan with a purpose. State your objectives for the hire with clear time bound goals and accompanying deliverables that link back to a business plan – a job description is not a good starting point for hiring!
-Have an assessment strategy. Ensure prior agreement about the assessment process before going to market to find candidates – how will you assess and identify good people? What is it that you are looking to achieve? How will this relate to past experience? What are the behaviours you need to identify in strong performers? Who will be involved, where and when?
The where and when is an opportunity to meet and build relationships. Skype will do at a push for initial stages but making the time and effort to represent the business in person allows you to compete on a level playing field with local competition for talent. If you can’t be there, appoint a local ambassador who can articulate your initiative well.
-Go to Market as though you were looking to close a revenue deal. Recruitment collateral is your first opportunity to make an impact. Invest the time and money to make this as good as your product and services marketing your create for winning business. This isn’t just an opportunity to promote how great your own business is – it’s the start of a partnering process. Articulating the objectives and expectations for the role will not only screen out the wrong people but also excite those who crave the next career challenge. So talk in their language too so that potential candidates can see themselves acting and delivering in the role. Talented people want purpose and a vision, not a job.
-Execute cleanly and quickly. Think about the end of the process first. Waiting for a written job offer and contract is a nerve wracking time for most people, even well-seasoned executives. It’s personal now. Especially if you are hiring overseas, ensure you can complete the deal: employment status, legal entities, contracts and the on-boarding processes need addressing at an early point. Do your research and find local partners to ensure compliance.
-Understand local differences and work with them. Expanding into international markets is not the same as growing new domestic markets. The obvious differences in language belie the more subtle cultural differences and business practices. Taking the time to understand why and how things are done will pay dividends. Expecting to impose local practice and custom will offend and loose discretionary commitment. Prepare to be embarrassed, learn the fundamentals of the local language and show willing.
-Reach out more. International hires, especially for the first man on the ground, can be a lonely experience. Success comes from early initiatives. Having an on-boarding plan is key. Bring the hire into the business so they can understand the culture, meet the broader team and build the sense of belonging. Plant this seed early in the process and let the candidates know they will spend time at the HQ.
Planning the campaign is the key point here and failure to do so often results in expensive mistakes. But this is no different to hiring locally. A casual approach without much thought to the detail is unlikely to give a superior result. Distance somehow seems to focus the mind a little more!
About Cornerstone London.
We are a UK partner in one of the largest international executive recruitment networks that allows UK clients to expand overseas and international clients to develop into the UK and Europe. With over 65 offices throughout the globe, we are able to partner with you to ensure a local representative can ensure your business success abroad.