Sarah Dennis, Head of international at Towergate Health & Protection
The world’s changing economy is complex and there are a number of areas of growth, stability and uncertainty that frame much of what is going on in the current international marketplace. This has significant implications for how organisations, aiming to build business internationally in 2020, need to look after their workforce.
The increase in globally mobile employees continues, as national labour markets become ever more international. There is a trend to send employees to multiple regions, sometimes on back-to-back, short-term secondments to set up a business and then move on elsewhere.
Many more companies are recruiting local nationals in overseas territories; some continue to employ for long-term assignments. International business expansion presents different challenges for HR departments sending staff abroad to work, whether staff are locating to new territories for the first time or even if the company is very experienced in building business abroad.
As global economies change, so do the types of workforce that are needed, and both employers and employees need to adapt.
As companies look to grow business abroad, it’s important to be aware of the regions that are growing, slowing or changing.
For instance, overall, the Middle-Eastern economy slowed in 2019 to the lowest it’s been in over 10 years, growing only by 0.1%.*
However, Saudi Arabia is growing, which may be as a result of the country gradually becoming more flexible to western culture. Saudi Arabia carried out a record number of business reforms in the past year, earning the country a spot in the top 10 global business climate improvers, according to the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 Report.**
Africa is also growing; Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa in particular. The emerging markets of Africa are poised for unprecedented development, with Kenya’s economic growth projected to be rising to 6.1% by 2020, according to the World Bank’s 17th Kenya Economic Update (KEU).***
The popularity of where to build business is a constantly moving feast. And companies need staff that are not only well briefed, but also well supported to capitalise on the opportunities to be had.
Supporting staff for the future
With staff more mobile, it’s more important than ever for employers to be aware of how to support their global workforce. Failure to understand the complexities of a region can put both staff and the success of an international business project at risk. Key areas that employers need to consider include:
- Support to safeguard employees’ wellbeing, taking into account practical, physical and emotional needs.
- Ensuring staff are briefed on where they will be living and working to help them prepare for possible cultural changes.
- Understanding legal set-up costs.
- Practical areas that may impact staff, such as schooling and banking, and any support that will be required.
- Visa requirements, and ensuring any health cover adequately meets them.
- The wide range of, and differing, medical facilities, healthcare schemes and treatment standards and approaches around the world.
- The silent population – employees may travel with their families or leave them at home, both scenarios can involve differing complexities and stress. Some global employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can be extended to dependants – staffed by personnel who have worked overseas and know what it is like to live and work abroad, so families can talk to people in confidence who have first-hand experience of their challenges.
As the world constantly changes there is a lot for employers to be aware of. New laws, regulations, visa requirements, altering and changing trends of employees and working practices are a lot for employers to think about when sending staff abroad, and it’s important they keep on top of it.