How to Adapt Your HR Policies for a Global Workforce

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Leading an international team is an exciting challenge for managers. On the one hand, your global hires bring diverse ideas, backgrounds, and experience to your business. On the other, you’re juggling a variety of employment practices and laws. You want to make the best choices for your business and respect the diverse cultures of your employees.

Successfully managing international employees means adapting your human resources policies to suit. Take an employee-focused approach to get everyone the support they need. In this article, you’ll learn strategies for changing HR policies to help ensure the success of a global workforce.

1. Choose the Right HR Partner

If your company is just starting to go global, your primary stressor is likely keeping up with several international employment laws. When starting the hiring process, you may not even know what country your eventual employees will be from. Working with an employer of record can relieve this stress. One of the primary functions of an EOR is to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

If you’re more experienced with global hiring — and have a business presence in the countries in question — you could engage a professional employer organization instead. Think of a PEO as an HR assistant. In addition to handling global payroll, they can also manage other HR processes like benefits enrollment and tax withholding. When you have employees in multiple countries, this type of help is incredibly valuable.

With the right HR partner, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of all the administrative details of international hiring. Instead, you can use that time and energy to find additional ways to support your employees.

2. Develop a Robust Onboarding Program

Much of a new employee’s experience is determined in their first few days and weeks on the job. This is arguably even more true for international employees. By creating a comprehensive onboarding process, you give them and your company a fighting chance at success. Let your global hires know what to expect from their workplace and what their workplace expects from them.

To do this, include information about company culture and values, as well as resources your new team members will need. Consider a variety of training options, including self-led learning, group sessions, and mentoring. Allowing a current employee to be a part of a newbie’s onboarding process can deepen staff connections.

As you build your global team, you’ll also want to include diversity and cultural training as part of onboarding. Set your staff up for success with their stateside co-workers early in their tenure. Help them navigate working with people who have entirely different backgrounds than they do. Doing so will create a more cohesive team and a positive employee experience.

3. Consider All Represented Cultures

While focusing on the employee experience, make sure one culture isn’t privileged over others. Do you have a plan to accommodate different approaches to communication? How do you account for the variety of holidays your employees may celebrate? It’s important to consider all staff when developing company policies.

Recognizing the differences among your employees will do more for your business than trying to treat everyone the same. One of the best things about a global workforce is its diversity of thought and opinion. Don’t just talk about being a diverse company. Demonstrate to your employees you know what it truly means.

Ensure your policies are adaptable to and accommodating of anyone you hire. A first step could be providing company resources in all the languages your staff speaks. Intentionally craft policies to fit a variety of cultures and world views so employees feel taken care of wherever they live.

4. Leverage Tech to Overcome Distance

Your employees’ physical location will obviously have an impact on your HR policies. Perhaps you’ve always required certain conversations to happen in person. Or maybe the company’s work-from-home rules haven’t been recently refreshed. In both cases, separation by distance will necessitate updates that require using technology.

Craft policies to support and encourage appropriate tech use. You’ll need to create best practices for encrypted messages, videoconferencing, and the use of personal equipment. You may have to work with tech you aren’t familiar with. For example, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app worldwide despite being considerably less popular in the United States. Any tech policies should reflect what works best for everyone, not just what you’re most familiar with. 

To accommodate all your team members, be flexible and update your rules accordingly. There is an abundance of tech resources at your employees’ disposal. Create policies that reflect this reality and provide guidance on best practices. Speak with your staff to determine exactly what changes make the most sense.

5. Listen to Feedback From Your People

As you make changes to your policies, be sure to solicit feedback from those most affected. Open yourself up to outside perspectives instead of creating policies in an echo chamber. Your employees and their experiences are vital to ensuring the alterations you make are helpful rather than harmful.

Host virtual town halls at a variety of times to accommodate multiple time zones. If people raise individual concerns, host one-on-ones to hear them out. After you’ve listened, work with your team to find a way forward. Include them in the process of adapting your policies to ensure their voices are heard.

Not that you need to make every decision by committee, of course. Just know your employees are a valuable information resource. Staff input can help you shape policies that work well for all team members, whether in the U.S. or abroad. By encouraging these conversations, you’ll build trust and create a more positive work environment.

Reaping the Rewards of a Global Team

Working with an international team can have its challenges, but it also has many rewards. You’ll be exposed to other cultures, values, and work styles, creating a richer work environment. Safeguard this environment and implement these strategies to adapt your HR policies for your global workforce.

About the author


Larry Alton

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.