How to prepare your business for European expansion

July 8, 2019

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If your business is prime for European expansion, it’s also the perfect opportunity to review a lot of your HR practices. Opening a new office in a new country can be a considerable challenge logistically, however, when you consider the cultural considerations as well as the HR requirements, there’s a lot to examine for your new continental journey.


Communication

At this stage, you should already have efficient communications systems in place for your existing office(s), but it’s still a valid factor to review if your expansion is coming up.


Initial research should analyse which software and hardware options you are going to use to enable succinct unified communications across the globe. Some key features you should look out for in communication technology for your international expansion are:


●      Offline/online status notifications

●      Timezone alerts or clocks

●      Meeting scheduling

●      Cloud-based systems

●      Secure communications


Cloud-based communication technology ensures that there is minimal downtime and connections are as stable as possible. When there is a vast distance between offices, the last issue you want is a poor connection which prevents effective collaborative working. If you are working within the European Union you will also need to be aware of GDPR regulations, such as alerting individuals that their calls are being recorded requiring explicit consent. There are a number of GDPR regulations to consider, so it will be worth speaking to an expert to ensure you remain compliant when working in the EU.


Company culture

Company culture is hard to build, tricky to define for some, but it is at the heart of all businesses, regardless of their size. This should not be something that is lost when expanding into new territories. Here at Creditsafe, we have found success through ‘cultural champions’. These are people we send over to new international offices to develop company culture and values from the ground up. They work with the new staff and create a seamless HR experience for the new offices.


You do however need to decide what it is exactly about the company culture that you wish to take across to this new country and drive that goal from the start. This can become somewhat difficult when trying to assimilate with cultural norms and expectations.


Challenging cultural norms

There are two ways of approaching the amalgamation of company and country culture; you can fuse the two, or disrupt and put your business first. We choose the latter. We always respect the country’s values and traditions but we are not a brand to sacrifice our culture when expanding. For example, when we started our Japanese office we were advised that workplaces are typically quiet but that simply did not fit with our brand and ideals. We proudly have music our space all day long creating a different environment which is but one small aspect of our company office culture. These are only small changes, but it was a case where we had to place our own company culture before that of the country.


International equality

Expansion is an exciting time for any business, but it’s important that all of your staff members feel the same way about it. Good first steps are to offer existing staff members the opportunity to transfer if anyone has a desire to. Alongside this, now can be a good time to review your perks and policies for rewards. You don’t want to offer incentives to one country that are far greater than those in another: employees will feel disgruntled and mistreated. It’s best to offer the same incentives globally to keep all offices inline with your brand. If you are bringing international offices together, perhaps a collaborative team day for top performers between the two offices could be more beneficial than singular incentivised days out. These are things you will need to consider with your European expansion, but definitely, are not something that should be ignored.


If your employees are in a position to collaborate effectively despite being in different countries, opening new offices in Europe should not be a problem for any growing business. Ensure they are treated equally no matter where they are in the world and your employees will thrive. Finally, your company culture should never be broken down for the sake of a new office. It’s what has made your business succeed up until this point, therefore, it makes no logical sense for your growth to remove or change it now.


Gareth Way is Group HR Officer at Creditsafe Group and is responsible for the development and implementation of the group’s global HR strategy for its cohort of 1,200 staff across 14 different countries.

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