Incentivising your international team

Over a quarter of the business we spoke to listed understanding local skills and average salaries as one of the most complex issues when looking at expansion into overseas markets

A business is only as strong as its staff and global expansion relies on an effective workforce to not only smooth the transition, but to also make it successful.

Whether you are employing staff in local jurisdictions, or relocating employees from the UK, ensuring you have the right incentivisation scheme(s) in place is crucial. Over a quarter of the businesses we spoke to listed understanding local skills and average salaries as one of the most complex issues when looking at expansion into overseas markets.

Over a quarter of the businesses we spoke to listed understanding local skills and average salaries as one of the most complex issues when looking at expansion into overseas markets.

People are central to success – and critical to business survival.

Time and time again the most successful global networks use incentive schemes that share come common features; they’re well designed, focused on the business’s needs and tailored for, and clearly communicated to staff, so expectations at both ends can be met.

Bearing this in mind, the main question to ask yourself before you make the leap overseas is;

What do you want your staff to do and why should they work for you?

Martin Coopers three crucial points when considering this question before international expansion

Cash doesn't cut it Cash doesn’t cut it

Remuneration will always be a key incentivisation tool for staff, yet recognition and support are just as important. When incentive structures go wrong it’s usually down to perceived unfairness; people feel that their efforts are not adequately rewarded, which leads to negative feelings. Employees want to feel listened to and supported so understanding the culture you’re operating within is imperative to knowing what is needed. This is where your on-the-ground team comes in. They should understand the cultural complexities of the region and the politics within each specific office to build the right staff package. 

Being involved in your employees work and wellbeing will not only build loyalty but increase retention levels as well. Long term incentives need to fit into an employment package which includes remuneration, which contains other benefits as well, throwing cash at every situation isn’t an option. Most importantly, there needs to be alignment between your business, values and objectives and the reward structure as where there is a disconnect between rhetoric and reality, performance can suffer. 

Motivating the masses Motivating the masses

There are countless ideas for motivating beyond money. Thinking outside the box and using advisers with international business expertise will help you to craft the right approach. Whether it’s more freedom when it comes to hours, remote working or regular team session, you must find your own specific way to keep staff motivated. Think specifically about your employees and your business, what works for someone else may not work for you and each approach must have a degree of flexibility to reflect the individual.

Incentive packages must be tailored to each territory as the same cookie-cutter approach won’t work in every region. For example, a vanilla share structure like many companies have in the UK could be disastrous in another country, which is why it is imperative to seek local advice when rolling out any type of incentive. Businesses seem to be accepting the importance of this more and more, with 37 per cent of those interviewed citing local skills available and average salaries as an essential factor to successfully establish an overseas operation.

The brain-drain The brain-drain

In this fast-evolving era, employers are facing new challenges in dealing with higher staff turnover, a preference for remote working and a broader, less linear approach to career development. 

The most common discussion points with clients are not only recruiting, but motivating and retaining the next generation of leaders, who have different career outlooks to what long-established businesses are used to. An adaptive approach to incentivisation and a keen knowledge of your staff is key to building and more importantly maintaining, a loyal workforce.

37% of those interviewed cited local skills available and average salaries as an essential factor to successfully establish an overseas operation

Crucial considerations when navigating boundaryless performance conditions

There is a huge danger in assuming that we know what our staff want, often, we don’t. Recognition is a common theme that comes out of nearly all employee surveys, but you need to invest time and money into your own research. Failure to do this will be detrimental to your business.

Increases in salary is not always the best answer Increases in salary is not always the best answer 
Perceived unfairness is a real issue
Perceived unfairness is a real issue 
Flexibility is hugely important
Flexibility is hugely important 
Tailored incentives to different regions is a crucial step
Tailored incentives to different regions is a crucial step

Martin Cooper

Meet your expert – Martin Cooper

Martin leads RSM’s team of employee incentives and reward specialists across the North West, delivering solutions to help create an engaged and aligned management team and workforce, driving business performance and results for shareholders.