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Rethinking Expat Employees: Why They’re Valuable for Your Global Team

Expat employees can help you close skill gaps in your team and build a future-fit workforce. Learn more about how expatriates benefit your business.

Stefana Zaric
Written by Stefana Zaric
October 18, 2022
Contents
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Key Takeaways

  1.  An expat on the team means you have a trusted, experienced worker who understands both the local market and your business on-site.
  2. Expats can resolve several challenges your business faces, from talent shortage to implementation of DEI initiatives.
  3. Initial relocation costs can pay off quickly through the money and time you save finding, hiring, and training local candidates.

In 2020, the employment rate for EU citizens residing in another EU country was higher than for EU citizens living in their home country. This could mean that companies started rethinking expatriate employees to match talent supply to business demand, despite the common belief that relocating workers may cost more than hiring from the local talent pool.

In this article, we’ll tackle how expat workers can be a great investment for building your global team.

Who are expat employees?

In the traditional sense, an expat employee is sent by their company to a foreign country to work on a project or gain skills and local knowledge during international business expansion.

In light of global mobility and remote work and thanks to digital transformation, more and more professionals from different fields have a chance to travel and relocate more often. There’s a new kind of expat coming from a variety of backgrounds, with different assignments and considerations. Expats are now viewed as global nomads rather than expatriates living as outsiders in local culture.

Expats vs. immigrants: what's the difference?

Both expats and immigrants come to live in a foreign country to live there for an extended time.

However, immigrants typically plan to stay in a new country indefinitely and are more likely to apply for citizenship when they meet the conditions.

Expats don’t always know how long they will stay in the new country and may decide to relocate to another country after a while. They keep the citizenship of their home country.

Another common difference between expats and immigrants is that immigrants tend to be more interested in adopting local culture as they intend to stay permanently.

How expatriate employees contribute to your global talent agenda goals

Today, 78% of expats are able to work remotely, which means you can relocate your employees virtually anywhere. But why should you if you can hire locally?

This is how your organization can pivot on expats’ skills and experience when entering a new market.

1. Expats have a vast international experience

Unlike local employees, expats usually have extensive international experience from living and working in at least one foreign country. Thanks to this experience, expats are able to:

  • Understand your expansion plans and provide global, diverse insights you wouldn’t have otherwise
  • Contribute with best business practices from around the world
  • Continually relocate and support future company expansion efforts of your company

2. Expats are a solution to the talent shortage

A 2022 Global Leadership Monitor Survey by Russell Reynolds Associates found that 72% of businesses rank leader and key employee talent shortage as their top challenge. Hiring expatriate employees increases the pool of suitable candidates for their international assignments.

Amid the global war on talent, it becomes much easier to simply relocate your talent where you need instead of spending months (and likely hundreds of thousands of dollars) searching for skills that aren’t available locally.

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3. Expats can support your international expansion on-site

Local compliance and integration into a new culture are some of the most delicate challenges to resolve when entering a new market. You’re likely to collaborate with external, local experts who can help you set up in the host country, but it’s not the same as having a trusted internal team member supporting you on the ground.

A person living on-site can bring invaluable local knowledge and firsthand experience to your business. Also, if you’re only testing the new market and haven’t opened a local entity (yet), an expat can contribute to your credibility and enhance your company’s presence locally.

4. Expats can ensure multilingual coverage for your team, clients, and partners

The expat’s knowledge of local culture and language is one less obstacle for a multinational company in internal and external communication.

While setting up in the host country, you can count on the expat’s help to overcome language barriers as they will likely speak the local one. That means an expat employee can help several processes run smoothly:

  • Recruiting and onboarding local candidates in the host country
  • Resolving all legal and compliance matters
  • Effective communication with local partners and clients

5. Expats contribute to team diversity and inclusion

With more and more companies implementing DEI policies, it’s clear that diversity and inclusion have become a top priority for Human Resources departments. Data shows why it should be: companies investing in cultural and ethnic diversity in their teams are generally more profitable than businesses with less diverse staff.

Expats on your team contribute to your company by building a diverse workforce and enhancing the overall employee experience, as people will develop a stronger sense of belonging in a diverse team. Such DEI initiatives can result in increased employee performance and lower turnover.

6. Expats save your company time and money during expansion

Providing a suitable local candidate with the necessary company know-how and cultural training to hit the ground running takes a lot of time and money. On the other hand, relocating a high-performing employee you already trust significantly speeds up your expansion process.

An employee who already knows your business inside out and is familiar with your business operations can help you set up the new office quickly, with no expenses associated with onboarding a new hire. Also, recruitment and training can sometimes take months, while relocating an employee can happen in a few weeks, depending on the worker and the new location.

Deel’s employer of record services allow you to onboard new employees from over 150 countries in minutes. We handle all required paperwork, from airtight, locally compliant contracts to different permits and tax forms, taking on all employment liabilities instead of you. This enables you to reduce the time you need to set up the local payroll and pay your international employees.

7. Expats make you a more competitive employer

With an increasing number of workers looking to become digital nomads and the world opening up to traveling again, expat assignments could make you a desirable employer. While your competitors may struggle to find talent, highly skilled candidates may naturally come to you as you offer relocation opportunities and assist in the process.

Such an offer can sound tempting to applicants, especially if they want to move closer to family members or a partner.

The challenges of hiring expat employees

Relocating employees doesn’t come without risks and challenges.

No matter how ready a worker is to move to a new location, this type of change can be physically and emotionally exhausting, leading to burnout. Burnout can cause dips in productivity and negatively impact the employee’s performance. This challenge isn’t impossible to resolve; it just needs careful planning and consideration beforehand.

On the other hand, as an employer, you will have to deal with additional expenses: visa applications, relocation costs, transportation, and more. You will also need to comply with the new country's labor laws and ensure your expat has the required healthcare, social security, and other benefits. Failing to obtain a license of any kind can result in financial penalties and even being banned from doing business in that country.

Get visa application support and unlock your global potential with Deel

While the benefits of hiring expats are undeniable, the challenges we tackled may seem overwhelming at a glance. However, partnering with an employer of record like Deel can help you overcome them and build a future-fit global team hassle-free.

For example, Deel customers have faster access to United Arab Emirates’ Golden and Green Visas for long-term stays and shorter-term business trips for highly skilled professionals. Deel has also built a network of partnerships to help expats with flights and accommodation, as well as health insurance and live hotline support.

You can quickly identify the adequate work visa program, find the proper documentation to fill out, and apply for the visa, all while having direct support from our in-house mobility team.

Enable your employees to work from 21 countries (for now!) and let us handle the entire process without adding more burden to your HR team.

Learn more about how Deel supports your global mobility efforts.

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