Overcoming Common Obstacles Of Managing International Teams

8 Min Read

Expanding your business into the international arena? Managing international teams may present the following obstacles.

International expansion is becoming an increasingly popular avenue for businesses to take. Companies that expand overseas have an opportunity to expand their market, reach broader audiences, increase brand recognition, stay ahead of the competition, and most importantly, boost sales. Naturally, that’s every entrepreneur’s dream; however, success doesn’t come easy. 

Of the many challenges of an international expansion, hiring and managing a global team is at the top of the list. As any business leader knows, cultivating a positive work environment is essential to employee wellness, morale, productivity, and customer service. However, when all or part of your team is overseas, it creates a new set of obstacles. Ultimately, entrepreneurs must identify their core issues and then implement practical solutions to achieve success. 

Common Challenges Of Working With International Teams

What are some of the difficulties that companies face when working with international teams? While challenges vary, here’s a look at some of the most common issues. 

Finding Top Talent

Hiring employees within your service area or country of origin is challenging. Yet, hiring global employees comes with a different set of challenges. Besides distance, differences in culture, employment laws, time zones, employee needs, and more result in an uphill battle for many business owners. 

Even after getting through all the red tape, the process of reviewing applications, screening applicants, and scheduling interviews is a daunting task. Depending on a company’s budget and experience, it can take weeks or even months to build an effective international team. 

Complying With Labor Laws

While employment laws can vary by state in the US, the differences are often minor, making it easy for companies to comply. Keeping up with labor laws in other countries is an entirely different beast. From differences in hourly work and compensation minimums to medical leave and cultural practices, businesses must ensure they comply with the demands of each country. 


Once you’ve identified the appropriate candidates to join your international team, the next step is onboarding. During this stage, new hires get acquainted with the company culture, policies, and processes so that they can effectively perform their jobs. It’s a critical phase that can take several months to execute. However, when your new hires are dispersed geographically, it’s hard to develop a uniform strategy to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Communication Barriers

How can you effectively communicate with employees that speak different languages? More importantly, how do they communicate with co-workers to complete projects? While learning the language can resolve the issue over time, learning multiple languages doesn’t happen overnight. Not to mention, trying to teach human resource representatives, supervisors, and English-speaking staff is expensive and time-consuming. Translation software isn’t always practical either, leaving business owners in a real pickle. 

Workflow, Collaboration, And Inclusivity

International teams are most successful when they feel included, collaborate seamlessly, and have an efficient workflow. Reaching this point comes with several obstacles: language barriers and cultural differences to technological experience and accessibility present challenges for international employees. If they can’t communicate with co-workers, don’t understand digital platforms, or have access to company tools and resources, it becomes impossible for them to do their jobs, let alone share a connection with the rest of the team. 

Practical Solutions To Managing International Workers

So, how can you overcome the obstacles listed above and successfully manage international teams? Below are a few suggestions. 

Outsource International Hiring and Onboarding

Failing to comply with the appropriate labor laws or hiring the wrong people can cost a business a lot of time and money. Ultimately, outsourcing your international employment needs to experts, like a PEO, is the most practical solution. Some companies will help you with everything from understanding national labor laws to hiring global employees. If necessary, they’ll even handle the onboarding process for you, saving you a lot of time and money. 

Consider International Managers

Another way to overcome many of the obstacles of managing international teams is to hire, outsource, or assign global managers. Having someone well-versed in the countries you’re hiring in can make the transition and management process more manageable. 

You can hire an international manager, outsource international management solutions to a third-party agency, or assign someone in-house to relocate and oversee global teams. International managers can significantly bridge the gap and cultivate solid teams since they know the language, business landscape, and culture. 

Understand And Support Cultural Differences

Employees want to work for a company that understands and supports their cultural differences no matter where they live. Do your due diligence to ensure that you, managers, and domestic workers clearly understand international employees’ values, customs, and culture. Support international teams by acknowledging and celebrating important holidays, providing space or time to engage in cultural practices, and creating a safe environment for employees to address any concerns. 

Tech Training And Accessibility

Companies must also consider technological differences in working with international employees. Depending on where they live, gaining access to high-quality internet, state-of-the-art computers, and other technical devices isn’t always easy. Not to mention, knowledge of specific programs and applications is limited. Therefore, businesses need to ensure that they provide international staff with suitable technology and training. 

Encourage Inclusivity

There’s nothing worse than having employees that feel like they’re not part of the team. That’s why businesses must encourage inclusivity across the board. There are plenty of technologies and strategies that can help employees get to know one another on a personal and professional level. You can host weekly virtual meetings, share contact information, encourage communication after hours, plan periodic events where teams can meet in person, and use team-building exercises to get everyone acquainted. 

Sharing special events or milestones, educating teams on diverse cultures, and even participating in cultural practices and holidays can help your staff understand, respect, and appreciate cultural differences. When everyone feels included, it automatically leads to a stronger, more efficient work structure. 

An international expansion is a dream come true for many business owners, but getting it isn’t easy. As having an efficient team is critical to the success of your expansion, entrepreneurs must find an effective way to build and manage employees from various destinations and walks of life. Although the process requires time and attention to detail, the solutions listed above can make this experience more manageable and improve your chances of success. 

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