Globalisation continues to offer SMEs exciting opportunities to expand beyond their current remit, and this creates new job opportunities for individuals. Working overseas can be a life-enhancing experience, but it’s not always positive if suitable due diligence hasn’t been conducted beforehand.
For SMEs to better their chances of success when operating abroad, Sarah Dennis, Head of International for The Health Insurance Group highlights ten actions they need to take to support their overseas workers effectively.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Just as any business would thoroughly research a new market before diving in, the same level of detail and scrutiny needs to be applied when SMEs are looking to build business in a new country. With so many variations in laws, cultures, rule and regulations that need to be complied with, it is vital that organisations fully understand the country they are entering to better their chances of success.
2. Health and wellbeing
SMEs can fall at the first hurdle if they don’t ensure their staff’s health and wellbeing is supported. The NHS doesn’t exist in other countries, so if an employee doesn’t have the correct health insurance in place they can face a hefty bill or be refused treatment. Not having adequate cover can also mean they may not be granted a visa or even be allowed to enter the country. It’s important to prioritise support for health and wellbeing, or the plans for building business in a new region can become seriously unstuck.
3. Mental health
Support for mental health is rising up the employer agenda in the UK, and it’s important that this attention is extended to staff overseas. Stresses, anxieties and pressures can be quite different for staff working abroad and feeling isolated can make matters worse. So, while ensuring physical healthcare cover is in place, it’s important that holistic support is provided to support staff’s mental wellbeing too.
4. Remember dependants
Many overseas workers will come with a family, so it is important they are supported so they can integrate into the country too. SMEs can support dependants and help them to adjust to a new country by providing them with the opportunity to speak to specialists that have gone through a move overseas themselves.
5. Support all
As rules and regulations differ wildly from country to country, even seasoned overseas workers need help knowing what support should be in place where they work. Some SMEs give the employee the responsibility to arrange support themselves – either with or without funding. This is not a good plan. There are many priorities for employees when they work in a new country, and this is unlikely to be at the top. The smart thing to do is for employers to arrange this for them. And this needs to be for all – new recruits, people living in one country long-term, as well as those regularly working in new regions.
6. Kidnap and ransom
The world isn’t as easy to compartmentalise in terms of risk factors as it once was, and the threat of kidnap and ransom is now applicable anywhere. It’s important for SMEs to have policies and procedures in place to deal with such an event, before it occurs, and ensure staff know what to do if they find themselves in such a situation.
7. Political and natural disasters
With little or no warning, political and natural disasters can happen at any time. Staff may need to be evacuated or follow certain protocol, so it’s vital that SMEs ensure employees know what this is before stepping foot in a new country. Forewarned is forearmed and understanding how to react in a volatile or emergency situation can literally be a lifesaver.
International professionals are in high demand, so SMEs need to promote everything they offer. Employers that look after their overseas staff are set apart from those that don’t. Having robust measures in place to ensure that overseas workers are supported is a great draw and a great differentiator for a business, and promoting this can be a great help to recruit and retain high-demand talent.
Having health and wellbeing policies in place are important, it’s equally important that staff know what they are. Be this through policy documents, intranet, apps or other, employers need to ensure that staff know what to do when they need support.
10. Speak to the experts
With 195 countries in the world, presenting multiple business opportunities, it is not easy to understand the intricacies of so many different areas whilst running the main organisation. Utilising experts that can advise on local country rules and regulations, including what health and wellbeing provisions should be in place, can make a potentially complex landscape much clearer.
Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group said:
“Developing business overseas is exciting, but if adequate preparation hasn’t been done before entering a new market it can be disastrous for all involved.
“Ensuring that health and wellbeing is supported is crucial, and this is not just a case of mirroring the same support that may be offered to domestic employees. Rules and regulations differ from country to country and must be complied with. Looking after the wellbeing of staff is the bedrock of building a business overseas and it needs adequate attention.”