Expanding your extended workforce from north America to europe

Thanks for taking the time to open and read my points of view, I’m extremely passionate about all the topics I blog about and even if you take one thing from this let me know. 

Throughout my years in the industry, I have assisted many buyers on their journey to expand extended workforce programs internationally, specifically first, or second-generation buyers that see increasing headcount outside of North America that is not tracked or managed with software and services.

Expanding your extended workforce program from North America to Europe can be a complex task, but with careful planning and strategy, it can be successful. Well before you even think about the service solutions, even if you have existing providers in North America, you simply must do the right due diligence and preparation before committing. A lot of providers will say they have a ‘playbook’ to expand internationally which is great, but every buyer has different needs and internal policies so following a provider’s thoughts may miss elements of importance that are specific to your business.

I have had the pleasure to work with buyers that got it right and a number that did not. The main challenges with those that did not get it right focussed specifically on not spending the right time to understand if the value of an expansion will benefit their business, and not put the management of critical talent at risk.

If you know me, you know I love a checklist. I wanted to share with you all my personal viewpoints on some of the critical items that need to be checked off. This list is not inclusive, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, or via my website, to go deeper.

What you must do before considering deploying international solutions outside or North America

Have the right data on your extended workforce: In one of my previous articles, ‘How data is key to understand your scope’, I covered those important areas where data can help you understand the potential need. This is no different from expanding into new regions and countries, with the addition that if you have an existing program in North America your data is likely to be richer and more structured. I don’t need to tell you that if you are seeing a significant volume of spend, headcount and suppliers that equates to 20% + of your existing program then looking to investigate further is a no brainer. For me anything less doesn’t give you the critical mass to justify what could be a large and complex project, however I’m aware that some businesses do have strict policies on process and governance so regardless of the cost, having a single approach to managing extended workers is critical. Also, thinking further down the line, are you really going to spend additional money expanding service offerings that won’t show savings or efficiencies? And don’t forget if the opportunity is not there for potential service providers you will unlikely get the interest you want, at a minimum you may end up getting a solution that is not fit for purpose due to the lack of opportunity to providers.

Research the European market internally and externally: Once you have identified those countries with spend, headcount and suppliers it’s time to start conducting thorough research on the European market to understand the labour laws, cultural differences, financial/tax obligations, data privacy laws and local business practices/languages. This would be the bulk of your scoping activities and paying significant focus to local labour laws is key. Determining the complexity of labour laws in European countries can be subjective and may vary based on various factors. However, some countries are known to have more complex regulations compared to others. Here are a few European countries that are often considered to have more intricate temporary staffing rules, but of course you must research all countries that could be in scope. Not I am not a qualified legal expert, but can tell you that:

It’s important to note that while these countries may have more complex temporary staffing rules, those also need researching to ensure compliance. By understanding and complying with the regulations, you can navigate the labour market successfully and keep the talent you need.

Gaining local stakeholder buy-in: If you have operational presence in those countries then it’s likely you will have resources that can assist. Getting localised stakeholder buy-in is a must, without this you will fail in your endeavours. Even if you still go ahead without the required buy-in, I can guarantee you that local adoption of your program will get bad press and disable most of the good work done to date. For example, you must align on the language used internally, if you go in and start telling the British about soccer rather than calling it football or tell the French what a good red wine is, it will have an instant impact that you do not understand the local need.

Regarding the importance of stakeholder buy-in from the countries highlighted, it is crucial for a successful expansion. Stakeholders, including government authorities, industry associations, trade unions, local workforce, and clients/customers, play a vital role in shaping the business environment and influencing the success of your extended workforce program. Their support and buy-in can bring numerous benefits, such as:

  1. Regulatory Compliance: Stakeholder buy-in can help you navigate the complex regulatory landscape by providing guidance, ensuring compliance with local laws, and obtaining necessary permits or licenses.
  2. Credibility and Trust: When stakeholders endorse your extended workforce program, it enhances your credibility and builds trust within the local market. This can lead to stronger relationships with clients, customers, and the local workforce.
  3. Market Insights: Stakeholders can provide valuable market insights, industry trends, and knowledge about local business practices. Their expertise can help you tailor your extended workforce program to meet the specific needs of the market.
  4. Networking Opportunities: Engaging with stakeholders opens doors to networking opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations. These connections can help you establish a presence, access talent, and ensure if things go bad you have a trusted resource to get you back on the right path locally.
  5. Mitigating Risks: By securing stakeholder buy-in, you can address concerns, mitigate potential risks, and ensure a smoother transition into the new country.

 

Overall, stakeholder buy-in is essential for a successful expansion as it helps you navigate the local market, build credibility, and establish strong relationships. Engaging with stakeholders early on and maintaining open lines of communication throughout the process is key to securing their support and buy-in. You can also review a recent article I released on ‘impacts of poor stakeholder alignment’ that gives more details on my thoughts.

Define your objectives: Clearly define your objectives for expanding to Europe. For example, are you looking to gain more visibility on headcount, assess your international hiring strategy, or simply reduce costs? Understanding your goals will help you make informed decisions throughout the expansion process and give clear direction to any international stakeholders.

Assess localised needs and what value the program could bring: Identify any gaps or opportunities that your extended workforce program can address in new countries. What I have seen work well is to start with the benefits you have experience in North America and see if those can have an instant impact based on your objectives and goals.

Develop a localisation strategy: Adapt your extended workforce program to suit the local market. This may involve tailoring your recruitment and onboarding processes, adjusting pay/charge rates, adding in different compliance requirements, and accommodating cultural differences. Localisation will help towards positive adoption and business buy-in.

Identify strategic partners: You may discover that in some countries there are specific suppliers of talent that need extra care and attention, due to the volume of supply. Where possible you must understand these relationships and contractual obligations at the earliest point possible. You may have a fantastic program approach, but if it contradicts the existing local supply chain then you could have to rework a lot of your scope. For a basic example, you may run a vendor neutral program in North America, but in France you have one key supplier that operates in a master vendor model. These things need to be accounted for otherwise you will upset the supplier and potentially lose critical talent your business needs. Remember implementing an international program is a great idea, but if it impacts who you get to do the work your program will start to fail.

Have an eye on timeline and budget: You must keep a very close eye on the potential complexity and cost associated with any expansion. I have seen deployments get paused or stopped because the buyer lead did not consider all the time and effort associated with local legislation.

The above is not inclusive of all factors, but I hope it gives you an idea that expanding outside of North America into Europe needs careful consideration and scoping.  Do it right and you will be up for internal accolades, do it wrong and you might be fixing issues for several years to come.

 

If you want to discuss international expansion in more detail, please get in touch. EW Scope is here to support the success of your extended workforce solutions.

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