Innovate With An International Workforce

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News (click here)

International experience is one of the best feathers you can add to your career’s cap.  Ask any executive, and they’ll tell you their companies love finding talented employees who have lived and worked abroad.  Study abroad is good, but not nearly as good as working abroad. When a company sees you have succeeded in the work world overseas, they know you understand how to work with people who have different backgrounds and perspectives, and they know you are adaptable and can thrive in different cultures.  It puts you one step ahead of the competition.

Even though Turkey has historically been a melting pot of civilizations, the workforce here is not nearly as international as you might think. Turkish employees who have worked abroad and then returned to Turkey are fairly uncommon.  Perhaps this is because Turks who work abroad tend to stay abroad.  There are many foreigners working in Turkey, but they tend to be sent here by their employers, and they stay a short time — there are very few who live here independently and are hired locally.  And local Turkish companies hardly ever choose to source international talent.

There are several reasons companies should strive to include more foreigners in their workforce.  One is it introduces new ways of doing business into your company’s culture.  Your employees develop a broader perspective on the business world and become more creative problem solvers.  It’s not an easy change to usher in, that’s for sure, so don’t think that simply hiring a few internationals is going to quickly infuse new life into your company.  Your local employees who aren’t used to working with international teams will find it a very tough adjustment.  The internationals you bring in will run up against big challenges, too, because they will encounter many coworkers who aren’t willing to listen to what they have to offer, especially at first.

Your local employees who rise to the challenge, though, and overcome the initial obstacles, will find that working on international teams is the next best thing to actually having a career abroad.  Every interaction, every team project, is an opportunity for them to show others how they think and work in a multicultural environment.

Initially, you may run into internal opposition when you look to diversify your teams with internationals.  One common source of resistance is the manager who says there are many qualified Turks who can do the job as well as a foreigner, so why are we hiring internationals?  However, there is no substitute for the creativity and diverse outlook that an international team brings.  As a result, companies around the world are competing to recruit talented people from around the world, especially in North America and Europe.  For example, even as the country is experiencing its highest unemployment rate in decades, the US is aggressively recruiting nurses from around the world.

You’ll find that after you overcome the initial challenges of internationalizing your workforce, a new set of challenges arises.  For example, employees often fear that being sent abroad will damage their career prospects, since they will be away from the company’s hub of power and influence.  You’ll need to show them that a posting overseas is a step towards the center of influence, not away from it.  Also, in the words of one McKinsey research study, “much valuable experience dissipates” because companies have a habit of “ignoring input from returnees.”  You’ll need to ensure that your company acts like a sponge, because your international employees will be learning valuable lessons, and none of them should go to waste.

Executives around the world agree, a company’s success depends on its ability to attract top talent.  Why limit your company’s recruiting options?  Tap into international sources for talent, and see how integrating internationals into your company will broaden your employees’ perspectives and inject a new, innovative spirit into your company culture.  Like anything worthwhile, the process will bring challenges of its own, but you will find them well worth your company’s time and energy.

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