Executives at digital businesses cite a wide variety of challenges when expanding globally, but “finding the right talent to run our organization” inevitably factors high on their lists.  Yet despite the extensive preparation that goes into international expansion efforts, it’s rare to find companies staffing up far in advance of these initiatives. Some thoughts for digital organizations with increasingly global aspirations:

Think international – even before you are. It’s common to hear of multinational corporations thinking globally when creating content. For example, by avoiding website or marketing content that includes numerous local references, it becomes easier to translate that content into other languages. Executives need to extend this idea of early preparation from content to people as they staff up their teams: If digital leaders know they want to operate in multiple markets going forward, they need to start building teams with global knowledge well before they start their international expansion.

Hire candidates with international experience across the organization. Companies do not need to hire global talent with the sole purpose of contributing to international expansion. To the contrary: Many digital businesses bring in employees with strong language skills and knowledge of different global markets to work in a wide variety of capacities within the organization. A more globally experienced workforce can provide more diverse insights – additionally, as international markets rise in importance, those organizations that have hired and mentored employees with knowledge of these markets will be better positioned for success later. Some smaller vendors, for example, were able to establish a foothold in emerging markets relatively quickly by relying on executives with existing knowledge of these countries to guide their market entry strategies.

Ease market entry by developing talent internally. It’s challenging enough for businesses to manage the complexity of an international expansion – to hire and train a new team that has no knowledge of the corporate culture can complicate an already difficult process. Having an established internal team (or in some cases, even an individual) with understanding of both the local market and the company can go a long way toward bridging the gap. In addition, some companies have executives willing to relocate to markets where they have deep expertise – such moves can reduce the number of hires that have to be made in markets where qualified digital professionals are in high demand.

Invest in training programs for new global hires. Most large companies with a global footprint have given extensive thought to training new hires from different markets. By contrast, smaller companies or those that have traditionally had a domestic focus have not paid the same level of attention to training employees from a variety of countries. Not only do these new international teams need to learn about the corporate environment, but they may be coming up to speed on how digital trends have emerged in the company’s home market or elsewhere in the world.  Digital leaders must develop training courses that not only outline the company and different job responsibilities, but also highlight best practices in the industry from around the globe.

We'll be diving into this topic in more detail in our research this year and would love to hear from you. How is your organization building a global digital team?