Insider Secrets of Setting Up Globally Distributed Localization Staff

Category: International Business

This article, written by Caroline Cox of Acclaro, was originally posted on the industry newsletter “The Globalization Insider” in November 2009.

Managing a localization team in Delhi and Dubai from Deluth is no picnic. But, with these tips your far-flung team will fly across the finish line.

By Caroline Cox, Acclaro Inc.

In today’s global economy, organizations increasingly rely on short- and long-term localization resources for a wide variety of positions — both at home and abroad. From linguists (i.e. translators and editors) in London to localization engineers in Egypt and project managers in Mumbai, many companies are expanding abroad and need expert resources to add to their international project teams. At the same time, U.S.-based companies often find that hiring resources abroad opens their pool of qualified resources, enabling better interaction with local markets and providing economical staffing solutions.

Yet, localization staffing needs to be handled wisely to ensure quality outcomes. Here are a handful of tips that businesses would do well to consider before hiring and managing temporary or full-time staff overseas.

1. Getting started

If hiring localization or other international resources abroad seems like the right direction for your project or company, consider these five questions:

  • What are your staffing requirements? Write or get in writing a profile and job description for each position and define the general hiring requirements before you start the recruiting process. For example, will you need full-time or contract employees? Are they required to speak English or any other language? What skill sets are needed?
  • How will employees or contractors be set up in terms of logistics? Can the job responsibilities be fulfilled from a home office with a login and password, or do the individuals need to be on site at a specific location? Are there any time zone restrictions, such as employee needing to be available during certain hours? These questions will help determine where the resources should be located.
  • What is the duration of the position or contract? Is the resource needed for one week, one month or one year? Note that the duration of a position will affect whether the role is best suited to an outsourced position, internal staffed contractor or regular employee.
  • What are the budget requirements? Work through the salary range for the position as well as the tax and benefits load and other costs (space, equipment, supplies, management) that your company uses to set employee budgets. Know that each country has different tax and benefit laws, so having a baseline to compare against will be important.
  • How much time can you or someone on your team devote to managing the resources? Determine how much time you or a team member has to spend on overseas localization staff. If you or a team member cannot manage the overseas staff, then you may wish to consider outsourcing the work as a project or exploring a managed team model.

2. Hiring 101 (revisited)

Once you’ve thought through the process of getting started, it’s worth re-thinking some basic but critical aspects of the hiring process:

  • Interviews: How and when will the interviews be set up? Via phone? In person? Consider who on your team will conduct the interviews, especially if the prospective employees are in a different time zone.
  • Feedback and reviews: Determine who will be in charge of quality and performance feedback. It is important to outline when the feedback will take place and how best to share it with your new employees or contractors.
  • Training: What sort of training is required and how long should it last? Where will the person providing the training be located? Can it be done remotely? If so, will multiple training sessions need to be coordinated to accommodate more than one time zone?

3. Building your team overseas

Once you determine whom you wish to hire, you will need to decide how and where to employ them. Although each project requires its own approach, here are three areas to consider:

  • Legal and employment issues. It’s worth contacting a lawyer to determine what local laws require. Two steps to think about include:
    • First and foremost, determine which legal entity you’re hiring the contractor or employee into. If you are hiring temporary or full-time employees directly (rather than through a staffing agency), you must have an in-country branch or some other local office affiliated with your company in order to process payroll, establish the contract, pay local taxes, etc. If you do not have any in-country presence, you may need to hire an agency to serve as the hiring agent and manage all payroll, taxes, contracts etc.
    • Building on this point, checking into local employment laws and practices is essential to avoiding costly missteps when hiring contractors as temporary employees. For example, contractors may not be able to work for extended periods under a temporary status before they are considered permanent full-time employees.
  • Financial. If you decide to hire freelance contractors, as opposed to contract employees, make sure to set up terms of payment before a contractor or employee begins working on any project. Make clear how they should report any time worked, how to invoice and when they will be paid.
  • Technical. Understanding the IT environment that the employee or contractor will have is essential. Connect them with your IT department to ensure they can access appropriate network resources. Consider whether they will require local IT support for their environment and hardware.
    • Internet Connectivity. Broadband capabilities can vary significantly from one country to the next, especially for individuals working from homes. Connections may be slow or unreliable, which can affect productivity. If you expect people to work from their homes, ask candidates about their Internet connection. And, consider having them work from a local serviced office with reliable Internet connection if necessary.

4. Maintaining a successful international team

Keeping your international staff focused and productive requires a fresh look at teamwork for the global age of business. Here are two tips to keep in mind:

  • Communicate regularly.Communication has been and always will be key to the success of any team — especially one that may be dispersed around the planet. Be sure that all employees or contractors know who to reach out to with any issues or questions that arise — from technical/IT problems to project-related questions to human resources concerns. Holding weekly calls for some or all teams — depending on the time zones involved — can work well to address outstanding issues and help build a strong team spirit. If a hiring firm is involved, you may wish to offload all payment, invoice and HR issues.
  • Weekly Assignments. As with any remote employees, make sure you know what each person is working on for any given week. Weekly assignments and hours may vary, so make sure to ask for regular status reports and timesheets. It can be more difficult to track time and work from abroad and when the employees aren’t located physically or even in the same time zone but a relationship based on professional trust, with adequate monitoring, can ensure quality and performance.

No matter how complex your localization staffing needs may be, the right solution, employee and contractor are out there, just waiting to contribute to your success. Balancing your business objectives with a sure-footed approach to process is the best way to take your team and project from the starting line to the finish line — with budget to spare.

Caroline Cox has been in the localization industry for more than 10 years, both on the vendor side as well as the client side. She has primarily worked in operations and is currently a staffing program manager at Acclaro (