March 16, 2021

5 Human Resources Considerations When Hiring Across Time Zones

Talent acquisition in organizations is no longer bound by zip codes.

The exponential growth of remote work has provided organizations with opportunities to hire the most qualified talent regardless of a candidates’ physical location. “Geographic boundaries and even sovereign borders will no longer matter when searching for the right talent,” Eightfold President Kamal Ahluwalia tells ZDNet. 

Without the restrictions of geographic boundaries, companies can cast much wider nets when recruiting talent. 

“Businesses no longer need to limit their recruiting efforts to candidates located within commuting distance of their offices or headquarters,” writes Lynn Kier, vice president of corporate communications for ‎technology company Diebold Nixdorf. “As a result, companies can connect and engage with potential new hires based on their qualifications and suitability for roles regardless of where they live.”

Such an opportunity doesn’t come without challenges. When hiring across time zones, human resources teams need to keep the following obstacles to success in mind and account for them when developing hiring strategies.  

1. Time Zone Differences Can Make Collaboration Difficult

Collaboration is one of the biggest challenges for remote workers in different time zones. “Some widely used digital tools make certain forms of collaboration—such as sharing and editing documents—easy. But other, critically important types of collaboration remain challenging when colleagues are not sharing physical space—or even time zones,” write Ryan Kaiser, Robin Jones, and David Schatsky at Deloitte. 

Collaboration is hindered as constant communication can be nearly impossible when workers are spread out across multiple time zones, especially if there are few time periods that overlap between the zones. This has the potential to negatively impact productivity, company culture, and worker satisfaction. 

Human resources teams need to be mindful of this challenge and analyze organizational processes for possible solutions before reaching too far for talent. That means having discussions with managers and leaders about things such as setting meeting times for widely distributed groups and ensuring the company has the right technology tools to make communication and collaboration as seamless as possible. 

It’s important to anticipate these issues so they don’t create bigger problems in the long run. 

Scheduling Meetings Can Be Particularly Challenging

“Coordinating for a common meeting across time zones can be tricky, since at least one time zone is inevitably inconvenienced,” says Maneesh Sharma, country manager at GitHub India.

That’s why a company-wide consensus of what is acceptable for meeting times should be ascertained. Are you going to set meetings only in the organization’s time zone or are you willing to adjust your hours to accommodate others in different time zones? How much of a window should there be for all employees to be at work at the same time? Are employees at the home office willing to work alternate hours specifically to create overlaps? 

The answer to these questions will inform HR as to how far it can reach to recruit talent.

The Right Technology Is Imperative When Hiring Across Time Zones

Technology is the foundation for success when hiring talent in different parts of the country or the world. HR teams should carefully consider what collaboration tools the organization needs or already has in place to facilitate communication between remote teams. Ask whether those technology solutions will work across global time zones, write Jen Fisher and Anjali Shaikh, respectively the U.S. chief well-being officer and the U.S. CIO program leader at Deloitte. 

For remote teams to function successfully, the most important technology tools everyone needs are video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Skype, chat tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, file-sharing tools like Google Drive and Dropbox, and shareable calendars such as Outlook and Google Calendar. 

With those in place, organizations are better prepared to facilitate workflows across multiple time zones, which means HR can recruit talent from just about anywhere.

5 professionals converse via video chat on a tablet; hiring across time zones concept

2. The Definition of the Work Day Changes When Multiple Time Zones Are Involved

When workers are distributed across time zones, the definition of the workday has to be flexible. If a company in Texas is hiring someone in Germany, there will be little overlap in time. Therefore, defining the workday as being from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST would be unreasonable for the worker in Germany, unless you designate them as night-shift workers and pay them as such (more on that later).

So, if you are recruiting over long distances, your organization must be flexible in terms of defining the workday in order to accommodate those workers and adjust processes accordingly. This will prevent managers and employees from scheduling meetings or setting communication expectations without regard to where others are located. 

Know Your Company’s Official Time Zone 

If everyone sets meetings according to their own personal time zone, the virtual office can quickly erupt in chaos. That’s why every company that hires distributed workers needs to have a declared office time zone. It will ensure everyone is setting meetings and deadlines in the same time zone, no matter where they are located.

That can be the time zone in which the company’s headquarters are located, or it can be the one in which most of the workers are located. This helps HR determine in which time zones would be best for hiring workers based on overlapping times with workers in the office time zone.  

Asynchronous Communication Is Becoming the Norm

Are the people at your company willing to accept delays in communication? If not, you might want to reconsider hiring outside the company’s official time zone. 

Asynchronous communication (sending messages without expecting an immediate response) is quickly becoming the norm for organizations that hire workers in different time zones. “Asynchronous communication is what makes remote teamwork sustainable, and when time zones are wide apart, it’s essential,” says Pilar Orti, director at consulting firm Virtual Not Distant. 

If adapting to this style of communication isn’t feasible for your organization, neither is hiring remote employees who are in other time zones. 

3. Tracking Productivity of Workers in Various Time Zones is Complex

The struggles of remote teams to collaborate with each other translates into productivity issues that can be difficult to manage. This is one of the top concerns for organizational leaders as more aspects of businesses are transitioning to remote work. In fact, according to a survey by Lucidspark, 90 percent of C-suite managers and 78 percent of lower-level managers cited productivity as one of their top concerns for remote teams. 

In order for a company to succeed with a distributed workforce, it has to implement systems and processes that ensure a smoothly-functioning virtual office. There has to be a systematic way of tracking work output that is consistent across all workers, whether or not they work from home. 

As with collaboration, that requires your company to have the right technology tools in place. “Make sure employees have the technology they need to be successful, which may be more than just a mobile phone and laptop,” writes Mary Baker, public relations and corporate communications director at Gartner. This facilitates worker productivity, even if there are times when collaboration is most difficult. It also enables the company to quantify productivity.   

Also important to remote team productivity, according to a remote work survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, is ensuring that managers are properly trained in motivating and supporting remote teams to stay on task when working outside the office in isolation. Well-trained managers also communicate expectations clearly and frequently so there are no uncertainties around those expectations. 

Before your HR team starts searching different time zones for new talent, be sure the systems and tools are in place to create a remote work environment that encourages maximum productivity.

professional on laptop at kitchen table; hiring across time zones concept

4. Employee Compensation Expectations May Vary Based on Location

Does your company have a policy in place that dictates salaries for workers who are in different locations? If not, you need to address this issue: If you expect workers across the world to be online at the same time, some may be working nights. It’s a situation comparable to working the traditional night shift or second shift when employees are usually paid time and a half or overtime for working that shift.

Also, some remote workers may be living in areas that have higher costs of living than others. The cost of living in San Francisco is much higher than the cost of living in Jackson, Mississippi. As such, a $100,000 salary won’t go as far in San Francisco as it will in Jackson.

Considering these potential situations, should there be flexibility in the company’s pay scale? It’s a critical question that needs to be answered before HR teams broaden their searches for new talent. As Shelly Holt, chief people officer at PayScale notes, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. 

“What matters is that you have an approach to compensation that is backed by data so that you can confidently communicate your strategy and be more transparent about pay with your current and future workforce,” writes Holt.

5. Time Zones in Job Descriptions Aligns Expectations

Vague job descriptions can lead to a lot of wasted time, money, and effort on the part of both HR teams and applicants. Job descriptions should be very specific and detailed, especially when recruiting from different time zones. Candidates should know the company’s time zone expectations just from reading the job descriptions.  

Those expectations are driven by your company’s approach to the issues previously discussed. Be sure to answer questions including:

  • Will you expect remote workers to attend meetings during the company’s official time zone, even if it is outside regular business hours for the applicant’s time zone?
  • What technology tools will the company provide to ensure collaboration across time zones?
  • What are the expectations for response times to emails or other communications? 
  • What are the key performance indicators for productivity the company will be tracking for all employees?
  • What is the corporate compensation policy for remote workers in different time zones?

By addressing these questions in the job description, you are more likely to attract qualified candidates from time zones that will work within your company’s expectations for remote workers. It makes overcoming all the challenge of hiring across time zones that much easier.

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