'Global-first' | The strategy set to define 2024 - and what it means for your business

The strategy set to define 2024 - and what it means for your business

2024 heralds the reign of the global-first mindset in business, with HR experts predicting substantial rewards for those who embrace this shift. 

But what’s the difference between doing business globally, and being a global-first business? What are the positives, pitfalls, and most crucially, how do you ensure your business isn't left behind in the race towards global-first dominance in 2024? Amanda Day, Director of People Enablement at leading global HR expert, Remote, explains all...

What does ‘global-first’ mean?

Firstly, let's distinguish between doing business globally and being global-first.

Doing business globally might involve expanding your operations across borders, tapping into international markets, and perhaps establishing a presence in multiple countries. It's a step beyond local or regional business, but it doesn't necessarily signify a complete reorientation of your business model. 

On the other hand, being global-first is a strategic mindset that places the global market at the forefront of every decision. It's not just about expanding geographically; it's about embracing a global perspective in your products, services, and even your company culture. 

Remote’s Director of People Enablement Amanda Day explains: “A global-first company goes beyond the conventional notion of conducting business internationally; instead, it signifies an international mindset and setup so your business can work efficiently even when your team members don’t share the same zip code or country! In essence, a global-first business prioritizes the global market and forms every decision — from product development to recruitment — around it.”

So, while buying, selling, and even hiring internationally might be relatively commonplace, adopting a ‘global-first’ mindset takes things one step further. It’s an all-encompassing commitment to thinking on a global scale and adapting every aspect of your business to the dynamics of the worldwide stage.

Why should my business go ‘global-first’ in 2024?

Amanda Day evaluates the upsides of implementing a globally-minded framework:

Elite global talent - addressing the skills gap: A global-first mindset opens the door to an unparalleled pool of elite talent from around the world.

Amanda says: “By thinking global-first, addressing the skills gap becomes not just a challenge met but an opportunity seized. By attracting the best and brightest minds globally, your business can stay at the forefront of innovation and maintain a competitive edge, and you’ll often find that by hiring internationally, you’re able to recruit highly-skilled employees at a competitive rate.”

Servicing local regions - the human touch: Paradoxically, going global-first doesn't mean sacrificing the human touch. In fact, it allows your business to serve local regions more intimately.

Amanda says: “By building a global network, you’ll gain an intimate knowledge of local markets. You’ll be able to tailor your products, services, and communication strategies to resonate with the specific needs and cultural nuances of each region. This level of understanding is a game-changer. It's not about imposing a global identity on local markets; it's about integrating seamlessly into each community you serve.”

Greater flexibility and improved satisfaction: It’s no secret that remote employees enjoy increased flexibility, but the global-first framework takes things one step further.

Amanda says: “We already know that allowing your employees the freedom to work from home can boost their productivity and efficiency, but why not kick things up a notch? By combining a fully remote workspace with the option to work abroad, you’re giving them the freedom to truly spread their wings. And if you’re already considering expansion into a particular region, all the better! Studies show that greater flexibility translates into improved job satisfaction, and what could be considered more flexible than giving your team the option to work from anywhere on the planet? Just be sure to establish clear communication channels and expectations — maintaining a cohesive work environment on an international scale can be tricky if attempted without due diligence.” 

Fluid workload - work can be pushed asynchronously: Embracing a global-first mindset means breaking free from the traditional 9-to-5 model. Work becomes a fluid concept, and tasks can be accomplished asynchronously

Amanda says: “Gone are the days of rigid schedules. A global-first approach acknowledges that talent operates on its own rhythm. By embracing asynchronous work, your business adapts to the diverse time zones and working styles of a global workforce. This not only enhances productivity but also allows your team to operate at their peak hours. It's a shift from focusing on 'when' work gets done to 'how well' it gets done.”

Reduced costs — remote or in-office: One of the most tangible benefits of going global-first is the reduction in costs associated with maintaining a centralized office. By eliminating the need for a physical headquarters — or offering a hybrid environment — businesses can redirect resources towards strategic initiatives, employee development, and other areas that directly contribute to the company's growth and success.

Amanda says: “The traditional office often comes with a hefty price tag — rent, utilities, maintenance, the list goes on. Going global-first allows your business to shed these costs. With a distributed workforce, you can invest those funds where they matter most. Whether it's expanding your global reach, investing in employee training, or enhancing your technological infrastructure, the financial flexibility gained is a key advantage. A global-first ethos isn’t exclusive to remote environments, though  — even if your company is office-focused, giving employees the option to work remotely part-time can result in reduced office space requirements — decreasing costs substantially.”

Accessibility and inclusivity: A global-first business is inherently more inclusive. The accessibility of remote work means that individuals with diverse backgrounds and abilities can contribute meaningfully. This not only enriches the work environment but also positions your business as an inclusive and forward-thinking workplace, appealing to a broader spectrum of talent.

Amanda says: “The perception of your workplace matters. A global-first mindset sends a powerful message — that your doors are open to talent from every corner of the world. This inclusivity not only attracts diverse skill sets but also creates a workplace culture that celebrates differences. It's not just about being a global business; it's about being a global community that values and harnesses the strengths of each individual.”

The challenges of going global-first

Implementing a global-first approach can present some challenges, Amanda Day provides solutions for overcoming common roadblocks to improve your efficiency: 

Cultural complexity: Navigating language barriers, cultural nuances, and varying communication styles can be challenging!

Amanda says, “Cultural competency training might seem like a waste of resources, but it’s a worthwhile investment — especially for the globally-minded business. Alongside this. I’d always emphasize the importance of openness and curiosity — try to create spaces and opportunities for team members to share insights about their cultural practices, celebrations, and traditions. A sense of belonging and a shared company culture won’t form on its own — it requires intentional effort. Regular virtual team-building activities, open communication channels, and a commitment to inclusivity are key. It's about creating a 'virtual water cooler' where informal interactions can still thrive.”

Time zone management: Operating across different time zones is a double-edged sword. While it allows for asynchronous work and 24/7 operations, it also poses challenges for real-time collaboration.

Amanda advises, "Balancing global operations requires strategic scheduling and reliance on collaborative tools. It's about finding the sweet spot that ensures effective communication without overburdening your team with inconvenient meeting times, or bloating their browsers with bookmarks for a million different HR and communication tools, making a global HR platform to encompass all your internal running operations a game changer."

Legal and compliance issues: Going global-first can prove complex when it comes to legal and regulatory issues — especially if your business is on the smaller end of the scale. 

Amanda emphasizes, "Different regions have different employment laws, tax regulations, and compliance requirements. Staying abreast of these changes and ensuring that your global workforce operates within legal boundaries is a continuous challenge. Fortunately, there are ways of managing these hurdles —  if you’re keen on building an international team, for example, an employer of record service can handle all of these issues on your behalf.”

Security and data privacy: With a global-first approach comes the responsibility of safeguarding sensitive information across borders.

Amanda stresses, "With a global workforce accessing company systems from various locations, cybersecurity becomes paramount. Implementing robust cybersecurity measures, including secure virtual private networks (VPNs), multi-factor authentication, and regular security training for employees, safeguards your business against potential threats. It’s also worth noting that data privacy laws may vary per country, and ensuring compliance is paramount.”

Technology infrastructure: Relying on a global workforce demands a solid technological foundation.

Amanda notes, "Having a robust and scalable tech infrastructure is non-negotiable. At the very least, you’ll need to provide a communications platform, cloud storage infrastructure, and project management tools that facilitate remote collaboration, but above all, remember that simplicity is key. The tools you deploy will be useless if they’re not user-friendly and accessible to all team members.”

Unlock the worldwide stage with ‘global-first’

If the remote working revolution sheds the spotlight on where work happens, the global-first revolution asks how we can best align our work with the dynamics of the worldwide stage. 

As we take our first steps into a new year, it’s often tempting to make wild predictions about how the business landscape may look in the future. And wild though it may not be, the continued growth of globalisation is a sure bet — by going global-first, you’re placing the foundations for ongoing success. 

Talking about the importance of adopting a global-first mindset, Remote Director of People Enablement, Amanda Day concludes: 

“The global-first approach is a holistic strategy that positions your company not only as a remote-friendly workplace but as a global player with a mindset geared towards innovation, diversity, and adaptability.

“We’re extremely fortunate to live in a time where the world is completely interconnected, and businesses, irrespective of their work models, should recognize the significance of a global-first mindset. It's about future-proofing your organization, staying ahead in the global race, and creating a workplace culture that thrives on the diversity of ideas and experiences from every corner of the world.

“In essence, if remote-first was the first step towards the workplace of the future, global-first is a true realisation of the future of work; an all-inclusive revision of a now antiquated rulebook — a new framework for an interconnected world.”

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