The international business environment was completely shaken up by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many aspects have returned to “normal”, or the way things were before the pandemic, other aspects of international business have changed for good and are not expected to ever return to the pre-pandemic norm.
Our team has identified key international business trends to keep an eye on for the next few years:
It has become more common for workers to immigrate to a new country for work. Many people have a negative view of business immigration, as they view foreigners simply as individuals on a mission to come into a country to take jobs. However, studies have shown that in the United States, immigrants are “job makers” rather than “job takers”.
Many immigrants provide outside expertise and bring new insights to a company, increasing the company’s knowledge bank and helping create global solutions.
One trend that has gained popularity in recent years is the “digital nomad” lifestyle. Digital nomads move from place to place, with a focus on traveling and seeing worldly destinations. These workers stay connected to others through technology, which allows them to work remotely no matter their time zone or coordinates. More than 50 countries now offer a form of “Digital Nomad Visas”, legally allowing people to work remotely while residing outside of their country of permanent residence.
The advancements of technology and the ease of connectivity have made this lifestyle possible in recent years, and the number of digital nomads is expected to continue to grow.
In business, sustainability is no longer just a trend and has become an obligatory value of most businesses. There has been more focus on sustainability for companies every year, and this will continue to grow stronger. Although sustainability factors are more important in certain industries, almost every industry is starting to have to demonstrate how they meet or exceed global sustainability requirements. Stricter government regulations will also increase the need for companies to prove their sustainability. For example, the EU has proposed a new European Green Deal which would heavily impact the packaging that companies are able to use for their products.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations are important factors for how companies will succeed in the future, and don’t expect this to change anytime soon.
The practice of relocating employees to another country is becoming a customary protocol among multinational corporations. Transferred employees bring valuable skills, provide needed expertise, and are key individuals to assist with initiatives that include market entry, establishing operational processes, conducting market research, and expanding a company’s network. Additionally, the relocated employee can foster a sense of belonging among new hires and instill greater confidence in product launches through their physical presence.
Global transfers will continue to be a key part of multinationals as they grow and enter new markets.
One trend that was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic – and will continue for a long time to come – is the prevalence of remote and hybrid workers. Remote work allows companies to save money on office space, and instead invest in top-tier talent. Many employees appreciate working remotely, and the flexibility to do so makes a company more attractive to talent. Happier employees thrive, which in turn positively impacts the business. Although many jobs can be done remotely thanks to technology, some jobs can never be done remotely.
Expect remote and hybrid work schedules to continue into the future, but keep in mind that not all positions and employers allow remote work.
Employer of Record (EOR)
An Employer of Record (EOR) or Professional Employment Organization (PEO) assumes the responsibility of handling the financial and legal procedures required to establish and operate an overseas office. This includes managing payroll, administering employee benefits, and handling tax documentation. Importantly, the EOR firm does not interfere with project-related workflows which grants business owners complete management freedom. By simplifying the process of setting up offices worldwide, EOR companies offer valuable assistance to organizations expanding their global presence.
As more companies continue to expand international offices, expect EORs to continue to gain popularity.
Flexibility has emerged as a crucial factor in business success. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adaptable businesses thrived while those lacking flexibility faced significant challenges. Even now, as companies continue to navigate new pandemic waves, inflation concerns, and supply chain risks, the importance of flexibility remains unchanged. In fact, it has become increasingly difficult to anticipate and prepare for every potential change affecting our employees, companies, industries, and the world.
It is essential to embrace the notion of being prepared to be unprepared, acknowledging the need to continuously adjust and strategize in response to evolving circumstances.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is steadily gaining prominence in business settings as companies strive to optimize its implementation. Major corporations such as Adobe and Google are actively promoting AI as a valuable business tool and showcasing significant deployments of generative AI technology. The full extent of AI’s impact on future business remains uncertain which underscores the importance of flexibility as a critical element for success. Additionally, the potential impact of government regulations on AI in the workplace remains an unknown variable, further emphasizing the need for adaptability and agility in navigating the evolving AI landscape.
AI will continue to transform the world, especially the business world, and companies that successfully implement and strategically use the new technology will be far better off than those who reject it.
These are just some trends that are expected to continue impacting international business, whether for better or for worse. As expressed, it is extremely difficult to predict how companies will need to change to succeed in the future, emphasizing the importance of flexibility for businesses.
It is also very hard to predict the trends that will emerge in international business, and although these trends will certainly remain pertinent, there will undoubtedly be more trends popping up that are impossible to predict. As technology continues to advance, more possibilities than ever will emerge and companies that are able to adapt and implement new technologies faster will be the most successful businesses of the future.