At JOH Partners we have worked on a number of roles for international companies operating and expanding into Iran. Through these experiences we have come to understand some of the challenges that employers need to overcome when trying to attract expat talent to Iran.
What nationalities is the expat workforce currently made up of?
Along with the local Iranians, most expats in Iran currently come from other Middle Eastern countries and can be found working as senior management professionals in the state-owned oil and natural gas sectors. However, with the lifting of the sanctions, we are beginning to see this trend widen.
Where are the expats based?
Expats tend to be based in Tehran, Iran's capital city, which is also the political, cultural, industrial and commercial centre of the country.
What are the benefits of relocating to Iran?
Iran can be a great place to move if you enjoy the outdoors - there are lots of exciting activities for expats from hiking and skiing in the Alborz mountains to relaxing by the Persian Sea. There is also an incredibly rich history, culture and architecture.
Language is also not really an issue for expats - whilst the official language of Iran is Farsi, English is often the language spoken in the business environment.
Iran is one of the few locations where, due to a lack of skilled senior resource, there are great career opportunities for young ambitious candidates. This is one of the ways in which HR teams can sell their roles effectively.
What are the challenges?
Safety and security are still major concerns for expats travelling to and living in Iran. As a result of strained relations between Iran and the West, the situation in Iran for many expats from other regions is volatile. However, international relations are improving and we are seeing foreign offices, like the UK, removing its warning for most areas of Iran. We anticipate expats becoming more comfortable travelling and relocating to Iran in the near future, but we feel that they still will need some extra incentives.
There are also concerns over rights available to individuals through the judicial system and the so-called 'morality police'.
As many of the reforms promised come into play, we hope that security will be less of an issue and a wider talent pool will open up.
There were once a large number of international schools in Iran for the expat population. However, most of these closed their doors following attacks on the British Embassy in 2011. There are still a few international schools in Iran, but it is likely to be a challenge to get senior expats relocating with their families without more choice. Fortunately, with the markets beginning to open up, we anticipate more of the schools reopening in the next few years to serve the growing need for a talented expat population.
There are some good private hospitals in Tehran, but the general standard of healthcare in Iran will not meet the standards that most expats are accustomed to. As a result, before offering roles to candidates in Iran, it is worth considering whether your healthcare insurance packages are suitable and allow expats to travel to have medical treatment.
Iran for women
Whilst Iran is an Islamic country, it has a more liberal approach to women's dress codes than other stricter gulf countries. However, women planning to move to Iran, should still respect the local culture and traditions - particularly if they want to avoid unwanted attention.
Many firms are seeking internationally educated Iranians who may consider returning to Iran to fill some of these key senior roles, where they cannot get the expat candidates with other nationalities to commit. At JOH Partners, our experience has shown that you can place talented and highly skilled expats in Iran, but that their focus will be on career progression. Hiring managers and HR teams will need to ensure that they position the roles they are hiring for in the right way to make this possible.
Please contact us if you would like some support in staffing within the Iranian market.