The Pacific Institute is a U.S.-based, nonprofit research think-tank that creates and advances solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges.
With Oyster, they were able to scale their international staff and convert long-term contractors into full time employees.
at a glance
Founded in 1987, the Pacific Institute is a U.S.-based, nonprofit research think-tank that creates and advances solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges. They combine science-based research with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies.
The Pacific Institute partnered with Oyster in order to scale their international staff to match the global scope of their work. Thanks to Oyster, they’ve been able to expand into four countries to bring on new hires as well as convert long-term contractors to full-time employees.
As a policy research institute that tackles global water challenges—from sustainable water use, management, and conservation to strategies for climate adaptation—it was clear that the Pacific Institute needed to expand beyond its U.S. headquarters. With research projects and advocacy efforts around the world, they needed to build a global team to keep pace.
Pete Stanga, Chief Operating Officer at the Pacific Institute, explains that as a lean nonprofit, they simply didn’t have the infrastructure or administrative capacity to take on the challenges of hiring internationally. It would also require too much time and effort to figure out employment laws and regulations in other countries.
“We’re a fairly lean organization, so we needed a partner to help bring on and employ our team members based overseas. We don’t have the infrastructure to be able to employ staff in these countries, or detailed knowledge of the labor laws, and we don’t have HR staff in these countries.”
For a small nonprofit, there were also budget and resource constraints. “Anybody who knows about nonprofit budgets knows that there’s a real pressure to reduce the amount of administrative expenses within the organization,” says Pete. It simply wasn’t possible to “dedicate resources to handle the HR and the relationship with our staff overseas.”
Finally, the Pacific Institute also had a specific requirement. They already had international teammates working for them as long-term contractors, but unlike the full-time U.S. staff, the overseas contractors weren’t able to get paid time off or enjoy holidays off in their home countries. In order to provide an equivalent employment experience for their global staff, they needed to convert those contractors into full-time employees.
These were some of the problems the Pacific Institute needed to solve in order to become a global organization to match the widening scope of their research and advocacy worldwide.
The Pacific Institute eventually chose Oyster as their global employment partner in March 2022. Over the course of several conversations, Pete and his colleagues appreciated the Oyster team’s country-specific knowledge and expertise.
“We’re really impressed with the expertise they provide. Each country we work in, they have a dedicated team member with a lot of knowledge and expertise in the field of labor laws and employment practices within those countries, and we’re able to get all the information we need from them.”
Since the Pacific Institute’s work is directly focused on improving human lives by solving water-related challenges, Oyster’s human-centric and mission-driven approach was also a deciding factor. It was clear from the beginning that the Oyster team “really got where we were coming from,” says Pete, and there was a connection “not only from a practical standpoint, but from a mission standpoint as well.”
According to Pete, working with Oyster to convert their contractors to full-time employees was a very smooth process. He found the Oyster team helpful and supportive throughout, from understanding what was needed to creating and executing a plan that was right for the Pacific Institute.
“They were very accommodating in learning about our history, about what our needs were, and creating a plan that worked best for us. That plan included transitioning these employees from contractors to full-time staff, and that process has gone very smoothly. We had a lot of questions, a lot of concerns. And they were very helpful and patient, realizing that this was a new process for us, walked us through the process and implemented a very successful onboarding strategy based on our needs.”
Pete finds the onboarding process is very simple and streamlined. All he has to do is fill out the initial hire form, specifying the terms of the engagement, and then Oyster takes care of the administrative and logistical details.
“They have a very concise and straightforward onboarding process. We basically have to fill out one form which summarizes the terms of employment, and they take it from there. They handle all of the hiring red tape, the interactions with the employees, taxes, benefits, everything from there on out. So it’s been a great relationship in that way.”
With Oyster as a partner, the Pacific Institute has been able to easily scale a global team, and to do so without the effort and administrative overhead that would have been prohibitive for a nonprofit research organization.
“The impacts have been manyfold. There’s been the ease of bringing on staff. We’re a relatively small nonprofit, and we wouldn't have been able to employ staff in all these countries without Oyster. The fact that they do all the legwork makes this possible.”
The Pacific Institute team also has peace of mind from knowing they have a trustworthy partner to help them engage overseas staff in compliance with local laws and while avoiding unnecessary risks. In Pete’s mind, this is one of the most important benefits of working with Oyster.
“The value of using Oyster is first, from an employer standpoint, the risk mitigation. There’s the ability to know that we’re adhering to all the appropriate laws and regulations. Oyster is really on top of all of the laws and regulations in these countries, and we have a trusted partner who can carry out these hires and employ our staff.”
Pete’s team can count on Oyster’s country-specific knowledge of local employment laws and benefits, so they can make informed decisions about where to hire, and confidently create contracts that are locally appropriate and competitive.
“Before we commit to an employment contract, we get a very well written summary of what we're about to engage in. Many of the laws are quite different from the U.S. in terms of paid time off, health benefits, etc. We have a partner who has HR expertise that can work with us on creating terms of employment for the staff that are beneficial to both parties.”
Converting their overseas contractors to full-time employees was a priority for the Pacific Institute. Being able to do so with Oyster means that their global teammates are now able to take paid time off as well as local holidays, which has resulted in greater satisfaction and increased productivity.
One of the Pacific Institute’s most important projects is the CEO Water Mandate, a corporate water stewardship initiative of the United Nations Global Compact. This is a long-term project of global scope, so the Institute expects to increase their international staff in the coming years with Oyster’s support. “We hope and trust that Oyster will be a partner in that process,” says Pete.
For Pete’s team, it’s a relief to know that as the Institute’s work evolves and scales, their partnership with Oyster will ensure that increasing their staff will be easy and effortless.
“Bringing on new staff once we have a relationship with Oyster is really a breeze. The process is extremely streamlined. It’s a matter of filling out a few very simple forms, beginning a relationship with the Oyster rep, and they take it from there.”
After all, when your team works on solving problems as fundamental as ensuring access to water and adapting to climate change, it’s a good thing to not have to worry about contracts, compliance, or payroll.
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