The purpose of this discussion was best practices for global human resource leadership development programs. Participants shared ideas around how their organizations currently manage their departments on a global level, and best practices for making those programs better.
To begin the discussion, Droste Group’s Steve Dion surveyed the participants to better understand the global natures of their organizations. Many of the participants had “global influence” roles versus complete “global responsibilities”. Some were leading the U.S. or North American units of European-based global companies, which brings unique global challenges as well.
The group chose to focus on talent attraction and selection, global management, and leadership training and development issues in the ensuing discussion.
Attracting and Selecting Talent
Many participants find it difficult to support recruiting in some global locations, as several organizations chose remote locations for their global offices. Unlike recruiting in urban centers, their sites are located in small, rural areas and are less desirable places to live. Although it’s relatively easy to find hourly workers, it’s much more challenging to source and retain professional staff.
Some organizations believe it’s worthwhile to pay recruiting agency fees in these areas, although it can be problematic if the external recruiter is based in the United States. Partnering with local agencies and specialists is an alternative, along with leveraging assistance from local governments and chambers of commerce.
Other suggestions included implementing short-term assignments to acquaint employees with the remote locations before addressing longer-term commitments. Sometimes it’s also possible to implement flexible work arrangements like telecommuting and variable hours to solve travel concerns and allow people to live in more urban locations.
Many participants believe the selection process, even in a global company, should include assessments. Because many good assessments are validated in multiple languages and cultures, the results can ensure the company culture and competencies are globally reinforced in the hiring process.
Global HR Management
Global HR leadership strategies varied among participants if the HR leader was from the U.S. based corporate office versus the U.S. based geographic unit from another country (in this case, a German, Swedish, or French-based corporate office). Our group members still agreed on the following best practices.
- Communication is a key issue. From the strategy of what and how to communicate, to process issues like translating company communications, communication can be a thorny problem to solve. Some companies have an official company language (often English), while others leave communication issues for regional teams to manage. Intended or not, the policy for how communication is approached and executed sends a global message to employees.
- Cross-cultural training, used to expose all employees to the various cultures (handshakes, languages, holidays, etc.) within an organization, is an often-used best practice among many global companies. Company culture then defines appropriate behaviors within organizations, regardless of location.
Interestingly, some find it tough to keep American managers when a company is owned/operated overseas. Their misalignment with how they want to be managed and how they are managed by the global corporate office often leads to frustration.
- Seeking employee opinions on their views of working globally is another best practice. Even asking about basic operational issues like when to schedule conference calls, and how to best communicate, generates great ideas and removes frustrations and barriers to performance.
- Local & global councils developed to solve business issues, such as forging cross-selling relationships, are successful in some situations.
- Global surveys should consider language, cultural norms, etc., in their design. Participants who conduct global surveys noted that there are surprisingly few differences driven by international geographies. More differences are attributed to site management, and oftentimes differences are greatest between two US locations led by different leaders.
- Global metrics drive global behavior, but measuring company effectiveness globally can be challenging. Measuring across multiple variables such as currencies, different processes, and definitions of FTEs, as well as variables in reporting frequency, can be difficult.
The best practice for global metrics is to have a clear set of measures that are globally published and enforced to drive company values and behaviors. One participant offered the example where no manager company-wide has a span of control above eight direct reports.
- Shared program design can solve the problem of deciding whether an initiative is centralized and uniformly used versus decentralized and locally built. A best practice solution offered by one participant is to allow corporate programs and initiatives to be introduced “85% complete” with the overall program tenants being clear, but then allow local management to finish it to match that culture in an open and purposeful way.
- Local administrative firms and consultants can manage company payroll, benefits, etc., in some cases. Finding a good firm is often difficult, however, and it is important to get references and even multiple bids to ensure costs are competitive.
Training and Leadership Development across Cultures
Most of the companies represented have a decentralized training strategy. Local management determines training needs (per their own budgets), while corporate policies and values are centralized. However, many of the organizations provide travel experience to employees on a project basis (for less than a year) as a rich way to develop global capabilities. Others use global mentoring programs to expose employees to international moves and connect people organization-wide.
A few companies have both local and global High Potential programs to develop internal talent. The global programs, involving participants from multiple countries, are highly successful in developing talent in various locations, and engaging them in the full business. In addition, these programs do a great job at breaking down silos and increasing communication between countries.
Specific training programs used among participants vary. Some have a Global Learning Management System (LMS), and many use WebEx training materials (primarily in English) to hold training and communication events. InXPo – “training TV” is used by another organization as a global platform to showcase company materials. Others use GlobeSmart for online intercultural training to teach employees about other countries’ customs.
In general, HR management issues are similar in large organizations, regardless of the number of satellite locations around the world. Participants agreed, however, that the ease in solving those issues depends greatly on the acceptance of corporate policies, the ease of communication between sites, and cultural understanding among leaders and employees.