The Global HR Challenge
It’s a whole new world out there, especially for companies that conduct their business internationally. As the world is getting smaller due to the internet, and clients can be found all over the globe, companies are increasingly tempted to set up shop across the globe. This brings challenges, even more so for HR. Human resources for an international organization is a whole different beast altogether. There are many pitfalls and challenges that need to be considered.
Here are a few key challenges that need to be addressed.
First and foremost, there will be communication challenges. Running a central HR approach that feeds into individual countries is not easy.
Rolling out a specific piece of HR policy effectively will require the local HR managers to be trained properly and given enough time to tweak and refine to fit the local cultural differences.
This affects turn around times and the number of policy pieces you can roll out globally each year. Another challenge is making sure feedback on HR issues are properly being passed on.
Far too often, important feedback hangs with local resources and doesn’t make it all the way up the chain where there is a great desire to be informed.
Any company should spend significant time considering how global HR works together with local resources and how it ensures that information flows both ways.
Depending on the company’s international footprint, there needs to be careful consideration if local HR managers serve as gatekeepers or if feedback needs to flow back directly to global HR.
Closely linked to communication, there is also a world of cultural differences and sensitivity. Everyone will know that a German employee is significantly different from a Japanese one. These cultural differences affect HR issues profoundly.
For example, it’s still very much customary in Japan to have business cards, something that might be considered a waste of paper in Western Europe nowadays.
A company initiative to get rid of business cards might not be met with the same enthusiasm everywhere around the globe. Or take cultural differences in being direct/indirect.
Launching an HR campaign to signify the importance of mental health might work well in open cultures, but in cultures where people are more private, this campaign could fall short.
In global HR management, it’s key to consider the local cultural differences and, if needed, bring in extra support and advice if there might be such contributing factors that careful tweaking is needed.
Another challenge for any global organization is making sure that cash flow is controlled and that employees and suppliers can be paid in a timely fashion. In most cases these things can be handled on a local level, especially when there is a local business entity with their own profit and loss.
But there will be times that funds need to be transferred centrally. For example, when it’s a project that is spearheaded by global HR and the budget sits here as well. It can be quite the challenge to send money to Bangladesh for example, but there are plenty of solutions out there that can take the worry away.
It’s a good idea to have this infrastructure in place, especially when it starts being commonplace to send people out to different countries, and there is a chance they would need local cash.
The biggest challenge, however, is to create a shared sense of identity and between employees of different countries. This is even more challenging if the international footprint is mostly acquired by mergers and acquisitions, not uncommon in most industries. HR is the first department to try and tackle this challenge. It’s more than just slapping a shared brand name and logo.
It’s also more than handing out branded hoodies and hats, although it’s a start.
HR, first and foremost, needs to make sense of what the company values are and how they might differ from country to country.
Next is to find common ground between those values and identifying what is actually being ‘lived’ and what is aspirational. Then these values need to be communicated, embodied, and given meaning on each local level. This can be done in many ways, but it’s never a ‘do as I say’ approach, rather a ‘do as I do’ method.
This is the truly hard part, as the global organization needs buy-in from everyone involved, especially global and local management.
Something to rally behind as a global organization does require something unique. Values from company X will look awfully similar to the values from company Y.
But this is where HR can shine if they can solve the equation. Something unique, something that can be shared globally, and something people can believe.
© New To HR