GLOBAL WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT “NEXT PRACTICES” Why What’s Worked in the Past May No Longer Make Sense
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The human resources arena has transformed in the past decade, demanding vastly different skills and strategies to face the new challenges of a global marketplace. HR teams on the forefront of the industry are building more agile workplaces that rely on cutting-edge talent and learning strategies. Practices once considered tried and true are beginning to fall flat, but resourceful HR professionals are crafting innovative ways to thrive under the new world order.
The global recession has contributed to an imbalance of talent and opportunities. The United States and Western Europe continue to struggle with high unemployment and dragging economies while emerging economies like those in China, Brazil, India, Singapore, Russia and Eastern Europe are experiencing explosive growth. Employees in such rapidly growing economies typically change jobs more than once a year, while companies in the slower economies work hard to identify qualified talent for the few hires they make. This environment demands a mindset shift that involves approaching workforce management with global tools and best practices.
Empowering HR Teams for a New Paradigm
HR is stepping up the management ladder, moving from the “staffing and recruiting” model to become a legitimate member of the management team and integrating a company’s talent-identifying processes to solve problems in much more powerful ways.
Social media is a huge component of the emerging talent-acquisition function, requiring HR departments to refresh agencies and job boards. Social advertising and presence are among the most important tools in the talent-acquisition toolbox, offering fresh opportunities for sourcing, hiring and assessing talent.
Companies are focusing more energy on the expansion of engagement, development and incentive programs targeted to younger employees and potential recruits to combat low employee engagement and performance levels. Talent-mobility programs are getting more dynamic and offering greater opportunities for internal promotion—a key change that benefits employees’ careers, boosts employee engagement and saves costs on both recruiting and retention.
Continuing education is helping the most ambitious HR professionals anticipate and integrate needed changes to position their companies ahead of the curve. The companies most likely to thrive in an increasingly global marketplace are those that empower their HR teams with education and the tools they need to embrace the plethora of new approaches and solutions designed to integrate modern practices in leadership and talent management.
Brandman Extended Education has worked with all types of businesses in both the private and public sector to develop and facilitate curricula tailored to each of their missions and industry best practices. Such focused programs offer both the practical and theoretical knowledge employees need to help their companies succeed on a global scale. For example, Brandman developed curriculum for U.S. Marine Corps troops responsible for supply-chain processes in Afghanistan and Iraq. They also collaborated with one of the largest sheriff’s departments in the United States to provide leadership skills for a multi-cultural and multi-generational staff and service area.
Creative Solutions to Emerging HR Challenges
Despite stubborn high unemployment in the U.S., many companies continue to struggle to fill technical positions due to a lack of qualified candidates. A number of firms have taken action with creative solutions. Instead of waiting for qualified applicants, some companies have opted to create their own pool of skilled talent by getting involved with nearby colleges to design compatible curricula and launching intern programs that ensure a steady supply of educated and experienced young workers.
Others are targeting a willing population of returning U.S. military personnel as prime targets for tech talent. By deliberately recruiting retired military, these companies are finding employees with character, values and a strong work ethic rather than industry-specific experience. The right person for the job is then prepared with extensive training.
The Internet age has ushered in a rash of new challenges, not least of which is safeguarding the company image. In just a few mouse clicks, a job candidate can review a company’s financial figures, evaluate its culture and even seek out information about individual managers and co-workers prior to accepting a job offer.
Business-networking site LinkedIn Corp. made proactive choices to shape what those applicants find. Last year, it formed a small team charged with providing prospective employees a window into life at LinkedIn. Through open houses, blogs and video testimonials, job candidates can get a feel for what it might be like to work for the company. A computer-programming event in August even brought local interns and college students to the company headquarters for a glimpse of the company and its culture.
Younger workers are the key to companies’ futures, and the firms are increasingly finding effective ways to connect with those workers via a strong social media presence. In addition to vehicles like Facebook and LinkedIn, some organizations are creating objective-specific forums where young employees and potential employees can share experiences and opinions about the workplace. Some go so far as to upload YouTube videos that share tips on getting a job and designing an effective resume.
Data shows that younger employees are actually more motivated by career interests than they are by promotions or even high salaries. Forward-thinking HR departments are building more transparent career-management and mobility programs to boost employee morale and job satisfaction rates. Many encourage employees to cross-train in complementary departments to broaden their skills and knowledge.
Corporate training, too, is undergoing a bold transformation. Gone are the centralized, program-based models considered “best practices” 10 years ago. Leading companies are moving toward “capability development” environments that incorporate formal and informal learning with social tools, expertise networks and performance consulting. Performance management increasingly includes goal-setting and performance coaching to reach company and personnel objectives. Similarly, more and more companies are taking the time to update ineffective performance-appraisal processes as they adopt the “next practices” that will transition their companies into the global market.
With so many changes occurring at the core of how business operates, HR professionals can’t sit back and rest on what they learned in college. Changing times require ongoing education that exposes key personnel to the best new ideas while inspiring them to create contemporary solutions.
Globalization’s Impact on the Five R’s of HR: Resourcing, Recruiting, Retaining, Retraining and Retention
Recruitment and retention have become more important than ever as skilled job candidates have become needles in the job-market haystack. Savvy HR pros are learning to assess potential employees in new ways, sometimes recognizing that attributes such as determination, willingness to learn and a positive attitude can be just as valuable as particular job skills, which can be taught.
When companies work so hard to find the right men and women for the job, they’re apt to take notice of the dangers of key people leaving the organization. Succession strategies once reserved for top executives are now more frequently employed across the workforce. Offering opportunities for knowledge- and skill-building and both lateral and vertical career development is becoming a popular path to keeping strong employees engaged and out of the job market, even when bonuses and salary increases aren’t on the table.
Young leaders today want more than a career; they want a calling. Companies determined to attract strong future leaders have begun to move beyond traditional models of innovation and are instead embracing more collaborative, creative environments that address human needs as well as the bottom line.
Leaders in HR understand the importance of meeting the needs of employees in a market where talent is scarce. Ongoing education can offer key insights to help them identify and satisfy employees’ evolving needs.
How Globalization Has Made Yesterday’s “Best Practices” Obsolete
Best practices are those that have been deemed most effective over time. But as times have changed, so has the environment in which those practices operate. Smart HR teams are reassessing “best practices” and identifying better ways to manage benefits and compensation packages, legal compliance and standardization of operating procedures in ways that better position today’s cross-cultural teams for success.
In the recent past, few companies considered making more than a cursory effort at embracing cultural diversity in day-to-day business. Now, such considerations are imperative. Teams must be empowered with the knowledge and tools to work side by side with colleagues who may work and communicate in entirely different ways. Here again, it falls within the scope of the HR department to share tools and set standards that will help teams succeed.
It’s important, for example, to communicate team norms in explicit terms. Discussing standards and expectations improves nearly every team’s communication, but it’s even more vital when the team comprises members with varying cultures and backgrounds who may come to the table with a different set of habits and perspectives.
Standardization of operating procedures, benefits and compensation packages used to serve as the “best practice” for ensuring legal compliance in human resources. Globalization has shattered that mold. In a global market, blind standardization is problematic because of the disparate norms and expectations in different countries and cultures. The two-week vacation that’s widely accepted among U.S. employees is wildly insufficient in most European markets, where extended summer holidays are the norm. Instead of insisting on one standard, companies must strive to offer the most competitive and culturally appropriate procedures and packages in each operational environment—always in accordance with corporate values. The goal is to assemble standards and benefits that are both relevant and fair to employees.
The Importance of Cultural Integration in Successful Team Outcomes
Companies operating in a global context must assess how to best integrate company culture, individual differences and the cultures of the countries in which they operate.
Global companies can be divided by more than geography. Multicultural teams can cause management headaches when those different cultures create divergent expectations and conflicts. Cultural differences in direct versus indirect communication, attitudes toward hierarchies and authority, and decision-making norms can complicate the workload, as can difficulties with accents and language fluency.
Where Western cultures tend to utilize a direct communication style with little subtlety, that’s not true of many other cultures that rely on context and presentation to extract greater meaning from a message. People who adopt a direct style of communication with those who are used to more nuance are apt to get frustrated and may misunderstand the exact messages of their indirect colleagues. Getting teams up to speed on how to work with one another can help avoid miscommunication and hard feelings, paving the way for a more successful working relationship.
How Local Leaders Contribute to Strong Global Performance
A global focus doesn’t remove the need for local attention. Far-flung customers continue to differ in taste and values, and that market fragmentation requires companies to execute strategies with local leaders who demonstrate how global brands offer unique and better value or quality within a local context.
Local fashion, language and culture remain important touchstones as customers interact with their favorite brands. The messaging that appeals to a largely liberal California audience is likely to fall flat in conservative areas of the South or the Midwest. Those challenges are magnified when a brand attempts to communicate value to customers in such far-flung locales as Nigeria and Atlanta.
Coca-Cola never markets itself as “Coke” in Nigeria, and the product Nigerians purchase is actually different than the Coca-Cola offered up in Georgia supermarkets—an adjustment likely made to appeal to local preferences. Even within the African country, the people in the Muslim north hold different values from the predominantly Christian population of southern Nigeria.
The best global companies understand and embrace such language, culture and taste differences, and their HR departments must become strong local leaders in order to also be powerful global leaders.
Pursuing Education in Preparation for the Changing HR Landscape
Exciting opportunities await HR staffers eager to make an important impact on their organizations. The HR industry is changing rapidly, and those who don’t prepare for the changes demanded by a global economy will find themselves at a serious disadvantage. The best way for them to succeed in their careers and on behalf of the companies they serve is to keep current on global issues and seek out occasions for further education. A world of opportunity awaits the human resources professionals who choose to pursue it.