For businesses operating across multiple territories, rolling out HR processes or programmes on a global scale can present a number of challenges. This will typically involve juggling the nuances of varying employment law and of course the cultural differences of those affected.
Given both the legal and people implications of delivering an inconsistent approach, this Think Tank focused on what practical steps a HR Leader can take when embedding a programme. Ultimately, we asked the question: can any global business be truly consistent?
These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest HR Leadership Think Tank held on Thursday 27th July at PwC, hosted by Nigel Hutchinson (Global HC Director – Tax) titled ‘Managing the Challenges of Rolling out a Global HR Approach across Diverse Territories’.
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
Firstly, it’s key to understand the business drivers for ensuring consistency on a global level:
- Customer focus – if a client is buying, or potentially buying, from your organisation they need to know that you can deliver across the globe where necessary, within the timescales. Your organisation needs to be able to quickly identify who has the skill set required, where, to deliver.
- Competition – your organisation needs to be more agile than your competitor. Have the skill sets mapped, graded and identified in terms of type of work. This also helps manage resources internally to allocate to projects.
- Global standards – knowing as a business that any of your employees, anywhere, adhere to the same set of standards and will deliver as such.
- Recruitment/resourcing – consistency is key to successfully recruit across the globe including job gradings, titles, salaries etc. and removes the complexities of cultural differences which can come to bear.
- Employee opportunity – if a global standard and job mapping is effectively executed it opens doors and opportunities for progression and development and enables mobility allowing employees to do their work, to a top standard, anywhere.
- Purpose – behaviours, culture, engagement. As leaders we all want to ensure our employees understand their purpose in the business and are actively embodying the related behaviours and resultant culture.
Secondly, what are the common challenges of global process roll outs?
- Purpose – how do you keep your organisation’s identity going strong when employees are working closer with clients on projects than their own organisation, and identify as such?
- Acquisitions – how do we ensure those who were sought after, and consequently ‘bought’, stay and remain engaged?
- Common language – it’s key but one of the trickiest things to conquer. Global titles, FTE, ratings etc. need consistency. Without these it becomes challenging to recruit and promote internally and externally across the globe, or to understand who the ultimate decision maker is. How do you eliminate manager bias and subjectivity around their employees’ talent and readiness for progression?
- Systems – the risk that with the implementation of new, state of the art systems e.g. Workday that more ‘informal’ systems and ways of working are substituted. How do you keep conversations running in your organisation? The system is there to support, not replace, the myriad of conversations.
- Using the data – encouraging managers to look at the data, engage with it and see how it adds value to them. A seamless process without too many layers of approvals/add ons is key.
- Training on systems – implementing a new system or process globally with no follow up is a recipe for disaster, especially when it’s self service. Instead help employees use it efficiently and input to the necessary level to gain results; sustain energy levels following the implementation. This also links through to the need for consistency and a common language – with self service it’s easy for some to overstate, and others understate, their ability and expertise in a particular area based on personalities and cultural differences.
Thirdly, quantifying what best practice actually looks like:
- Glocalisation – how do we do business both locally and globally? It’s key to have a framework internationally then allow business to operate as it has to on a local level. Otherwise there is a risk ‘local magic’ can be stifled through the priority of consistency. This view also applies when purchasing a company during an acquisitive phase – keep the spark of those you bring in whilst still ensuring a level of consistency across the organisation. Here identify the real business drivers for such a programme or purchase and what the overall aim is.
- Collaboration – use a blended approach to ensure it’s right for the business. Focus groups and 360 degree feedback can be useful tools here to see how a global initiative will land in each territory and allow for acknowledgement of cultural differences.
- Change champions – A single individual can have amazing or damaging impacts on the local employee base depending on how they’ve received a change initiative. For example if you have a new system and an individual can’t get their head around it, this can spread like wildfire with others then taking informal shortcuts. If you can have someone in each area responsible for positive conversations then you’re already a step ahead of the rest.
- Engage Leadership – encourage Leadership teams to share best practice on a global scale and truly engage behind the purpose.
- Empowerment and direction at all levels with a set of parameters to work within. Help enable managers to feel they can make decisions around certain topics and think on their feet; tools and processes should be enablers, not distractors.
- Values – ensure the values come from the people and are mapped into a few behaviours globally; reinforce positive stories. Often it’s the little things that count in terms of recognition – it’s the symbolism, not the actual reward which makes the difference and these things may differ between localities.
Fourthly, measuring the success and results of HR approaches post-implementation:
- Data – ensure the data is being effectively reviewed and shared locally and globally.
- Engagement – measure how genuinely engaged employees are and quickly identify any small fractures post-implementation which need to be addressed.
- Utilisation and consistency – this may not be facts and figures but work with managers to see how employees are embracing changes as opposed to finding shortcuts to return to old ways of working.