With the rising number of organizations operating and conducting business in more than one country, today's HR leaders face new challenges as they work to manage and develop globally dispersed employee populations. This shift has introduced complicating factors for workers as well, affecting both their connection with employers and sense of job security. Understanding these emerging trends is critical to developing improved strategies and best practices in international human resource management that support global business objectives and meet the needs of employees as they change over time.
Most HR leaders recognize this, but navigating the complexities of international human resource management is no easy task.
Use Technology to Collaborate Across International Boundaries
According to the ADP Research Institute 2016 Evolution of Work study, employees view rapidly changing technology and globalization as the two factors that will affect them most. Employees have two paradoxical perceptions of technology that are important to note. On the one hand, 90 percent of respondents see technology as a way to create deeper connections at work. On the other, 45 percent are concerned that "automation, smart machines and artificial intelligence will replace people for repetitive work."
Global employers can help manage employee concerns around job security by connecting advancements in technology to stronger collaboration across borders and access to relevant information. Modern communication technology has transformed the way employees work together and interact in very powerful ways. Similarly, global Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions give employees consistent access to important information, while accounting for language and regulatory differences based on their location. Emphasizing these benefits of technology can help organizations with a global footprint improve their employees' sense of stability.
Harness the Power of Two-Way Communication
In the 2017 Evolution of Work 2.0 study, which expanded on the 2016 report by measuring how organizations and employees rate various HR efforts, the ADP Research Institute® found a direct correlation between employee job satisfaction and "how useful and connected they feel — and whether they have the ability to provide feedback that will make a difference." One way global HR teams can enhance their connection with employees is to engage them in dialogue.
Conduct focus groups with employees from different regions/geographic locations or develop two-way communication channels that allow them to provide ongoing feedback. The key is to listen to what they have to say and let that guide how you implement HR policies and practices. You don't have to engage every single employee each time you roll out a new HR program or policy change, but establishing processes that enable two-way communication with employees can help build trust and create a stronger sense of connection.
Balance Global Consistency with Local Flexibility
One of the biggest challenges in international human resource management is deciding whether to standardize or localize HR policies and procedures. This requires leaders to understand the extent to which cultural differences, local regulations and other social and political factors will disrupt or complicate efforts to implement standard practices across the organization.
According to Deloitte, HR functions within international businesses require an operating model that can balance "global integration with local optimization." There's no universal criteria or a hard and fast rule to determine when HR practices should be uniformly applied. This means HR leaders must understand the unique needs and challenges of each location and account for those factors when managing overseas business units. HR leaders should consider the value of empowering local HR teams to adapt corporate policies and customize HR programs to meet the specific needs of their employee population.
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