managing a global workforce

HRevolution 2013: Why Companies Need to Take HR Global

We had a great day at HRevolution 2013. The team at Reputation Capital Media helped us capture some of the best sessions. Here’s their recap of the group discussion on Taking HR Global.

managing a global workforceThe “Taking HR Global” discussion at HRevolution dove into the challenges involved with hiring and managing a diverse workforce. Panelists and participants alike shared frustrations over the difficulties they’ve faced trying to get organizations’ leadership to understand the flexibility and understanding necessary to maximize today’s workforce.

There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach for HR

A lot of organizations want consistency in HR practices, said Trish McFarlane. “But I’m always trying to tell people it’s okay to treat people differently as long as you don’t discriminate.”

“There’s no one-size-fits-all for HR,” said Bonni Titgemeyer. Different cultures respond to different types of incentives. Different countries have different laws on hiring and managing employees. Organizations need to consider developing sub-strategies to fit the different countries they’re operating in.

“Work is changing much more rapidly outside of the industrialized nations,” said Bill Boorman. “From an HR point of view that’s what we need to be looking at. We need to see how other countries are doing things and what the working culture is elsewhere.”

Whether you’re an international company or not, you’re going to have international employees and you’re going to have to think about how to work with different cultures within your company, said Tammy Colson.

This is true even if you’re a small or mid-sized organization working in small-town America, Tammy said. “If you’re not going to them, they’re coming to you.”

The American Way Isn’t the Only (or Even the Best)Way

Although we were meeting in Las Vegas, a good number of the panelists and participants weren’t from the U.S., which made for an interesting environment to discuss the cultural differences that matter today. Among the non-Americans in the room, there was an overwhelming feeling that American companies think they’re culturally superior and everyone else needs to change to fit that culture.

There are a lot of places in the world where the last place people want to work is for an American employer, said Bill, who’s British. But U.S. employers think everyone wants to work for American companies because they consider themselves to be the best.

“Canadian employees don’t want to work for an American company,” said Bonni, speaking of her countrymen and women. The idea that American companies have a long reach and no matter where they operate people have to do things the American way isn’t appealing. “Canadians want there to be a Canadian twist” in the places they work.

“You can’t enforce the American culture on everyone,” agreed an American participant.

Diverse Employees Require Diverse Approaches

Even other Americans have different cultures than you might in your small town or region and a lot of companies have to change the way they think if they want any diversity in their workforce, said Colson.

One good way to do that is to tie new tactics to your company’s overall business strategy, she explained. “We don’t market our product the same way in California as in Ohio,” so HR shouldn’t be the same everywhere you’re recruiting, hiring and employing people.

When Robin Schooling made the move from Milwaukee to Louisiana more than a decade ago, she says she learned this lesson firsthand. “I might as well have moved to a foreign country. Literally there was a manager named Bubba.”

Does it Even Matter Where Work Takes Place?

Even as more and more companies are embracing remote working arrangements and looking beyond the area around their office locations for employees, some still resist diversifying by hiring people who won’t work on site.

Companies need to be asking: “Do we have to have everyone physically in the office, or can we have that great person working from somewhere else?” said Bonni.

Many in the room agreed that you have many more recruiting options when you’re willing to take on people from anywhere in the world.

“It’s much easier to take the work to the people than to take the people to the work,” said Bill.

Since 2009, HRevolution has been creating unique opportunities for HR professionals, recruiters, consultants, and vendors to come together to discuss and debate the future of HR. HRevolution 2013 was on October 6 in Las Vegas. 

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