The team at Reputation Capital Media helped us capture some of the best sessions at HRevolution 2013Here’s their summary of attendees’ discussions on global HR.

challenges of global HR

In yesterday’s post on “Why Companies Need to Take HR Global,” we looked at The “Taking HR Global” discussion at HRevoloution and some of the challenges and frustrations HR practitioners face as they try to bring cultural and geographic diversity to their companies. Today we’ll look at some of the specific differences participants find challenging.

It’s one thing dealing with English-speaking countries where there are cultural differences but the language is the same, said one woman. It’s another thing when you start to work in countries in Asia and other parts of the world where people don’t speak English because you’re dealing with language barriers and cultural differences that cause challenges and misunderstandings.

Communication Differences

Different cultures have very different ways of communicating and that can cause stress in a global workforce.

For example, in Australia, if you like someone and are really accepting of them and comfortable around them, you’re really rude to them, said Linda Jonas, a transplant to Sydney from Germany. That was hard for her to get used to and take the right way because in Germany “we’re really direct” and believe there’s always some truth in everything people say, even jokes.

You have to communicate those differences in communication style to to employees because they won’t be able to figure on their own and may not know how to react, said Linda. You also need to think about how feedback works in different cultures and be sensitive to those differences.

That’s even true within a country because people take feedback differently in general, chimed in a woman in the group.

In the U.S. we all came from so many different countries and those values and communication styles get passed down from generation to generation, so we still have such a variety in styles from person to person and company to company, said Trish McFarlane.

Working Differences

The way people get their work done, the environments they work best in and the sort of incentives they respond to vary based on culture, participants and panelists shared.

So even when core values are the same, “the way people deliver on those core values may be different,” said Bill Boorman.

Bill offered an example from Russia: In Moscow people show up when they show up instead of at a set time each morning. They may arrive at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., but they stay as late as necessary to get everything done.

An Australian participant said his country was surprised when they expanded into Africa and found they needed an entirely different recruiting approach. They found that in Africa you have to recruit from a tribal perspective instead of a values perspective. You have to recruit people’s buddies to work with them if you want to succeed.

Legal Differences

Laws vary greatly from country to country, so companies have to be aware of what they can and can’t do when they start operating across international borders.

This is a big deal in terms of recruiting because what’s standard practice in evaluating a candidate in one country is totally illegal in another, said Bonni Titgemeyer.

When you’re dealing with computer programmers, there may be cultural issues that affect the use of intellectual property.

One participant who was born in India and later became a U.S. citizen says he’s had problems with some of his company’s programmers based in India. They’ve had to discipline and even fire employees in India for copying code, which isn’t a big deal there, but is in the U.S.

American companies have to be careful because they can get in legal trouble in the U.S. for things that their employees in other countries do wrong, he said.

Do Companies Need a Universal Culture?

The code copying example came out of a discussion that started when a participant who teaches a course on cultural competence said he didn’t think that a shared corporate culture was important when you’re dealing with programmers in India. He said he didn’t think companies really needed them to share their organization’s values.

The participant with the programmer problems insisted that a shared organizational culture is important for all workers operating in all parts of the world. The secret is to find a way to effectively communicate those values to everyone because “values mean different things to different people in the world.”

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. 

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. 

We’re gearing up for HRevolution 2013, and we’re sharing sneak peeks of the content you can expect in Vegas. Big thanks to the team at Reputation Capital Media for helping us create these HRevolution previews. This week, the Reputation Capital team caught up with China Gorman.

China Gorman - HRevolutionIn today’s business environment, change is the only thing that seems to remain constant. For business leaders and human resource professionals, that change can be daunting, with continuous work to introduce and integrate new technologies, programs and policies. So, it’s helpful to learn from innovators who are able to embrace change and use it to keep their companies and employees competitive, engaged, productive and profitable.

Enter China Gorman, business leader and human capital management expert. China is the new CEO of Great Place to Work, a global organization located in 42 countries around the world, and the survey power and analysis behind Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list. Great Place to Work provides solutions like assessment tools, trainings, advisory services, conferences and workshops to help companies of all sizes become great places to work.

We talked to China about her upcoming session at HRevolution and her perspective on change management. Here are the highlights of our discussion.

As a business leader, what advice can you give companies and HR leaders that are trying to step into new ways of operating?

From the leadership perspective, new ways of operating aren’t the goal. The goal is more effective operating, processes and behaviors. Greater success in the marketplace, greater success on any business KPI (sales impact, profitability, all of the normal sales KPIs) — that’s the point. The world is changing rapidly, and so to be more effective, to be more efficient, to be more successful, on any KPI, we have to look at doing things in new ways and using the new and emerging tools to helps us to do that. As a business leader, I look to HR like I look to finance, marketing, product development and IT: to constantly know what tools are available in their functional area that are going to help us be more successful in the marketplace which is changing rapidly.

What are some tell-tale signs that it’s time for a company to overhaul its HR processes?

If people aren’t getting paid correctly and on-time. If turnover is increasing. If there are no development activities whatsoever going on. If people don’t accept your job offers.

Many HR departments fear change. How have you tackled this fear and used change to your advantage?

Whether you’re changing a process or introducing a new technology, training has to be ubiquitous. It has to be in every language your organization speaks, it has to be in every shift that your organization works, and it has to be available on multiple platforms.

When you’re introducing change, you’re taking productive, intelligent adults and moving them from some level of competence to a level of incompetence and there’s nothing more de-motivating or stressful for a productive working adult than to be made to feel incompetent. So, moving them out of incompetence to competence as fast as possible has to be the focus.

When you’re introducing a new system, most organizations build in training because, of course you want people to be able to use it. Then, when the execution plan and project go long and over budget, which they all do, the first thing that gets cut is training. I would maintain that training is the last thing that should get cut. In fact, if it’s going long and over budget, you need to put more money and more resources into training.

Your session is titled “Is Early Adoption in HR’s DNA?” Can you discuss what attendees can look forward to learning in your session?

This session will be highly interactive — more of a discussion. I will introduce models for us to think about. One is the Rogers diffusion of innovation model, which is the innovator, early adopter, late adopter, laggard model. Most HR people are familiar with the language, but not with the model.

I’ll also talk a little bit about a model which the Gartner researchers and analysis team uses, which is called a hype cycle. We’ll look at the overlay of how people respond to and adopt change and how technology solutions get adopted in the business world. We’ll overlay those and have a discussion about HR’s role as change agent and change support in the adoption of new technology.

As a speaker at HR Revolution, what are you hoping your audience walks away with after your session?

Greater confidence in their ability to lead change.

What motivates you to do the work that you do?

My team motivates me. The work that we do motivates me. The mission of our work motivates me. It is quite literally my dream job. I’ve joined an incredible organization with a truly inspirational mission: to change society by transforming workplaces into great places to work. Who couldn’t love and support a team that is all about that?

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 is on October 6 in Las Vegas. All past events have sold out, so be sure to register today!

Who’s excited for HRevolution 2013? Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing sneak peeks of the content you can expect in Vegas. Big thanks to the team at Reputation Capital Media for helping us create these HRevolution previews. This week, the Reputation Capital team caught up with Dwane Lay.

Dwane LayBehind every successful HR program is a fine-tuned process. To figure out just what processes they need in place, companies turn to process design experts like Dwane Lay.

Dwane is the head of HR process design at Dovetail Software and an HRevolution veteran. As a process design expert, Dwane is responsible for analyzing, defining, documenting and communicating HR processes and best practices within his company and within the HR community. He is also the author of Lean HR, a book that helps HR pros implement lean principles and practices.

Last week, we connected with Dwane to learn more about HR process design and what keeps him coming back to HRevolution.

You’re an HRevolution veteran. What keeps you coming back?

The networking and the connections. We used to think of it as our social media family reunion, but a funny thing happened when the show paired up with HR Tech. The attendees changed. Now we see new faces each time, which is great, but we also are pulling in a different type of profile. It’s less social media, though that is still prevalent, and more forward-thinking and technology savvy practitioner, not to mention the C-level executives who join us each year. It’s a unique attendee group that you don’t see anywhere else.

In a world of exponential technology growth, what advice can you give HR professionals to help them stay up-to-date with the changing technology landscape?

Three things.

  1. Know your world. Take the time to learn about your systems, your vendor partners and your total technology profile.
  2. Know your limitations. Where are you strong, and where are the gaps?  Where would a focused improvement create a lot of value for your organization?
  3. Get yourself a good partner. More than one, if you can. Get to know the players in your own IT group and project leadership team. They will be great resources for you when it is time to make a change, or at least consider one.

As a process design expert, what are some key indicators that a company needs to improve its operations?

Probably the best indicator that your processes need love is not being able to find any documentation on them.  We leave too much to tribal knowledge and hope we never lose a really important person.  Don’t worry that your processes won’t be perfect. (They won’t. A world-class transaction process is 75% waste.) But getting agreement on how things are done is the first step to deciding how to make them better.

Rebuilding an HR process can be daunting. How do you make the process more approachable?

I like a focused approach. Set your scope up front, including what you are working on and what you are NOT working on. Then, get people on the team who have no idea what the process is all about. They make it okay to ask very basic questions, which can lead to great discussion, not to mention great discoveries.

As a speaker at HR Revolution, what do you hope your audience walks away with after your session?

I’m leading a session, with help from a few friends, called “Top That.” We all know that HR people love to tell stories, as anyone who has come to an event will tell you. So we’re going to make it a structured storytelling event. We will invite attendees to tell their best story in several categories, and award prizes to the best in each. I hope the takeaways include knowing that whatever you are dealing with, you aren’t the first; whatever you dread, it could be worse; and however it may feel at times, you are not alone. We are all in this together. A few laughs wouldn’t hurt, either.

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 is on October 6 in Las Vegas. All past events have sold out, so be sure to register today!