Going Global

Newsletter articles

1 Jan 2012

HR Insight Issue 14

Peter Reilly, Director HR and Consultancy

Peter ReillyAn increasing share of IES’s work now has an international flavour to it. This is not just our public policy work with European institutions, but also the work we do for employers. Yet this shift is not all that surprising: recent CIPD research discovered that 90 per cent of HR respondents believe that global issues impact on their role.

Our forthcoming book with Tony Williams (Director of HR, global banking and markets for Royal Bank of Scotland), Global HR: Challenges Facing the Function, describes the issues that HR faces in operating in a global environment. We look at change, especially mergers and acquisitions, in this context: the sort of additional questions that need to be addressed in an international transaction. We examine arguments for and against cultural convergence and the effect this has on diversity, employer brand and employee value proposition. A chapter on talent management considers whether operating in the global sphere changes the content of career management and planning work. We also ask what sorts of governance structure and service delivery model apply to the effective global HR function.

Some of these themes are also picked up in our consultancy work at IES. For example, we are carrying out two projects for Plan International, a child rights and development charity. One project involves a revamp of their global talent management process to make it more effective and consistent (reported in our previous issue). This new design is now being rolled out to Plan’s teams worldwide. The other project is piloting a workforce planning method that can be applied organisation wide. The aim is to get a better link between business planning and people planning so that any challenges with, for example, recruitment and retention, are addressed in line with business requirements. The new approach will be co-created at a specially-convened workshop, with Plan’s HR teams from East Timor, Elparticipating in the development work.

Other smaller pieces of work with global companies have involved workforce planning and expatriate management. The former is a particular preoccupation of large, complex and, especially, dispersed organisations, which are asking how do we get our resources in the right place, particularly if they are in any way specialised? The requirement is often to maximise the level of talent in the growth areas of the world (eg the BRIC countries) whilst simultaneously dealing with the increasing demographic deficit in parts of the developed world (eg Germany and Japan).

Expatriate management is often a subset of the above problem: how do we balance the use of expatriates with the recruitment and development of local staff? Cost clearly forms part of the equation but so does the movement of expertise around the world for personal development reasons and to share knowledge. However much one might want to build up local talent it may be in short supply and only available in a highly-competitive labour market.

Many organisations would choose, where possible, to execute both local and expatriate development. Through Entreprise et Personnel we have been helping to train Total’s local HR managers in the Middle East and Africa in aspects of the practice of HR management. And with another company, we are supporting the design of their management infrastructure to identify, manage and reintegrate expatriates. These examples point to a shift in organisations’HR function towards considering the impact global operations or simply interfaces have on their thinking. Wider labour market issues and employment challenges mean that fewer and fewer organisations can afford to be parochial in their outlook.