Opinion and Features
Global expansion is the goal of many organisations, but having a worldwide reach requires overcoming hurdles. Tapping into the international market is certainly beneficial but to truly succeed, an effective and operational global workforce must be in place. This is only possible if the company has a strong HR strategy and an employee management plan that is globally consistent.
Siemens has a global workforce which brings diversity and managing these employees requires an international approach where local differences are valued and implemented to motivate people to deliver their best work. For this, the company encourages temporary office transfers that will help employees get insights into other cultures.
Creating a talent infrastructure that is aligned with the organisation’s business operations across the globe is an important prerequisite. Achieving this objective requires keeping certain factors in mind which are highlighted below.
Different work cultures
The term ‘culture’ was coined to bring awareness to collective patterns, social behaviours and other tendencies in a group of people. In the workspace, it has broad variations that translate to a professional framework and consists of stringent ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.
For example, while Indian employees prefer strong leadership and expect guidance from their superiors who demonstrate knowledge, skillset and approachability, whereas here in Germany, employees like to identify with the organisation and adhere to a set hierarchy.
Similarly, a simple thumbs up in a US office means ‘okay’, but this can land you in hot water if done in Nigerian, Middle Eastern or South American workplaces.
Managing a global workforce in different cultures requires an in-depth understanding of what employees expect. Only then can managers set reporting structures that are functional and readily-adopted by teams. Even marketing strategies can only be devised once there is a complete understanding of the new place and its cultural norms and habits.
Tips for managing a global workforce
Some useful pointers that can go a long way in ensuring that your organisation’s international workforce is managed efficiently are listed below.
An innovative approach
According to the Co-CEO of TransPerfect, Phil Shawe, creativity has been their biggest asset while managing employees across 100 countries. Being flexible in their approach ensures changes are accepted and they can remould their working processes according to location, culture and employee suitability. With offices in the UK, Germany and other countries, TransPerfect celebrates diversity in ideas.
As part of a globalised structure, it becomes vital to merge international policies with local ones as this allows each office to function on independent terms While global policies provide a concrete foundation, changes in terms of work hours, holiday entitlement and company functions can be flexible and in accordance to local policies. This way, human resource development (HRD) can put a management structure in place that brings together the best of both worlds and subsequently develop and reward people accordingly.
If you’re looking for good employee engagement, build a sense of community. BMW Group celebrates its diverse workforce and sustains them through open communication. Its multinational team of specialists work as a single unit and exchange ideas through virtual collaborative tools to bring value to their work. Accessibility leads to better collaboration and ensures that the international workforce is included in all company decisions and plans.
Cultural sensitivity and awareness is key to bridging gaps and building a strong relationship among employees and management. This also creates a healthy bond among teams and results in a productive work environment. Keeping this in mind, global giants like Coca Cola, Accenture and IBM are investing in intercultural training - this can include anything from cultural talks, celebrating multicultural festivals, awareness workshops to even overseas programmes.
These exercises help address issues that arise due to diversity and also reduces culturally inappropriate behaviour. This is an effective method when it comes to managing a global workforce as it raises awareness on matters that are a by-product of a multicultural workforce.
Use HR analytics
Data is a vital tool used to make important business decisions which include management strategies. HR analytics makes use of sophisticated data models and insights in the shape of dashboards, visualisation and reports, and can provide innovative ways to simplify real-time collaboration, gauge the local market and understand job search patterns in new countries.
Google, Xerox and Royal Dutch Shell are among many who use this technology to create a better workplace environment, evaluate performance and generate ideas from their teams.
If your company has an international workforce or is planning to expand, then it’s pivotal for you to travel to different offices. By physically being in a new place and engaging with new workers, you will get a first-hand experience of the place, cultural environment and their work ethics. Only by immersing yourself in the experience can you create a tailored workforce which can be effectively managed and directed.
In a rapidly shifting landscape, it’s necessary to get acquainted with international markets and develop the ability to steer your business ahead through all the dynamic changes. Along with utilising all the above tips, you can also invest in upskilling yourself through a good programme.
The BSc (Hons) International Business Management degree offered by GISMA Business School in Germany will help you understand the essential aspects of business management from an international perspective. It will also provide you with a wealth of information alongside personal interactive sessions to build your expertise in the sector.
- This article was written by Nandita Kaushal and edited by Anisa C.