There is a unique speed with which multinational companies must find the right talent at the right levels for the right roles - and at the right time. While these challenges are certainly found among domestic entities, the pressures of opening up emerging markets, keeping pace with a knowledge-based global economy, and positioning your human capital as a competitive advantage on the world stage – are even more intense for a global organization.
HR leaders are required to build an agile global network where talent is inventoried, procured and deployed daily. These leaders must take the reins in establishing a global ‘bar’. This bar must be purpose-driven, principles-led and performance-oriented - all with local adaptation. This is complex work, to say the least.
Several years ago, when I worked for a global organization which operated in developing countries and relied upon a global network of donors, partners and stakeholders – I learned firsthand about these complexities. I came to understand not only the importance of carefully crafting a global talent management strategy, but the need to engage individuals as the CEO’s of their own careers (a phrase often used by Nancy Karas, Coach and Career Management Expert). When global employees are fully engaged in shaping their careers, and the organization is leveraging the right tools to maximize their talents – transformative work can take place. HR leaders won’t be able to get everything right all the time, but there are some basic components to building a successful global talent management strategy.
A Global People ‘Intelligence’ System
Establishing a database of talent allows HR and other business leaders to assess their talent at-a-glance. Skills, competencies, performance history and career aspirations should all be part of this intelligence gathering. Companies such as IBM and Unilever have become quite adept at managing these types of systems, ensuring that data such as cultural ties, hobbies and the so-called ‘soft skills’ are also included. The overseas assignments most likely to fail are those whose selection is hyper-focused on functional or technical skills alone.
I’ve long been a proponent of career lattices over career paths and rotational assignments over structured roles. They allow for the exploration of roles that can result in promotions, lateral moves or even steps backwards needed to expand one’s expertise. The possibilities found within more flexible thinking around careers, are endless. In addition, today’s workforce is more diverse than ever, in every way. It is quite natural to apply this kind of flexible mindset to a globally dispersed, and culturally diverse workforce. It forces HR leaders to think about mobility for global staff in broader, more nuanced terms. For example, local nationals may covet a regional assignment in another part of the company as they seek to expand their skills and broaden their horizons. They should not be relegated to ascending the career ladder in their home country, nor should they be overlooked in the assessment and selection process for global assignments.
A Strong Bench and Planning for Succession
Every organization must assess the talent in place today and tomorrow for its most critical roles. This is a business imperative. Unfortunately, many of us know that this is often not the case, as proven by the scrambles to replace unanticipated departures and the lack of development planning needed to groom next-level talent. A global entity can ill-afford this lack of foresight. Departures on the global stage have massive ripple effects on sales, new ventures and customer engagement – among many other areas. HR leaders should be leading the charge in conducting talent reviews, career mapping and development planning in partnership with managers and leaders. A robust talent review and succession planning program also helps to ensure that departures are not replaced with employees who are simply more well known. Succession planning must be a carefully tended to part of the company's sustainability practices.
Retaining the Talent Gems
Pay systems, other rewards and general retention strategies within a multinational company are complex and require skilled and creative HR leadership. Monetary incentives will not suffice. HR professionals must tap into an array of tools and abilities: employing differential pay practices; shaping promotional paths customized for their global environments; and coaching managers to be just as strong in people leadership and development as they are in business leadership. This is a tall order.
Finally, the good news is that most multinationals are making strong investments with admirable payoffs in globalizing supply chains, developing new products and making the shifts necessary to compete in a knowledge-based economy. Now, the focus on that proclaimed ‘most valuable asset’ needs to be increased significantly if they are to find, develop and retain the people needed.
HR leaders are integral to ensuring that these prized human assets are just as positioned to outperform in a global marketplace as are the company’s financial assets. This work demands more from these leaders – many are depending upon them to rise to the occasion.