If you’re working in the international area of your HR shop, you are faced
with daily questions of who’s the best, why, and where are they. A few weeks
back, I wrote about the importance of succession planning. Now let’s talk about
the performance management component of understanding what and how your key
players are delivering.
As your company grows its presence outside the UK, one of your key
deliverables will be the effective assessment and management of the performance
of your teams and leaders overseas.
Most global companies have fairly robust performance management processes in
place in the country hosting their headquarters. A frequent chance for
improvement rests in their use outside the HQ.
To start with, ask yourself whether your performance management process even
reaches across borders. Can you look at the performance ratings of your
managers in Bangkok, Brussels or Boston? Do you truly understand what you are
looking at? Do you understand the differences, as well as the similarities?
At the very least, your process must examine three things:
– It must look at the hard and soft measures of success against specific,
locally-relevant objectives. This is particularly important because performance
against specific ratios or benchmarks may appear different in a local country
than at HQ.
While some efficiencies can be looked at comparatively across borders, you
cannot do so blindly – you must also look at local benchmarks and comparators.
Just because efficiency rating No.12 is 15 per cent in the UK, doesn’t mean
that it must be 1 per cent in Malaysia. What are your competitors doing? What
is the marketplace telling you? And, more importantly, do you know why?
– Performance management must look beyond simply what is accomplished.
Instead, look at how things are done, by both your expatriate managers and by
your local, national managers. This is essential, as the best way to get things
done may vary from country to country, and culture to culture. Although business
results may be similar, behaviours that are fully embraced in the UK may well
wreak havoc in Japan.
It goes without saying, of course, that reviewing managers must have a local
cultural context as they review performance results in the foreign location.
– Your performance management process should identify gaps in either results
or behaviours. With this, the planning process must look forward to development
and mitigation. As before, it’s important that you, as the HR lead, are close
enough to your business units that you can ensure development plans are locally
relevant. In some companies, headquarters systems may automatically produce a
set of developmental activities or skill acquisitions. Review them carefully,
and then decide whether they are culturally appropriate for the location in
By Lance J Richards, GPHR, Senior director of international HR for Kelly
Services and advisor to SHRM