Although President Bush won by more than three million popular votes, the recent election has been described as the most polarised in US history.
But implications might this have for the management of the three and a half million UK employees of US corporations in this country?
There are a number of current themes that need to be carefully considered by anyone now managing a US subsidiary.
For the first time, there is an administration with an ideology rather than a pragmatic stance, which risks impacting the views of present and potential UK employees.
Additionally, this has been no ordinary election from a global standpoint, since most people in almost every country outside of the US were seeking a change in the White House. If the international view and that of the Bush administration are as wide apart as they seem to be on so many current topics, then there must be a risk of a potential disconnection between US management and UK employees.
So what should UK management of US subsidiaries be considering?
Corporate social responsibility
How do the leaders of your firm stand on the Kyoto agreement and climate change? With Russia coming on board, the US is now alone in being a ‘great polluter’. That should put it under pressure, but listening to the president’s adviser on this subject, not an inch is being given.
What should your stance be here in the UK? What should you say to a potential recruit who asks you that question?
Now you may say your organisation is apolitical and has no corporate view of politics. However, what personal financial support has the management given as individuals?
It was interesting to read last week’s financial news of the balance of contributions from various US financial institutions. Goldman Sach’s individuals gave significantly more to the Democrats while 80 per cent of Merrill Lynch’s giving was to the Republicans.
What effect do those figures have on the employer brand of both those houses?
What effect do the views of the christian fundamentalist right have on your company? They certainly seem to have had an impact on the president and his advisers whose communications would appear not to be as balanced as those of a company with diversity truly built into its strategy.
Do your company’s statements and actions here reflect an international approach, and do they therefore distance you from those of the administration?
It was interesting to read the Economist’s recent story that in the UN/sustainability/Standard & Poore’s rating of environmental and social impact of major firms, only two of the top 20 are American (HP and Ford).
As a US subsidiary, what comment would you give to your UK people on that?
Predictably, perhaps the president has concentrated on the theme of protecting and advancing US citizens.
Given your commitment to a global business, how are you demonstrating that this is absolutely not your corporate view, and backing it with the benefits you provide through employment, investment, profits and your contribution to society overall?
The HQ/subsidiary relationship
If you think there is a business case for taking these points seriously, ie. because without action they might hinder your ability to recruit, retain and enhance motivation, how do you feel about raising them with your global management colleagues, and what reaction do you think you might receive?
If you sense some diffidence in doing this, then the reported conservatism of America has already begun to influence attitudes and behaviour in your own organisation. If so, your own people will sense that too.
By Simon Barrow, chairman of management communication consultancy People in Business