This year starts with a rickety economy, a host of business pressures and
three key challenges for HR professionals with an international remit.
Sure, our companies must think globally and act globally – that old saying
still applies and is true. But from an HR perspective, we have to be more
focused on what makes sense out on the streets surrounding our international
In those situations, our understanding and managing of our local employees
is what will really be our differentiator.
Force-fitting corporate edicts, no matter how cool they sound in London or
New York, doesn’t always help things in Liaoning or Nice. It is essential that
HR is the evangelist for locally relevant, locally helpful practices. HR has to
resist planetary roll-outs of headquarter-centric policies, and ensure
companies have thought through the local impact of business policies and
practices and adjusted them accordingly.
A second challenge is to make sure your development as an HR professional
keeps pace with the profession. Invest in yourself, but be sure you are not
shortsighted when doing so. Don’t look at learning in terms of what you need in
order to do your job today, think of what you need to do the job you want to be
doing in three to five years time. As the philosopher Lucy van Pelt once noted:
"There is utopia in myopia." Don’t let that be you.
This need to keep pace was demonstrated to me when I visited China a couple
of weeks ago to teach HR courses in Shenzhen and Shanghai. I was pleasantly
surprised to find that the two courses attracted about 120 people.
China continues to wrestle with rapid change – some driven by the World
Trade Organisation and some an offshoot of the country’s economic coming out.
For HR people this means rapidly identifying, growing, and then effectively
retaining skillsets that can compete with global brands in a variety of sectors
and countries. Are you, sitting comfortably in London, as passionate about your
But the most important challenge we can all take up is making sure we are
central to the business. Of course, we need to have our administrative house
fully in order before anyone will hear us, but we’ve been cleaning up that
problem for the last year or so, right? If not, we must get that front-end of
HR working smoothly, or everything else could be for naught.
Once that is done – especially for HR professionals with a global remit –
being at the front and centre, and being engaged in the core business issues in
your different countries, are the keys to professional success. Lead the
process, don’t just be a spectator.
By Lance Richards, Board director, SHRM Global Forum