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Taking Your Talent Management Initiatives Global

Many organizations stumble when they try to take their talent management global. Where does your organization need to begin its journey?
Taking Your Talent Management Initiatives Global

With so much complexity, why should organizations invest the time and effort needed to integrate their talent management, other HR systems, and people processes globally?

Are there significant benefits to connecting talent strategy across the borders and geographies in which the business operates? In our view, certainly! Global organizations have a huge potential competitive advantage in their talent around the world. But while creating transparency and agility of talent around the globe is a seductive proposition and should not be ignored, a global talent management strategy comes with a significant array of challenges. However, getting global talent management right is the most effective and efficient way to manage people in a large organization and at the same time will create a more responsive, proactive, and unified organizational culture.

The world is an increasingly interconnected place, and whether an organization should embark on a global talent management journey may not be the right question to ask in the first place. Assuming the organization is indeed operating against a backdrop of increasing globalization and trying to better equip itself to navigate the choppy waters of today and tomorrow, perhaps the key decision to make is whether to try and sidestep the undoubted complexity and continue to operate in a passing paradigm or to embrace the complexity, dynamism, and benefits of the new challenge. For any ambitious company, we are not sure there is a choice.

A 2012 paper by McKinsey & Company highlighted that as the economic spotlight shifts to developing markets, global companies need new ways to better manage their people strategies. It predicts that 400 midsize, cities will generate nearly 40 percent of the global growth over the next 15 years. Yet many of these cities remain unfamiliar to the West.

Western organizations must become much better at adapting to meet the needs of these new and relatively unfamiliar territories. McKinsey finds that while executives recognize that the people in their workforce represent an invaluable asset, companies find that deploying and developing people in emerging markets is a major challenge. Barely half of the executives in global companies studied in the research thought they were effective at tailoring recruitment, retention, training, and development processes for different geographies.

Similar to walking a thousand miles, it’s best to not be put off by the whole of the journey and instead start with small steps. Whether it is recruitment, development, or performance management —here are some steps to help identify the logical place within the organization to start building a fully-fledged global talent management strategy:

Pain Points Will Highlight the Immediate Business Needs

Business need, of course, has to be a rationale for embarking on a global talent management program. A logical place to start is often by identifying the areas currently causing the business the most consternation. What’s causing difficulties now, or what is likely to be in the next few years? Is innovation not happening fast enough? Does the business need to hire an additional 2,000 people in its sales team to fuel growth? Is there a pull to consolidation? Is risk a major worry? Is your board asking uncomfortable questions about the health of your senior succession strategy? The necessary input can come from many places: frustrations may be highlighted at the executive committee level, or practical implementation and operational barriers reported further down the chain. If there are no immediate or obvious people issues preventing the execution of the business plan, reviewing existing talent gaps and shortages in the organization, and making sure these align with the overall strategy, will help find the areas of most immediate need.

Decide what can be run from the center and what responsibilities should be devolved to local, market, or divisional offices.

Although the level of central control will be different for different organizations, total central control is almost certainly not an option (or rather, given the complex world in which organizations operate, more and more an illusion). It won’t work; it won’t be efficient, and it won’t be anywhere near as effective as a mix of initiatives and programs that can be run locally and harmonized with critical, mandated parts of the talent management strategy that run centrally. Good global talent management is more about managing the differences, rather than fostering conformity—which can feel counterintuitive. The various processes involved in the talent strategy will need to be flexible enough to handle variations in culture, technology, and attitudes—but the outcomes need to be consistent. An early activity will be to identify the areas and budgets that need to be controlled from the center for the benefit of the overall global business strategy, and which elements the talent function is happy to sanction to regional and local control. This will provide clearly outlined areas of responsibility.

Create Multi-regional Implementation Teams

A core, multi-region, virtual implementation team has a number of benefits for delivering various elements of the global talent management program. Not only is it important to identify the challenges at local, regional, and organizational levels, but creating understanding and buy-in right from the start offers the best chance that the initiative is going to stick. These teams should ideally have reporting responsibility in to the senior HR or talent team leader.

Identify the Organizational Talent Supply and Demand Situation

One of the fundamental parts of any talent management system is an understanding of how many people are needed in the organization—both today and in the future—what skills they need to have and where they will need to be within the overall workforce. This is a vital part of creating a joined-up talent management process, and feeds critical areas such as recruitment, selection, development, performance management, and succession.

Build Success Profiles for Key Roles

In any organization, there will be a number of roles that are more critical to the success of the overall endeavor. Usually these are senior leaders, value creators, and highly skilled experts core to the delivery of the business’ products or services. The roles will be different for every business, but identifying the critical roles and focusing on what success looks like for these areas is a sound place to look early in creating the overall strategy. This then leads to other valuable information—such as what development and experience are needed to get them to the required standard? What do we need to assess for when selecting? This information may indeed change the way roles are structured around the business.

This article is excerpted from Talent Beyond Borders: An Organisational Guide to Delivering the Promise of Global Talent Management.

Simon Mitchell is the general manager, UK, and European marketing director for DDI.

Brent Bolling is managing director, DDI Canada.

Tom Schott is vice president, strategic accounts for DDI.

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