Working through the pandemic has changed many things, but it emphasised just how important global thinking has become. Faced with potential disaster on a worldwide scale, organisations have had to navigate unprecedented market disruption and HR teams across the world were pushed to their limits as a result.

Balancing employee well-being challenges with ever-evolving health and safety guidelines which varied from region to region was a difficult task. In fact, according to our own research of HR professionals across 35 countries, 70 per cent of companies didn’t have a crisis plan in place before the pandemic. The importance of having a global HR strategy has never been more clear – or more demanding.

When broken down, global HR roles comprise everything HR does on a local or national scale – talent acquisition, talent management, financial services, onboarding, healthcare options, etc. – but on a multinational basis.

The what of HR is the same; enabling leaders to shine, growing talent, ensuring organisational effectiveness, and attracting great people. But the how is different. Global HR roles involve dealing with larger stakeholders, and the decisions being taken around staff can be influenced by actions from outside your region. People remain at the core of the business.

If an HR leader is considering a global role, whether it’s for the first time or a seasoned professional looking for a new challenge, here are some tips for global HR success at a time where the role has never been so critical.

Top tips for success in your global HR role

1.    Lean on your team.

In a global HR role, knowing what you don’t know is half the battle and relying on local experts to fill in knowledge gaps is a must. When working in various markets there are major differences across everything, from compensation, benefits, tax, housing and rental markets, and immigration and visa paperwork. Each of these areas requires expertise and time to understand.

Having local advisory teams with competencies in their market is critical to avoid both misunderstandings and more serious consequences. Bolster your teams into a support network of experts and ensure you have resources available to quickly ascertain local legislation for the range of HR standards.

2.    Keep an eye on the clock.

This might sound basic, but it’s fundamental. Be aware of when you’re asking your global workforce to be ‘on’. As much as technology and collaborative tools have made HR service delivery easier – even with a workforce scattered around the world – it’s critical to remember employees are still rooted in their own time zones.

Being in your global role means taking the lead and being flexible to the local geographies. This doesn’t mean sacrificing your work/life balance though. You also need to set boundaries and ensure you’re getting rest.

3.    Watch your language.

You need to learn to communicate effectively with international colleagues. Even if corporate speak is your native language though, this isn’t necessarily as simple as it may seem.

Most global professionals have English as a second or third language, so cut out the jargon and analogies; a lot can get lost in translation. Keeping your comms both formal and informal, free from lingo, cultural references, and shorthand will be a challenge however, learning to communicate effectively across global teams is key.

4.    Don’t make assumptions.

It’s important not to assume what made you successful in past roles will make you successful when it comes to working globally. For example, characteristics valued in the US might not be appreciated in EMEA. Instead, time needs to be invested into developing new relationships, building different skillsets to navigate organisational complexity, and finding new ways to communicate well across multiple cultures.

This can be especially important if your new role means you’ll be relocating to a different country. There are significant differences across cultures when it comes to accepting emails on weekends, or working on national holidays, for example – the way people think about work differs.

5.    Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Taking the reins on workplace management and staffing for a global workforce is a big responsibility, and it comes with big stakes. That doesn’t mean you have to execute everything perfectly all the time to make it a success. Know you will make mistakes. It’s guaranteed. But, you must be prepared to apologise and educate yourself.

Keeping a learner’s mindset when moving into your role will help ease the way. Lead with curiosity and humility, drive discussion, and test your ideas and perspectives. Commit to learning.

6.    Branch out.

When faced with your new global role, it can be tempting to surround yourself with like-minded HR professionals to help you tackle the challenges. But this may only limit your professional development and hamper your ability to do your job. Instead, put together teams that challenge your perceptions and aspirations – hire people who are different from you.

Despite the aforementioned challenges, there’s never been a better time to take on a global HR role. Not only will you have the opportunity to accelerate both your personal and professional growth, but you’ll also learn to better manage teams, work with a diverse range of colleagues, and be able to better navigate challenges and change. It may seem daunting, but by succeeding in a global HR role you can really make an impact.