‘Globalisation’ has been high on the business agenda for many years. Technology has enabled business people to connect with colleagues anywhere, at any time, and increasingly via any device. This has opened up a huge opportunity for global business collaboration: companies can expand to new markets with the knowledge that communication and cross-fertilisation across geographical boundaries can be more efficient and cost-effective than ever before.
However, in practice, is the concept of seamless globalisation still in its infancy? Have companies taken the necessary action to become integrated and truly ‘global’? And what does this mean for employee engagement and recruitment?
There is evidence that suggests business is not as ‘global’ as it is often made out to be. According to the DHL Global Connectedness Index, the world is actually a less integrated place than it was back in 2007. On a macro-economic scale, the financial crisis saw trade and capital flows become less globalised. At the same time, although companies may have acquired offices or businesses across the globe – this doesn’t automatically mean a business goes ‘global’. If an organisation fails to implement a cohesive approach to people management, this can result in a lack of common identity and culture.
This is where a strong HR strategy comes in. At Hitachi, we recognised that we were missing opportunities; our Western competitors began rethinking their strategies more than a decade ago and even now they continue to refine their methods. This is exactly why we’re hugely aware of the importance of driving our globalisation agenda now and we want our employees to feel excited about change which is why employee engagement is so important to us and our globalisation journey.
With 1000 different businesses across a wide variety of sectors and a huge geographical spectrum, we’re facing the challenge of harmonisation. It is vital to strike the right balance between localisation and globalisation: each individual business has its own expertise and creativity and innovation that need to be encouraged at a local level. However, it is also imperative to ensure knowledge is shared effectively and that there is one overarching company culture and identity. This can be achieved at a leadership level, but it also important that this ‘global’ mentality and business strategy filters down to stakeholders and employees at all levels of the organisation.
Once you’ve made the decision to go global, what factors must you be aware of to ensure a smooth transition? Here are some of the key considerations we have addressed as part of ‘globalising’ our HR strategy.
In a large organisation, component parts of the business are far from homogenous; this disparity must be acknowledged and a strategy must be implemented in line with such variation rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It is important to think about what key HR functions need to be consistent. For example, at Hitachi, if we adopt a global approach to talent management, we must ensure there is consistency in terms of performance measurement and job grading. Making this change does not affect the customer facing functions and processes which each business can run independently and appropriately for their sectors and markets but it can engage employees and create new and exciting career opportunities.
We all want change overnight but the dilemma is how to change quickly at the same time as changing effectively and in a way that is sustainable. We know that time, resources and quality of change are inter-dependent so when one changes the others are affected too. At Hitachi we’ve seen success running pilots to test systems, to ensure we have the right resources before rolling out more widely; this also helps with business buy-in.
Business engagement is critical for the success of change. At Hitachi this is something that we have worked very hard to communicate to the businesses in Europe, combining face-to-face meetings with other forms of digital communications. In our culture we cannot mandate change to the many independent businesses, so engagement is crucial and it must go beyond words to create action which is sustainable in the long term. This is not about short term fixes but building a platform of HR best practices for the future development and success of the business.
When taking the steps to truly ‘globalise’ our company, we knew an HR transformation was necessary. We have invested time and resource in truly understanding what employee roles and experiences are like at all levels across our businesses, starting with the HQ. These insights were not confined to a small number of countries; we wanted to fully understand diversity across the organisation – both in terms of operational variety, but also nationality, culture, fields of specialisation and styles of employment. Our aim is to consider the values and viewpoints of individual employees, as it is only then that we will achieve employee engagement and reach our goal of becoming truly global.
To gain further insight we launched a central database populated with employee names and location. We have already added to the database information for almost all indirect staff (targeting 300,000) globally giving us far greater top level visibility of resource and skills across the organisation. We also introduced a global employee survey that saw approximately 140,000 employees contribute. This forms part of a wider strategy to encourage communication across businesses, something which has been reflected by our decision to launch a new website promoting career opportunities across the entire organisation. Ultimately, the aim is to benchmark and recognise best practices, adapting and implementing success stories across the entire business.
These are just a few recent examples of steps we’ve taken from an HR perspective to make our goal of a consolidated, global HR approach a reality. With the right strategy in place to engage employees and dispel the fear of change, a ‘global’ HR approach can have tangible business results: from reduced recruitment costs to improved integration. This focus ultimately aims to ensure that – regardless of nationality and gender – the best people will be in the right roles, driving business success.