The opportunity to diversify markets and increase access to specialist skills and capabilities abroad is tempting for many companies. But with expansion comes new challenges, like building and maintaining an international workforce. Whether an enterprise succeeds or fails on the world stage may depend greatly on global HR support.

What is global HR?

Global HR is how international employers manage geographic, linguistic, and cultural differences amongst their workforce to achieve maximum productivity and engagement. Its primary responsibilities include:

  • Recruiting suitably skilled employees
  • Supporting regulatory compliance
  • Standardizing processes and systems
  • Analyzing metrics between markets

Challenges of global HR

Global HR challenges are an inevitable part of expansion and if not properly managed, can hinder a company’s ability to achieve its international ambitions. Leaders at outward-looking companies need to equip themselves with capabilities to address the following difficulties:

  • Finding the right employees

    Recruiting people with the right vision, skills, and adaptability can be demanding especially when specific technical skills are required. The supply of qualified professionals may also be diminished in certain countries with low unemployment rates.

  • Managing scale

    As companies increase in size and span a wider range of cultures, managing an international workforce becomes that much more complex. Mergers and acquisitions further exacerbate the problem, change naturally gives rise to uncertainty among employees.

  • Keeping employees engaged

    Engagement and employee performance are usually influenced by improvements in working conditions. Therefore, a company must treat employees in new divisions just as well as it does in its established markets. What’s more, countries with market growth opportunities tend to generate higher engagement scores than those that don’t.

How to succeed at global HR

Expansion is hard and while there is no silver bullet to make it easy, the accumulated knowledge of lessons learned by other companies over time is a good place to start. Here are some tips used by successful international employers:

  • Ensure leaders have the proper background

    Companies must appreciate that specific skills and experience are required for international expansion. Executives who have built their careers managing domestic operations may not be best equipped to lead global HR.

  • Use data insights effectively

    Many businesses have successfully applied analytics to drive global HR operations, including payroll, recruitment, and benefits administration. Data analysis also enables managers to identify and share best practices so they can improve processes throughout their organization.

  • Let technology guide integration

    Of all the tactics, integrating HR systems, workflows and data across geographies can have the most positive impact on global expansion. The key is to adapt processes to technology and not the other way around.

  • Pay attention to time zones

    Be mindful when booking meetings with your colleagues abroad. Ensure you know what time zone they are in and book meetings during working hours accordingly. 

  • Speak clearly and avoid jargon

    Colleagues abroad may speak other languages besides English or French, so it is best practice to speak clearly and avoid jargon or slang.

What to avoid in global HR?

  • Don’t make assumptions

    Speaking to colleagues located globally can be a challenge due to the diverse organizational cultures.  Invest your time in developing relationships and building skillsets to navigate organizational complexity. Norms differ form country to country and it is important to understand the differences to be able to navigate through them. 

  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes

    Managing a global workforce is a big responsibility that comes with a learning curve. Be prepared to apologize when needed, learn from these mistakes, and adapt your learnings when required.

  • Don’t stick with what you know

    Sticking to what you know can limit your professional development impact the ability to do your job. Different cultures, interactions, and influences all play a part in challenging our perceptions.

What is global HR management?

Managing HR globally means determining how HR capabilities will be delivered internationally. There are generally two options – scale operations from a central location or create localized HR systems and processes. Most enterprises try to find a balance between the two because while centralization has its advantages, sometimes a local touch is needed for optimal function.

Why is global HR important?

The best business opportunities – be they foreign or domestic – can fail if HR is not managed well. In fact, most companies say that HR-related issues are among the most challenging barriers to international expansion.1

What are the main functions of global HR?

Managing HR internationally may consist of the following:

  • Recruiting employees who have the requisite skillsets
  • Maintaining compliance with employment laws and customs
  • Understanding cultural differences and their HR implications
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion
  • Managing employee development
  • Integrating disparate HR systems, processes or data
  • Addressing communication and language barriers
  • Planning pay and benefits policies

What is the role of a global HR manager?

If an organization is preparing to expand internationally, it’s the global HR manager’s responsibility to ensure that their department is equipped with the necessary experience and that HR-related matters are addressed in the expansion strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is global HR strategy?

Workflows and solutions built for domestic business may not be a good fit for international purposes. That’s why employers who are expanding abroad must tailor their HR services for the ever-growing, ever-changing legal and cultural requirements of foreign offices - known as global HR strategy.

Which processes do global HR services cover?

Global HR services cover recruiting, hiring, benefits administration, and compliance.

How can global HR solutions manage risk?

Global HR solutions provide HR professionals with local rules and regulations, reducing HR process errors

Learn More

Ready to focus on strategy and less on mundane payroll and HR tasks? You need the expertise and support of an experienced HR partner. Now matter your challenge, ADP has the experience and solutions to help you reduce your burdens and risks.

Learn more about the benefits when you outsource HR and payroll: Call 866-622-8153 or start a quote to get started.