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The Top Five Reasons You Should Hire HR Talent with International Experience

At The Chapman Consulting Group we have the privilege of knowing a large population of international HR Leaders. Many have worked globally or across multiple regions, with some having spent time in emerging markets, developed westernised markets, or even in dangerous locations such as Afghanistan or Liberia. There is a perception in some locations that international HR experience is not relevant for domestic HR roles. However, we’ve observed that those with international experience have the capability to be successful in the domestic market, and they often bring added value and fresh ideas to the local setting.

Kirby Grattan, former Global HR Director at Schneider Electric, believes there is great value in bringing internationally experienced professionals into domestic markets. What follows is a brief description of the top five attributes observed by Kirby in internationally experienced HR talent:

1. Heightened Problem Solving Skills within a Complex and Ambiguous Environment

International HR Leaders learn to be more agile and creative in their thinking, because often there isn’t a precedent or ready-made solution to business problems that are faced in new markets. This requires adept thinking, collaboration and execution abilities to create some consistency and value across developed and developing markets. Things can shift quickly in different locations, and extracting the optimal performance from human assets when things are constantly changing in disparate ways and in various locations definitely hones HR capability.

It is noted that HR Leaders operating across many countries can become more outcome-focused while the pathway to reach the outcome becomes a bit less of a concern. It becomes a necessity to empower others to execute, rather than remain process focused.

2. Cultural Acumen

International experience builds understanding, and we learn to see our commonalities rather than our differences. Assessing and managing talent strategically using an international lens rather than a domestic paradigm can enable better business growth and can foster greater diversity and inclusion.

The cultural and linguistic diversity of Australia’s resident population has been reshaped over many years by migration. Historically, more people immigrate to, than emigrate from, Australia. At 30 June 2013, 27.7% of the estimated resident population (ERP) was born overseas (6.4 million people). 1. With more than one in four Australian residents born overseas, cultural acumen is becoming more important than ever for HR Leaders operating in Australia.

3. A Fresh Perspective

An HR Leader with international experience may bring a new perspective to old business problems. Diversity of thought and experience enriches the leadership team’s ability to create and innovate. Having often built an expansive overseas network, these leaders frequently have a heightened ability to spot talent across the globe and leverage it into the business. It can be beneficial to bring in HR talent with experience in the next stage of your business cycle. For instance, we have seen domestic companies in rapidly growing emerging markets hire international HR Leaders to lead them through a downturn in business — a stage in the business cycle that the existing leadership teams had not previously experienced.

4. Resourcefulness and Resilience

Living and working overseas increases your resourcefulness and resilience because you need to set up your home and life again from scratch — this tests and expands you both professionally and personally. It also requires ingenuity and the ability to improvise when the resources you may be used to are scarce or not available at all. In today’s unpredictable economy, these skills can be critical success factors. Local knowledge and labour laws can be taught, but experience, wisdom and fortitude cannot.

5. A Broader Customer Focus

Your Customers are International. Even though a business is domestically based, through social media and the cloud, “business without borders” is an unstoppable mega trend. Information is global, and increasingly domestic businesses have international customers. An internationally experienced HR Leader can hone the business plan for the international customer, and can better understand the complexities involved in operating in multiple countries.

Emerging Markets Experience

It is clear that international experience can help develop skills that are highly valued in today’s workplace. While some industries are just waking up to this fact, the IT industry has been actively pursuing talent with emerging markets experience for many years. “Without question, I’m far more likely to hire MBA graduates who have had management consulting experience in emerging markets over graduates who have not,” said Amit Sinha, former SVP Platform and Applications Marketing at SAP.

“Graduates who have worked on projects in emerging markets develop a unique blend of experience in innovating solutions, along with collaboration and teamwork, a can-do attitude and humility. These are vital qualities for professionals at a company like SAP because SAP works across all major global companies, impacting 70% of world trade. Cultural sensitivity to business practices is essential, and so is the ability to identify opportunities in fast growing markets. Our clients are global, so the problems they need us to solve are global. We can’t help them if we don’t understand the worldwide context ourselves,” explained Sinha.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Source: Fast Company Magazine (Online), “MBAs Without Borders: Experience in Emerging Markets Give Graduates an Edge” Article by Alice Korngold, July 2nd 2012


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