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Five Tips for Moving to a Smarter "One World" Strategy

Matthew Chapman, CEO of The Chapman Consulting Group, recently chaired our Global HR Leader meetings in New York, London and Zurich in September 2013. These Global HR Leaders groups, held twice a year, bring together some of the most senior HR leaders in the world who, as part of their global remit, have a large focus on emerging and high growth markets. Our September 2013 series was hosted in New York at Coach, Standard Chartered, Thomson Reuters, Millward Brown and Credit Suisse; Amcor and Zurich in Zurich; and McGraw-Hill and Bird & Bird in London.

A hot topic of discussion in our September groups were strategies that Global HR Leaders can use to set their Global HR teams up to be world class. Here are five tips that came from the groups.

1. Don’t expect HR Leaders from high growth markets to always travel to headquarters for important global meetings. Host these global meetings in “hot” markets more often and try to conduct more meetings virtually, to reduce the need to travel. Companies that require every key meeting or decision to be made in the global headquarters ultimately struggle to reduce their reliance on head office. Smart companies are decentralising decision-making across the world.

2. Elite HR talent from around the world shouldn’t need to do “a headquarters stint” to propel forward their careers. Yes, it’s important to be well connected with decision makers in the global headquarters. But it shouldn’t make or break an HR leader’s career if they can’t do a headquarters assignment. Think creatively. Make the new norm “your HR career can succeed in our company anywhere in the world”. If the talent must go to headquarters, think about an intensive short-term assignment (such as three months), which could be easier on their family (and perhaps more cost effective for the company).

3. Place HR talent in high growth markets on a pedestal. Put them out in the spotlight for members of the global HR community to learn about the challenges at play in these markets. Some of the challenges in these high growth markets (e.g. China, Brazil, India and Russia) are the “new normal” for companies with 50, 60, 70 percent or more growth in these markets. Promoting leaders, from these countries, into broader global or emerging markets focused roles, is becoming more and more popular. Just look at the growing number of HR leaders doing global roles out of China now!

4. Hold global HR conference calls at time-zone friendly times around the world. Setting the standard for HR then sets the standard for the business. Don’t just base the ideal time for a call at what suits those at headquarters. Rotating call times, week on week or month on month, around different time-zones, is well received. Keep HR group calls focused, cut the small talk and always have an agenda. Be mindful that what might be a productive time for part of the team to be “awake and creative” may not suit those on a time-zone where the call is conducted early or late.

5. As much as we advocate consistency in how HR structures are built across your company in the world, we feel the smarter companies are flexing their structures for market realities. What works at headquarters or in a mature market, may not work in a fast growing market. The most usual mistake is breaking apart the country HR model and putting in place business unit HR reporting lines (without a country HR leader). The same applies if this structure is adopted at a regional level and the regional HR leader position is cut. While this can work, in hot talent markets, companies can sometimes be left without an overall HR leader cohesively running the country or regional HR strategy.

The good news is that Global HR Leaders in Europe and the U.S. seem to be making fast progress in adopting a “one world” type approach with linking HR trends. This change is critical: we are in a new era where we need to look at creative ways of engaging and retaining top HR talent. And many of these strategies are only honed by looking at what emerging and growth market talent may need, as opposed to the headquarters perspective.


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