Friday, 7 December 2007

Complexity in global HR challenges

I attended a meeting of the CIPD’s international forum last week to hear initial findings from research into HR management in global organisations conducted by Paul Sparrow at Lancaster, and Chris Brewster at Reading universities. This research will be presented in full at the WFPMA world congress to be held by the CIPD next year.

The major focus of the research seems to be the complexity of decision making in the global environment. First of all, there is the well known duality of centralisation supporting economies of scale, and localisation responding to different labour markets. But regionalisation is increasingly having an effect. Then there’s outsourcing / offshoring and a wide range of technology based options.

Sparrow and Brewster stress that in this environment, “even the most sophisticated organisations have difficult questions”. Issues these questions need to address include streamlining processes balancing standardisation and optimisation, sourcing strategies to provide HR services effectively, and the role of line managers and the HR function, particularly the business partner.

But there’s also a need for what Sparrow and Brewster call “differentiated decisions” where these questions are answered on a local basis depending on each country operation’s particular business model, legislation, labour market, culture (eg preferences for in-sourcing versus outsourcing) etc. HR business partners need to be able to make local judgments to meet these particular requirements.

We also need to accept that nobody can understand the whole world. Even the most internationally experienced HR practitioner isn’t going to understand all the different issues in every country so we need to be realistic about the pace that we can build the level of knowledge about countries that is increasingly required. But one way we can do this is through networks of HR practitioners, and good networks may provide more impact on the overall effectiveness of global people management than the formal organisational model that’s used within HR.

So this is yet one more issue in people management that largely comes back down to the need to talk to people!

I’ll be talking about some of my own perspectives on global HR at the launch of’s virtual conference programme VIEW at 8.50pm GMT / 3.50pm ET on 12th December.

I would love to offer you the opportunity to participate for free. In addition, your free show admittance will enable you to see other Keynotes such as Carly Fiorina (Leadership is a Choice), Keith Ferrazzi (Never Eat Alone) and Kenny Moore (The Monk and the CEO), and Marcus Buckingham (Trombone Player Wanted).
Sign up at

1 comment:

Please add your comment here (email me your comments if you have trouble and I will put them up for you)