This article was originally posted in Recruiting Daily.
In the increasingly interconnected world of work, teams, employers and candidates continue to adopt the technologies, processes and procedures designed to transcend geographic borders or national boundaries, allowing organizations to overcome the limitations inherent to serving highly localized markets and become truly global, multinational entities.
This trend creates not only increased opportunities and competitiveness for developing nations, their economies and workforces, but also, for the multinationals whose long term growth has become incumbent on these emerging markets and their growing purchasing power and parity in the larger context of global business.
Private enterprise has been the lynchpin for growth in manifold markets; in fact, according to the International Trade Labor Organization’s Global Employment Trends Report, multinational corporations on average contribute 51% of private sector dollars and 32% of all salaried jobs in developing nations outside the OECD, generating an estimated aggregate of almost 4 trillion dollars a year (yes, that’s trillion with a “T”) for these often underserved, but rapidly growing, developing economies. The WTO, in fact, reports that if corporations were included in terms of overall annualized revenue, corporations would represent 51 of the top 100 largest national economies in the world.
The trend of business globalization, already such a force in shaping our world and our lives, will only continue to rise over the years to come. This has significant repercussions not only for organizations, but their employees as well. While new revenue opportunities and the bottom line remain primary drivers of the rise of global business, it’s the employees themselves, the intellectual capital, that are perhaps the biggest determinant in the success or failure of these multinationals to establish a foothold – and find success – in growing this new breed of businesses without borders.
For those expatriated employees, however, the challenges of working on the frontlines of the global economy are often fraught with challenge. It’s not easy picking up and moving to a foreign country, and assimilating into these often unfamiliar markets, adjusting to a unique local culture while leading a homogenous corporate culture, can be among the most difficult assignments in any professional’s career. But if done properly, they can also be among the most rewarding, too.
There’s No Map for Global Recruiting.
I speak from experience, having suffered through the frustrations of many international moves over the course of my career.
After graduating from Yale in the not so exotic locale of New Haven, CT, my career as a professional Phineas Fogg began in earnest; pursuing my passion for investment banking led to my transfers to Hong Kong, then Singapore and India – and no matter how many times I relocated for work, it never became less frustrating or less painful.
This wasn’t limited to developing nations or far flung locales, however – in fact, the last straw for me in terms of suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous relocation related headaches was actually when I arrived in London to begin my graduate studies at the London Business School.
I found that my flat had no heat, water or internet, despite assurances to the contrary, and that I had no means to find out how, exactly, I was supposed to go about getting these necessary amenities in an unfamiliar city where I was, for all intents and purposes, at least, alone. I was on my own, and that is never an ideal place to be without indoor plumbing or internet access. Trust me.
That’s when I was struck by the idea for MOVE Guides – the idea that global relocation is hard enough without compounding the problem through a complete lack of information, resources or the support that’s so necessary to feel at least a little at home, even when you’re a world away from it. While my experiences growing my career abroad were as challenging as they were rewarding, I knew that I also benefited from existing expat communities, corporate support and extant infrastructure that allowed me to hit the ground running every place in the world of work work happened to take me.
In my new career as a global mobility professional, however, I’ve realized just how lucky I was to receive this sort of support, and just how relatively little support many expatriate workers receive – or even have access to – in developing regions, and observed first hand just how difficult and detrimental this can be for these employees, their career related success and their quality of life.
One of the biggest factors influencing this growing gap between company geographies and organizational capability seems to be the fact that many organizations continue to recruit and relocate talent using the same policies and procedures as they do domestically, or between developed markets and offices. It’s imperative that employers realize that placing talent in emerging markets necessitates not only a different approach for talent acquisition and management, but, perhaps, a different type of employee altogether.
The New Geography of Global Recruiting.
The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) – the same institution that actually coined the term “BRIC” to describe the fastest growing global economies – estimates that in the next 15 years, fully half of the global GDP will be generated by just 440 cities, all located in emerging markets, and that these new business hubs will largely dictate where companies decide to set up shop and invest resources in infrastructure and intellectual capital.
These boom markets are being driven not just by population increases in larger cities, like Bangalore or Lagos, that are already largely Westernized urban centers, but also newer, mid-sized urban centers most of us have never heard of – cities like Recife or Astana, for example.
These cities are not only unfamiliar to Western business culture, but also largely lacking in the basic infrastructure, access to goods or services or any semblance of the ‘comforts of home’ so many Western expats have grown accustomed to in more developed, mature international cities. Hong Kong and Guangdong might only be a few miles apart, geographically, but if you’re an expat worker, these two growing financial and trade centers are a world apart – and success requires workers with similarly divergent skills.
These new markets represent a new challenge for both global employers’ recruiting and retention strategies, not to mention the global mobility professionals tasked with facilitating the smooth transition of talent to these new global economic hubs. For expat employees, talent acquisition and management play an even bigger role in determining the relative success of an employee’s tenure, particularly if those employees are tasked with establishing a new international office.
Finding the right person to task with the responsibilities for growing an existing business into a new geography or market, obviously, represents one of the most critical hires an employer can make; the success of an organization’s global people strategy, therefore, is largely inexorably intertwined with a company’s expansion strategy as general. It takes more than the right place to grow a business globally – it takes the right people. So, how do businesses get it right?
Global Recruiting and Talent Mobility: A Guide for Getting Started.
Along with the old standbys almost always deployed in developed or mature markets, such as tools and support systems such as language and culture training, localized services and technological enablement, successfully placing the right talent in emerging markets is incumbent on effectively utilizing personality assessment and behavioral screening tools as part of the transitioning process, well as integrating these screening tools into the company’s unified talent management and talent mobility initiatives.
This will help prevent making the wrong mission critical hire, develop a success profile for future expat assignments and move effectively ensure that the disparate needs of employees in disparate markets can be effectively met and managed by the larger organization, while also building a blueprint for success in future growth or global expansions.
Even before looking abroad, it’s important to remember setting the stage for success begins with recruiting at home. We talk a lot about diversity, but here’s a case study in how important this concept can truly be for businesses. The cultural complexities of moving to a new market or country, often starting an office from scratch, can be staggering. That’s why the more diverse your existing workforce is, the better equipped (and better exposed) every employee will be, expat or otherwise, for dealing with the many nuances and cultural complexities inherent in partnering with others of different backgrounds, worldviews and social norms. Diversity is the secret weapon for global mobility success.
When it comes to assessing new and existing workers for international assignments, behavioral skills should weigh heavily as a hugely important component of the selection process. While recruiting and internal mobility related assessments typically measure mostly more traditional skills like leadership potential or technical ability as a basic benchmark, employers need to look at such often overlooked, but critically important skills such as adaptability, cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence when deciding who’s the most likely to survive – and thrive – in a foreign business context.
These factors can significantly impact success in regions where challenges like differing value systems, business norms and social conventions are drastically different than what workers might already be accustomed to in their native culture – or your company culture, for that matter.
Of equal importance is the ability to work autonomously and to solve problems independently, particularly if the employee in question would be responsible for establishing and managing a new office. The ability to inspire trust within new employees, to guide them through uncertainty and grow a business while growing internal capabilities are all critical for these leadership roles in developing regions.
Many companies, however, find that the employees with the technical skillsets and functional expertise required for these roles aren’t necessarily well suited to survive – and thrive – in developing regions. Just because someone has the hard experience doesn’t guarantee they have the soft skills required for these assignments. This means it’s increasingly important for employers to identify, and rectify, this talent supply and demand mismatch as soon as possible – or face an uphill battle, and bigger issues, later.
Global Recruiting and Talent Mobility: Why Culture Is Key.
The most important criteria to consider when making relocation decisions often can’t be found on resumes or in standard performance reviews; assessing the personality traits and personal nuances for potential expatriate workers can be much more difficult. This is why it’s so essential for employers to integrate personality assessment tools within their talent selection process.
With these pre-hire screening tools, HR professionals can not only have greater assurance of success of overseas placements, but peace of mind that they’ve got the right person for the right place at the right time, all the time.
Although there are already a multitude of tools on the market designed to measure an individual employee’s propensity to thrive abroad, a recent study by the National Foreign Trade Council and Cartus showed that only 30% of global companies had actually adopted those tools as part of their selection process. This leaves a significant need – and opportunity – for vendors to help enable and empower employers with the technologies and tools they’ll need today to meet the multinational business challenges of tomorrow.
This will help identify high potential employees early on, and these employees are the ones it makes sense to invest in as international leaders, with internal training and development specifically designed to prepare them for potential global placements down the line – it’s far easier to teach the required technical skills than interpersonal ones, which is why having this global lens as an element of performance management makes sense for developing the necessary skills to succeed abroad part of the recruiting and retention process at home, too.
Obviously, personality factors such as cultural sensitivity or ability to acclimate might largely depend on an employee’s upbringing, innate abilities or personal value system, companies can largely control for these characteristics as part of the screening process and more proactively identify employees with the propensity to develop these skills as part of a personal development plan.
Additionally, employers should place a growing premium on foreign language abilities as part of their overall recruiting process – an employee who can speak a host language not only has an obvious advantage, but is more likely to be imbued with the necessary personality traits as well. But employers can go a step further for increasing employee cultural sensitivity – a simple step is simply recruiting a more diverse workforce, and making it a company value instead of a compliance requirement.
The more languages, cultures and points of view exist in your current employee population, the more experienced your workers will be dealing with these differences – and no expatriate could ever overstate the critical importance of this experience while working abroad.
As an entrepreneur who has grown my global mobility business into a, well, global company, I’ve made sure that cultural diversity is one of the key components and integral characteristics of our recruitment process – and have seen the results pay off as we continue to expand and grow.
Our employees speak dozens of languages and represent over 20 countries, and we’re partnering with HR all over the world to make the world of work just a little smaller, and more accessible. Certainly less scary and overwhelming – because no one should ever wonder how to get the heat and water on in a new flat, like I did, or have to navigate the complexities of a foreign culture without having some resource to guide them along the way.
That’s why we’re here. Because while there’s no place like home, the least employers can do is to make employees feel welcome when they’re away from theirs.