The five steps to global HR management success with Sage People
Maybe just a few decades ago, the world was a much larger place. Thanks in no small part to the internet, globalisation means that we are as likely to trade with someone on the other side of the world as we are with someone from the same city. There are so few areas of the world not connected that they seem almost exotic to us now — areas of political isolation like North Korea or geographical isolation like Nepal.
And like every other aspect of business and commercial life, the companies and organisations we work with are increasingly international. It’s easy enough for most companies to open up offices overseas and quickly spin up a presence to test a new market or expand into a different niche or vertical. Even twenty years ago, activities like that might have been the exception. Now, however, they are commonplace.
For HR managers, keeping a complete picture of a multinational workforce presents specific challenges that are a significant amount of work for even a small team. Remaining proactive in recruitment and other strategic initiatives may be “nice to haves” that fall to the wayside favouring day-to-day maintenance. A globally-focused HR strategy underpinned by a global cloud-based HR platform is the best combination that frees up HR professionals from mundane daily chores. It’s a pairing that gives enough benefits so the HR function can become more of a strategic asset for the business at large.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how global HR management systems can combine with significant changes in thinking, so well-equipped HR managers can easily manage globally but work and be effective locally. As the business grows, the bureaucratic overheads need not — as long as the foundations are in place.
To break down the necessary journey HR pros need to take, there are the five changes you will need to put into effect. While some are very much grounded in necessary technologies (a subject we touch on further down the piece), some are attitudinal shifts that are simple to emplace but have significantly positive outcomes.
Automate for success
Any IT professional will know that the type of tasks at which technology excels is repetition. And by coincidence, ask any HR professional to name the bane of their life, and repetitive, mundane tasks will be right up there as prime time drains. In fact, many studies have shown that bored people make more mistakes than engaged, interested people. So HR functions are not only wasting the abilities of highly skilled, expensively-trained individuals, they are also making more mistakes.
By careful use of automated technologies, organisations can free up staff to re-concentrate on their particular areas of specialism. For employees, automated systems can easily cope with the tasks that just have to be done the same way but done without error. Gathering electronic signatures and bank details of new staff is a prime example, activities that can be covered by automated on boarding systems.
Automation is a vast subject (a search for RPA – robotic process automation – on this site will yield dozens of articles to read), and it’s where technology excels. Pre-programmed routines can request and store country-specific ID, financial details and healthcare credentials – a single example among potentially dozens.
Flex for local variations
Every company has its internal processes for every function, and HR is no exception. Crafting the localised strategies for each region is an additional overhead for HR and a critical one, especially as many employees’ expectations for on-boarding and personal development experiences are increasingly high.
Technology helps HR professionals translate into multiple languages all the necessary messaging required for all employees, creating personalised experiences, from on-boarding to off-boarding and everything in between.
As well as language variations, HR needs to keep on top of local public holidays, religious days and local customs where they might impact the business, and separate rule sets need to be created and maintained. As of itself, this is a significant task, but one that can be handled for the most part by responsive technology platforms designed with multinational workforces in mind.
Often the last paragraph seemingly added as an afterthought in many articles that centre around technology, compliance issues figure more highly for multinational companies.
That’s because there are almost always company-wide ramifications to any compliance errors at any local level. To add to this dangerous situation, governance around employment law, personal data privacy, and employer responsibilities to health and safety all vary over time and between geographies.
Ensuring ongoing compliance is, therefore, potentially a hugely time-consuming series of manual processes. That is unless the HR function can leverage a global workforce management solution, such as Sage People, a product we return to later on. It even adds functionality like a privilege-based access system that prevents unauthorised reading of or edits to important data for anyone who isn’t adequately qualified to do so. Details like that help hit compliance targets, and importantly, help companies compile compliance requests by local and national governing bodies.
Report and analyse
In every type of business, digital information is becoming regarded as the “new gold.” But in a company that operates over borders, it’s easy for data silos specific to a country to be created and effectively walled off.
There needs to be a single source of truth accessible by HR from which all other systems can turn to as a canonical source of truth – and for this, cloud-hosted HR platforms are ideal.
Once data is made available in this manner and silos no longer exist, managers can draw insights from the collected information to recognise trends, build more effective workforces, approach new challenges (like developing in-job learning systems), and respond to c-suite requests for information.
Previously, the compilation of even simple HR data breakdowns was highly complicated; today’s technology collates and publishes the correct information from right across highly different workforce geographies.
Employees are now influenced by the technology they have access to 24/7, in the form of mobile phone, laptop, and apps of all types. That fact sets the bar high for HR managers who have to produce experiences for employees that are of similar quality.
Getting creative is not necessarily a challenge for HR (it’s a positive, people business, after all), but making sure that collaborative tools like employee/organisation communications apps are engaging is a different story. Having as many contact points as possible between employees and the business helps foster loyalty, increases employee engagement and encourages long careers inside the organisation.
From training to gamify-ing progress and hitting internal SLAs, technology platforms hold the key.
At Tech HQ, we come across literally dozens of HR apps each week. However, few of them were written from the ground up to be able to manage and oversee multinational workforces operating in different timezones, in discrete cultures, and across continents.
In some HR platforms, multinational concerns have been added as an afterthought or are only available as an expensive add-on to an otherwise incomplete package.
Sage People is the exception, as we see it. It’s the only solution that lets HR professionals do what they do best — managing the people in the business — by helping remove some of the complexities that different languages, timezones and geographies can bring.
By stepping in and helping with some of the complex tasks that consumer HR resources, costs of running the HR function will be cut, leaving staff more time to concentrate on proactive measures to improve working conditions, get the best out of employees, and create a strategic asset for the organisation in the form of the people who work there.