Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Is Your HR Team Globally Fluent? A New Model for Successful Multinational Workforce Strategies

By Brian Dames, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer

For human resource professionals, the competition for talent is more fierce than ever, at home and abroad. HR leaders must now consider that hiring options have broadened – no longer are they required to find talent that resides in the cities where they have offices. Companies used to choose whether to cross borders and leverage a potential workforce within the global marketplace. That's now driven by more and more prospective employees—and the question becomes: Is this a scenario HR professionals are ready for? A study we conducted last year found that eighty percent of HR and payroll leaders say their ability to expand into different countries is vital to their company's future success. To attract the right talent today, that's become imperative.

The global hiring economy and business environment have changed dramatically. Today, even smaller, emerging enterprises must source talent from other countries to save on labour costs, gain access to hard-to-find talent, or expand into and operate locally in new countries and markets. Whatever their specific HR situation, every company now needs to consider how to operate as a multinational enterprise and re-engineer their HR processes to acquire talent more effectively on a global scale, starting with workforce management solutions.

Against this backdrop, many emerging enterprises, and even large multinational corporations, lack the infrastructure (management, processes, functions) to take full advantage of labour in other countries. Why is international hiring so difficult for so many organisations? And how can they improve their competitive position as employers in a global marketplace?

A way to approach those questions is through the lens of Global Fluency. It's a model that illustrates what a high-performing global organisation needs in order to build its workforce solutions. When an organization develops Global Fluency, it can operate more capably and strategically in three core business areas that impact the entire organisation intellect, acumen and agility.

How do those skills impact an organisation?

  • Intellect is what a multinational knows about the countries in which they employ workers or are considering for expansion
  • Acumen is how an organization absorbs that relevant data and knowledge to make strategic decisions.
  • Agility is a company's ability to use that analysis to act quickly and make data-driven decisions in response to global market changes.

When applied to human resources and global workforce management, these three attributes translate to a highly fluent organisation that can quickly, efficiently, and compliantly hire, manage, and engage the right talent anywhere in the world. 

How can HR professionals apply this model within their business?

Global Fluency is not about any single strategy or tactic; it's an operational model to guide the intelligent and strategic use of HR technology to improve and reorganise core business processes for today's global business environment.

For HR professionals, hiring and payroll represent two of the most important workforce management processes that fall under their responsibility. For that reason, workforce management is the natural business case to start applying better technology and new ways of thinking to give an organisation more options and growth opportunities. They'll have much greater flexibility to attract and retain international labour and talent too.

Before emerging enterprises can focus on being globally fluent, they must first consider their global strategy and position within an international hiring market. Here are some questions that should be top-of-mind for HR professionals:

  • Do we have anyone internally with the experience and knowledge about what is needed to hire or expand into another country or market? If we can find the right personnel in another country, how long will it take to onboard them, get them set up on payroll  - while remaining compliant with in-country tax and labour regulations?
  • Are any of our competitors acquiring talent faster or at a higher success rate than we are? Why?
  • Are there mid-to-long-term trends in different labour markets that indicate we should shift hiring to another country or market?

Once an organisation is committed to international expansion—either by strategy or necessity—it can use the concept of Global Fluency to evaluate its abilities, needs and opportunities.

Building a knowledge base of data and intelligence

Intellect is the foundation of Global Fluency. Having a solid in-country knowledge base that considers the nuances related to employing, managing, and running a business in different parts of the world is fundamental to thriving within any region.

Yet, lack of local knowledge is a common problem for multinationals. We conducted a survey of HR and payroll leaders from 200 global organisations and found that nearly 40% experienced a deficiency of information (about what international expansion entails) as their main impediment to investing in global growth. Without reliable intelligence, emerging multinationals will lack critical knowledge, which can impede a strategically advantageous move such as hiring or expanding in other countries. As a result, many organisations can't capitalise on the available workforce talent or entry into new markets, ultimately limiting their growth.

Investing in technology that sharpens acumen and the ability to take action

Country-specific information and market data are essential to have, but intellect alone won't move the needle for an organisation. Leaders must have the acumen to collect the correct workforce data and have the ability to standardise and manage the data to ensure analysis that informs strategic decision-making across the organisation, regardless of country or region.

Acumen requires an organizational structure that supports the processes and technology that bring global data together in a single and consistent view while maintaining the integrity of that data. Without data reliability and visibility, a company won't develop the acumen to support true Global Fluency.

Agility is the readiness that puts intellect and acumen into action

The final connecting piece of the Global Fluency model is agility, which uses both intellect and acumen to impact the organisation, regardless of the market dynamics. In the end, information and data analysis are meaningless if an organisation can't successfully apply them.

The ability to use data to forecast market shifts, industry changes and internal challenges require an organisation to remain agile enough to pivot based on that data. Whether it be to mitigate the risk of loss, capitalise on an opportunity or correct for a change outside the organisation's control, rapid adaptability is a critical attribute of becoming a globally fluent organisation.

Applying Global Fluency to your business should be a top post-pandemic priority

Global Fluency isn't merely a nice-to-have concept. It's a very practical approach to thinking strategically about operating across multiple countries in today's hiring economy. The current situation is vastly different from as recently as two years ago—the pandemic was a watershed event that accelerated changes in how we organise and manage work and employment through technology. The strategic principles behind Global Fluency are more needed and relevant than ever—and will continue to be so—as hiring and employment become global and multinational experiences and processes.

A globally fluent organization, informed by data, can predict a team's need to support a growing workload and reduce employee burnout by proactively hiring in new and previously untapped markets. Companies can more easily adapt to a slowing market and decreased demand due to political or economic changes by altering their pace of production or shifting to a new center of production in another country.

Preparing for the "future of work" because it's already here

A fully equipped, fully supported HR team can be the tangible outcome of Global Fluency.-  possessing the management, processes and systems for employees anywhere in the world. If your company can build its workforce on a global scale—whether workers are remote, office-based or a bit of both —it will be in a much stronger competitive position to recruit and retain the top talent needed to continue growing and expanding globally.

For many organisations, the next few years will be a period of rapid "regrowth," international expansion and an urgent need to find new workforces. It's also a time when HR teams will re-shape their recruitment and engagement strategies to attract and retain the best talent possible. And for that, they must be globally fluent.

Author bio

Brian Dames, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer

Brian has more than 25 years of experience in senior marketing and product roles, developing and executing the marketing strategies for both established and growing organizations. Brian's expertise helps lead the brand, marketing and various strategic programs that support the growth of Safeguard Global.