Article: The world is flat, but also colourful

Diversity

The world is flat, but also colourful

In the current business environment, the approach of a company to its market place is 'glocal' and from therein emerges the need for understanding the local culture of the region and preferably, catering to those needs through local talent
 

For a company to be truly one, there is a deeper need for the integration of its people working across geographical and cultural boundaries

 

To achieve success in a global marketplace, the challenge, is to understand global corporate cultural differences and invest in human resources integration

 

In the current business environment, the approach of a company to its market place is ‘glocal’ and from therein emerges the need for understanding the local culture of the region and preferably, catering to those needs through local talent.

Globalization today is a fact of life; and all companies, from the biggest to the smallest, work in the global market place on a certain scale. In today’s fast-paced times, it is imperative for an organization’s growth to penetrate and expand into various regions and countries. However, with this expansion come a number of challenges for maintaining the core values of an organization and common policies across locations. To give you a simple example, a company like McDonalds is present in more than half the countries in the world, but wherever you go, you would have the same happy arches welcoming you, and the same Ronald McDonald waiting to play with your kids.
It’s commonalities like these that ensure that a company’s working across the globe are similar and makes customers feel like they are working with the same company, be it in the USA , Europe or Asia. While the branding of the company, its common purpose (business), policies and approach to customer relations give the external world a sense that they are working with the same company – these are just superficial similarities. For a company to be truly one, there is a deeper need for the integration of its people working across geographical and cultural boundaries.
In the current business environment, the approach of a company to its market place is ‘glocal’ and from therein emerges the need for understanding the local culture of the region and preferably, catering to those needs through local talent.
The objective of a company is growth, and organizations which want to grow can have only one personality or character, which is the desire and the vision to succeed, expand and create value for self across markets and geographies. If this is so, the integration has to happen through a common vision for the organization, communicating the said vision, and showing value for both the entities (parent and local) on the benefits they derive from each other. Moreover, the integration has to happen at the structure level - authority and empowerment, policies, systems and procedures. There must be an integration of rewards and awards, of incentive plans, and of processes in delivery teams, topped by mutual respect for each other’s culture and understanding the silent language of thought.
Therefore, to achieve success in a global marketplace, the challenge of all businesses, regardless of their size, is to understand global corporate cultural differences and invest in human resources integration. Employee integration should result in (i) increased productivity, (ii) greater employee engagement, and (iii) better flow of ideas across regions. For companies operating on a global delivery model this becomes even more important to ensure smoother communications and working of teams.
To a very large extent, the onus of building a globally-integrated workforce lies with the HR function of a company. HR, along with the line function has the responsibility to ensure that the workforce is educated on what globalization is, how the company will leverage from it, and what it could mean for the employees.
Coordination forms a fundamental element of HR for keeping all locations integrated. This can be achieved, either by having one primary HR department and independent local HR staff, a centralized HR system where the local HR is dependent on the primary HR department, or a single HR department with no local HR. Developing an appropriate HR plan forms the basis for aligning offices in multiple locations.
Differences in language, culture, regulatory norms, and technology might contribute to variations in HR practices in different countries. However, HR departments outside the parent company should be involved or communicated all strategic HR decisions. This will also give them a sense of being vital spokes in the wheel, and that sense of being a part of the organization will translate in their dealings with local employees.
It is imperative to recognize the cross- cultural boundaries that people work in. Striking a balance between a strong corporate culture and local cultural differences will lead to an unswerving corporate culture. A strong corporate culture will help override geographical and cultural differences. Policies and regulations of the land may also differ and may require to be customized in accordance with the culture of that territory. However, certain policies will require flexibility, keeping in mind the culture of that particular country. An acquired company may have a very different working atmosphere when compared to that of the acquiring company. Therefore, today while acquiring a company, the due diligence not only includes the financial viability of the company but also the cultural cohesiveness. During acquisitions, it is advisable to first understand the culture and working environment of the acquired company (you never know, you may come across a good practice that can be inculcated within the entire organization), and slowly bring about the change. A big bang approach of suddenly overhauling how the employees in the acquired company worked will lead to resistance to change; and integration will be challenged.
Policies on religious tolerance, business confidentiality etc. must be uniform throughout all locations. Employees should be clear on the ‘what’ is to be achieved but how it needs to be achieved can be left at the discretion of the particular location. So also the policies on sexual harassment, gender inclusivity and diversity have to be commonly implemented. Therefore, the entities have to build their own culture, and identity to say this is how we will be and this is how we are.
Human behavior is influenced by the culture of the society/region they live in. Being emotionally intelligent and having an understanding of cultures will help HR choose the right person in different locations. Practices that work in one location/office might not be acceptable in another.
It is not just important for HR to understand these differences but the entire organization, and especially those working with teams across geographies. Cross-boundary working requires an effective team. HR plays a key role in supporting cross-boundary working by employing various team-building processes and making sure these ‘virtual’ teams are in tune with each other. New recruits should be trained to think in terms of ‘we’ and not just ‘I’. It’s also advisable for people to travel to various countries, to understand and be aware of the culture and language of the country. International protocol, language training, food and cultural understanding are just some of the macro topics for training. Working around cultural roadblocks will help develop a practice that is most effective.
Firms are implementing special global training programs, the reason for doing this is to avoid business loss due to cultural insensitivity, improved job satisfaction and retention of overseas staff, and enabling a newly assigned employee to communicate with colleagues abroad. Providing training for employees not only helps them develop their skills and knowledge, but it is also motivational and a building block to organizational success.
However, everything discussed above would not be as effective unless there is a strong thrust towards internal communications. Keeping offices clued in on the happenings or decisions taken in the parent company keeps communication transparent and smooth. Newsletters, common workshops, open houses or celebrations bring people together, virtually and emotionally. In this digital age with video conferencing, communicating with all locations need not be a problem. Although varied time zones can be a barrier in getting everyone together at the same time, care can be taken while planning an initiative so that it does not inconvenience any geography. Communication and people-centric-initiatives also help connect the company better through the common global language of emotions and aspirations.

 

GLOBAL INTEGRATION @ GEOMETRIC: KEY INITIATIVES

Monthly Newsletter: We have a monthly newsletter that goes to each Geometrician irrespective of whether s/he is sitting in one of our global offices or at a client site. This newsletter carries business updates, location news, events, notes, from the Founder and the CEO, and light features. Through corporate stories (notes from Founder, CEO, BU Heads), employees are informed of where we are as a company and where we intend to go; technology features help connect people with the common love for technology excellence; and lighter stories about celebrations or company culture bring in a cultural sensitivity and global mindset that is critical to company working in multiple geographies.
Little Geometrician: This is an initiative to connect with all employees on an emotional level. Launched in November 2009, in conjunction with Children’s Day celebrated across India on November 14, we hold an annual global drawing and painting contest for children below 13 years. The initiative had an overwhelming response from all locations like US, Romania, Germany, Japan, China and India last year, and an even greater response this year. The winning entries were used in creating our corporate New Year cards and select entries were made into desk calendars for all employees across all locations. This gave a chance for families to be involved with Geometric, employees were proud to share their children’s talent with the organization and felt appreciated when they saw the entries being used for designing corporate greetings.
GeoMom: This is an initiative to connect with all the lovely mothers within Geometric. All mothers in the Geometric eco-system, covering employees, employees’ mom or spouse who is a mother, are called upon to share some funny, interesting, bizarre and brave experiences, anecdotes or incidents they encountered with their children.
Proud Geometrician: For recognizing and appreciating Geometricians globally, who have contributed to the organization’s success through their dedication during their tenure - 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 8years, 10 years, 25 years. Although Geometric as a company has not completed 25 years, we have a number of employees who are a part of our acquired company and have continued to stay with us. This makes them feel that they are a part of the same company.
Initiatives such as Little Geometrician and GeoMom connect with the emotional aspect of our lives which is common for all people – it is what makes us human, and I believe touching the human aspect in employee integration is the key to its success.

Rani Desai is Vice President and Global Head, Human Resources & Organization Development, Geometric
 

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Topics: Diversity, Employee Engagement

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