One of the many benefits of HR technology and software is that companies of all sizes can be more global. You don’t have to be a massive multinational corporation in order to have the world of talent at your fingertips. Whether your company has multiple locations across the globe or is able to hire anywhere because the work can be done remotely, having a global workforce is a reality for many. However, a global workforce presents different challenges for HR to manage.

How Does Globalization Affect the Way a Workforce Is Managed?

Globalization has affected workforce management in ways that have still yet to be fully measured. The process isn’t complete and will continue changing as the needs of companies change. However, globalization has already had a marked impact on how companies manage their workforces. Companies must be more culturally aware, not only because their own staff may be diverse, but also because they may work with or partner with companies from across the world.

For some companies, globalization means thinking about where they hire for certain positions. Because pay scales are different across the world, certain positions may be better suited for hiring abroad. This does mean that HR has more work to do in order to manage the different pay structures and benefits that employees in different countries may receive.

On top of that, management styles may need to adjust depending on where workers are located. For example, India typically prefers a top-down approach to management, but other workers from other countries may not feel the same way. Your management approach will need to be flexible in order to meet the needs and expectations of a diverse workforce.

Tips for Managing a Global Workforce

Global workforce management may be more of a challenge, but the benefits can outweigh the difficulties. It’s important to keep in mind that managing a global workforce may require more nuance than managing a local workforce. There will be cultural differences and possibly even language barriers that must be taken into account. 

Culturally Appropriate Communication

Workplace cultures can differ drastically from country to country. What is polite in one country may be considered rude in another. Some countries prefer direct communication while others prefer a more indirect style. It’s important to know how to best communicate with all of your staff members, no matter where they’re located. 

Awareness of Nonverbal Etiquette

Different cultures also have different acceptable nonverbal behaviors. With so much communication taking place on video conferencing software such as Zoom, it’s important to be aware of nonverbal etiquette that may differ from country to country. For example, a thumbs up is encouraging in the United States, but in the Middle East it’s extremely rude. In Japan, laughing with your mouth open and uncovered is considered boorish. Being aware of what gestures may be considered rude or uncouth to employees across the world can help meetings and communication progress more smoothly.

Religious Diversity

Even within the United States, there’s considerable religious diversity, although Christianity tends to be the dominant one. Globally, however, that may not be the case. Employees from countries with a different dominant religion may expect more benefits related to their religion. For example, Christmas is commonly expected as a day off in the United States, but not in Japan, where New Year’s is the more important holiday. If you have staff in Israel, they may expect Hanukkah to be a company holiday. Muslim staff may want break times for prayer throughout the day.

Laws and Regulations

Laws and regulations regarding the workforce may also differ across the world. There may be differences in break requirements, pay scales, benefits, insurance, taxes, and more. If you have employees living and working in different countries, your company will need to ensure that it’s following all of the different laws and regulations regarding the workforce.

English as a Second Language Support

For companies with a global workforce, there will be some employees whose native language is not English. Even though they may speak English very well, it’s a good idea to have support within the company for those with English as a foreign language. This can help ensure that employees who need it have access to work and training materials that they can more easily understand and that they get any help they need working in English. Plus, offering ESL courses to your global staff can help them improve their English skills and become more valuable as employees.

Cultural Diversity Training

Without training, your employees may not be aware of the cultural differences within the company. Training can help all of your employees, no matter where they are located, become more aware of the cultural diversity within your company. Offering training can help ensure that your employees can more easily understand each other and can reduce the risk of inadvertently offending one another.

HR Hiring Analytics

Companies are no longer limited to hiring only the applicants from the same location. The entire world of talent is available. This also means that there are many more potential applicants than before. HR software typically offers analytics features that can help you determine when, where, and how you need to hire.

Common Challenges of a Global Workforce

Global expansion is a goal for many organizations and a reality for others. Having company locations in many countries can help increase the reach, influence, and of course revenues of an organization while bringing different perspectives and ways of working into the mix. However, there are many challenges to training a global workforce that must be taken into consideration in order to keep productivity, systems, and the quality of company services consistent across borders.

Linguistic Diversity

Language barriers are the number one most commonly cited challenge to training a global workforce. In Europe, there are over 230 languages spoken and in Africa there are over 2,000 languages spoken, with variations in dialect causing different connotations even among areas that speak the same language.

To overcome language barriers, it may be helpful to hire several employees from the new area that speak both the local language and the language that the bulk of the organization’s training materials are in. These employees can be invaluable when translating and restructuring the materials, training a new workforce for the area, and taking customer calls.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences may make it difficult for companies to understand the motivations and expectations of employees in an area. There are business ethics courses and cross-cultural communication courses that can be extremely helpful in training and managing workforces in different countries. Having a deep understanding of cultural norms and tailoring training to accommodate these customs can help to make training much more effective than attempting to translate and use existing training guides.

High Training Costs

Before expanding globally, it is very important to understand that training a global workforce will be much more expensive than training a team at home. Training programs must be reconstructed with sensitivity to cultural customs, effective metaphors and language, and the ability to be clearly communicated online or by a traveling training team.

Many organizations make the mistake of allocating a small budget for cross-border training, which can cause major issues when it comes to workforce competency, employee retention, and productivity in the newly established location.

Deficient Technological Infrastructure

Using online solutions may seem to be an effective method for training a global workforce, but it is critical to have an in-depth understanding of the technological infrastructure in the area. Not all countries are highly technologically advanced, so employee access to training materials may be limited to what is provided at the new location. It may be necessary to dispatch training teams or provide team members with devices that can be used for communication and training.

Time Zone Differences

Time zone differences can hinder the effectiveness of using webinars and collaboration for training. For best results, time zone differences should be taken into consideration ahead of time, so that training can be scheduled for times that make sense to the location. Making training modules available anytime or dispatching training teams to the area for a period of time may help to overcome time zone challenges.

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