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Going Global
Jenine Bogrand
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is it just me or is the world shrinking?   Growing up in Seattle, the thought of New York City was farther than my mind could imagine.  Now, I can be at a client site in Dubai, halfway around the world from my home in Houston in just over 14 hours.    While the world is the same size, the ability to communicate, travel and work with those all over has become not only easier... but also second nature. 

Many companies that operate globally are now realizing that while their head office is in Chicago, their operations in Moscow, Beijing and Abu Dhabi are key components to the overall workforce management metrics.   Historically, many companies have their various locations operating autonomously for their systems.  However, over the past few years it has become obvious that having different systems means a lack of standardized information, which makes it very difficult to report consistent data.  Many companies are consolidating systems so that they can report and view data across business units and geographies.

What does this mean for those companies with operations outside of North America?   It means they have an eye-opening experience the first time they venture across either ocean or below the southern border of the US.    The existence of work councils, flex time, working time directives, and regional and local regulations can make any workforce management implementation a challenge.   It hits them that while those overseas workers produce and sell things that are familiar, the way they work and the employment rules that govern them are truly foreign. 

There are ways to minimize the potential pain and ensure success.  Some may seem obvious, but it is always surprising how many forget the simple things in this process. 

Appreciate the Culture:  One of those no-brainers!  Yet, this is the top reason many projects fail or get in trouble.   Does the country promote or discourage technology?   I implemented a system in one country where they did not want to move forward in any way, and especially when the team implementing it was not from their country.  However, the next country embraced the technology and wanted to be totally paperless.    The interesting fact was these two countries were located next to each other!   Do your homework and it will make your life, and those in the country you are working in a bit easier.

Engage a Local Champion:  Each location needs to have a local resource who can be the cheerleader and subject matter expert.   They can help with the messaging, organizational change and understand the politics of their location.  In addition, they can assist with language issues, if there are no native speakers on the team. 

Understand the Regulations:  Every country has their own federal regulations.  But, just like the US where the states (such as California) have specific or more rigorous laws, regions or cities may have specific regulations that require adherence.   Work councils and their contracts, which are similar to unions can also add to the confusion, especially when the documentation is in a foreign language.  To totally understand these regulations, it is sometimes necessary to engage a translator or local subject expert to get the exact requirements. 

Scheduling Flexibility:   How do you manage or work on a project that is has a time zone  12 hours ahead of you?  It can be challenging, but with the right mindset it can be done very successfully.  This means that if you are used to working a 8-5 schedule, that will need to change.  This means that meetings may be held in the very early morning or in the late evening to accommodate the local team.    Ensuring the off-site team is aware from the beginning of the project that their normal working hours may not be what they are used to, is a very important component to the overall dynamics.  

If you are a multi-national company, then these are just a few of the key actions that need to be considered in a global implementation.  Each country is different, and going into the implementations with that understanding will make even the most challenging location just a bit easier.    However, the rewards of being able to get consistent and reliable data are well worth the process.