GLOBAL companies today have an interdependent relationship with their foreign subsidiaries to build their business empire.

The human resource management (HRM) function takes on the immense task of managing a workforce across multiple locations where divergent customs, practices and languages pose a number of challenges.

Keeping a global mindset is the key in shaping behaviours and resolving issues of governance, ownership and engagement. The HRM function needs to be fully integrated with the business strategy and the strategic needs of the company.

Strategic moves

In recent years, HRM in global companies has leapt beyond its administrative functions to play a strategic role in aligning the company’s subsidiaries’ business strategies of planning, selection, performance evaluation, compensation, development and staffing with the parent organisation.

Large geographically dispersed organisations with several lines of businesses can also implement shared service centres for consolidating their HRM functions across borders for greater efficiency and synergy.

When HRM builds a strategy, it needs to develop employment policies that will maintain a synergy between the employers and employees across departments, countries and continents. These policies ultimately help increase shareholder value, employee commitment and the company’s brand recognition.

Shaping behaviour

HR managers need to check that subsidiaries are conforming to the underlying values, beliefs and principles that serve as a foundation for the parent organisation’s management system.

To keep employees motivated and committed with a sense of personal involvement, good practices can be shared and various activities organised to help employees seamlessly integrate and adapt to the corporate culture, irrespective of where they are based in the world.

Local cultures are encouraged nonetheless to maintain their identity in the context of the corporate culture.

Having to interact across multiple cultures can be stressful, whether it is from parent company to subsidiary or vice versa. Global corporations like IBM and Hewlett-Packard conduct cultural awareness and diversity courses for their employees so they can familiarise themselves with verbal and non-verbal cues and codes of conduct to communicate better in the relevant countries they will be dealing with.

Respect and advocacy for diversity in the workplace should be communicated clearly. This can be demonstrated at all company levels with clear and positive responses, and the commitment to resolve any issues in an ethical and responsible manner.

Some best practices for workplace diversity include:

* Strong support from senior management team members;

* Middle management team members playing a greater role in cultural diversity and team members’ talent development;

* Cultivating a mentorship culture and having mentorship programmes at all levels of the organisation;

* Making diversity a part of the company’s strategic plans and core values;

* Organising diversity orientation sessions;

* Advertising hiring opportunities for a diverse group of possible candidates from different nationalities; and

* Being aware of, and removing, images that are offensive to various cultures.

Clear communication

The Internet has squeezed the world into a screen. The HRM division needs to make the company’s critical web content and marketing communications available to all foreign subsidiaries in their respective native languages.

Similarly, the company’s values need to be communicated clearly across borders. HRM can employ subject-matter specialists, mother-tongue translators and cultural experts with local knowledge to communicate and convey the company’s corporate identity and core brand values succinctly. These professionals help multinationals to go global and assure clarity of communication at every stage.