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10 Global HR Trends for 2011 and How to Manage Them

Global connectionWhile at HRPA 2011, Canada’s conference and trade show focusing on HR issues and trends, I stopped in to check out Howard Wallack’s session, 10 Global HR Trends for 2011 and What You Need to Know to Manage Them. Wallack is the Director of Global Member Programs for Society for Human Resource Management, and in his discussion at HRPA 2011, he drew from several studies and surveys (EIU’s Global Firms in 2020, IBM’s Working Beyond Borders, BCG/WFPMA’s Creating People Advantage 2010, and more) and gathered input from SHRM’s Global Expertise panel to determine the 10 most prevalent global HR trends for the rest of 2011.

The business world is becoming increasingly global, yet as Wallack mentioned in his presentation, there aren’t HR standards across the globe right now. Inconsistent economies and policies add complications to an already complex mix; for example, while low job growth is an issue in the U.S. and Canada, it’s not an issue in Asia, where places like China, India, Singapore and Thailand are all currently experiencing at least 9 – 10 percent growth. The U.S. is less friendly than Canada when it comes to immigration, which can present a challenge. In addition, employee engagement is driven by very different factors around the globe: In Asia, employees want titles and learning opportunities, compensation and benefits comes down the chain; in the U.S., health care coverage is most important, then compensation, then responsibility. With that said, let’s take a look at what Wallack says are the most noticeable trends for the rest of this year:

10 Global HR Trends for 2011

  1. The importance of globalization and integrating markets: Companies will become larger and more global in the next 10 years, handling operations in more countries than they do today.
    —We’re living in an increasingly border-less world.
  2. Talent management: Finding and retaining quality talent continues to be essential to business sustainability. Finding and retaining quality talent continues to be essential to business sustainability, though its importance in relation to other challenges differs by location. (AUTHOR UPDATE: Respondents from Brazil and Sweden rated this issue in the BCG/WFPMA study as being of lesser importance than other top-10 HR challenges relative to respondents from 15 other countries. And when polled further to rate if there were no/some/high/very high talent shortage or skills gaps across 12 different specific industries/sectors, the Brazilian and Swedish respondents rated it uniformly as “No” across all the industries.)
    —There are more contingent workers, and the rationale behind work force investment is changing and moving in multiple directions.—Most industries and countries are to experience a widening talent gap, notably for highly skilled positions and for next generation of mid and senior leaders.
  3. Working virtually across functions and geographies will intensify, with implications for intercultural communication, business ethics and organizational effectiveness.
    —Localizing management of overseas operations is key, but a global outlook is just as important as local knowledge.—Businesses need to find new ways to connect people to each other and to information, both internally and externally.

    —The expectation of having an “always-available” employee varies around the world.

  4. Global employee engagement is tentative; companies that have implemented multiple layoffs have eroded a sense of security in the global work force.
    —There is a disconnect between what companies currently have to offer employees and what employees really value.—Retaining valued talent is more important, but the drivers to retain that talent are different depending on the type of market (growth opportunity is paramount in growth markets; new or challenging responsibilities is paramount in mature markets).

    —The gap in creative leadership, executing for speed, and managing ‘collective intelligence’ must be addressed.

    —Employee engagement has suffered; companies are now trying to restore pride and trust.

  5. The economic crisis and fewer existing business opportunities create a high demand on the global HR function to demonstrate greater adaptability.
    —HR will be an important link between corporate headquarters and overseas operations.—HR is conducting too many initiatives, with mediocre outcomes.  Companies need to reboot their HR function and boost resources devoted to HR.
  6. Economic uncertainties fundamentally change motivators that attract and retain employees.
    —There is a disconnect between what companies have to offer employees and what employees really value.
  7. Human capital protectionism may continue to increase in many countries in non-tariff, nationalistic forms.
  8. Global mobility of high-value workers continues as multinational companies restrict new hires and relocate talented employees from within their existing work force.
  9. Companies that originate in emerging economies will continue to succeed in the global marketplace.
  10. Increased demand for HR metrics may bring about a widely accepted set of analytic measures and methods (global standards) to describe, predict and evaluate the quality and impact of HR practices and the productivity of the work force.  However, globalization is also driving impetus toward the use of more metrics with greater cultural sensitivity.

How can HR do more to manage these trends?

First, Wallack says, as an HR professional, you must make sure your organization understands what globalization means to you, your company and your business sector — you must be the the one to advocate full understanding of what the drivers are. It’s important, too, to keep in mind that globalization means different things to different people across the world. Ernst & Young describes globalization in The New Mindset as “the level of a country’s integration with the world economy through the exchange of goods and services, movement of capital and finance, movement of labor, exchange of technology and ideas, and cultural integration.” Martin Wolf, in Why Globalization Works, sums it up more simply as, “economic integration across borders through markets.” And every person you ask will probably define it a bit differently.

A “global mindset” is often defined as a way of seeing the world and the globalization of markets, organizations and individuals. Developing a more global mindset enables your organization to be more effectively tackle functional, organizational, and cross-cultural boundaries and move forward.

Wallack offered some ideas to help organizations adopt a more global mindset:

  • Global mobility: Deepen your employees’ knowledge pool by offering short-term, focused opportunities for individuals to work in new markets and geographies.
  • Develop global leadership pipelines: There is a growing expectation for leaders to have work experience outside one’s country of origin; simply having an education that includes global topics is no longer enough. Travel is a strategic management development tool.
  • Get involved in efforts to create global HR standards.
  • As there is a higher demand on the global HR function to demonstrate greater adaptability, provide HR managers more exposure to and rotations in global business that they need to be effective internationally. Make HR the link between corporate headquarters and overseas operations.
  • As far as talent management: Include nationalities and experience in your efforts to diversify talent in other functions and other industries. Increase the span of responsibilities and decision-making of employees.

You can find more information about Wallack and SHRM’s global work here.

Which of the global HR trends mentioned above (or others not mentioned) are you seeing in your own organization?

 

Amy McDonnell

About Amy McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the creative services manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
4 comments
laureldemattia
laureldemattia

Happy Friday Amy - Your article highlights many topics that would be wonderfully valued at the HR Florida, State Conference and Exp. I invite you to learn more about the event and submit a brief proposal at www.hrflorida.org before 2/28/2012. Hope to see you in August!

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Hi Katherine -- Thanks for your comment, and for pointing those lines from the post out to me. That was my mistake -- it should have read Brazil and Sweden, rather than Britain and Sweden. I have fixed and also included more information from Howard which explains the point in further detail, which I've also included below -- hope this provides more clarity, and I apologize for the error!

"Finding and retaining quality talent continues to be essential to business sustainability, though its importance in relation to other challenges differs by location. (AUTHOR UPDATE: Respondents from Brazil and Sweden rated this issue in the BCG/WFPMA study as being of lesser importance than other top-10 HR challenges relative to respondents from 15 other countries. And when polled further to rate if there were no/some/high/very high talent shortage or skills gaps across 12 different specific industries/sectors, the Brazilian and Swedish respondents rated it uniformly as “No” across all the industries."

Katherine Wiid
Katherine Wiid

Interesting article highlighting global HR trends. I would like to question your second point about the issues around finding and retaining quality talent - you state that it is essential to business sustainability but not in Britain and Sweden?

As a British based Talent Management specialist we are seeing a number of issues around shortages of quality talent and it's impact on succession planning and business competitiveness.

I wondered whether your research had identified why this is not seen to be as big an issue in the UK compared to the rest of the world?

Katherine Wiid
Katherine Wiid

Interesting article highlighting global HR trends. I would like to question your second point about the issues around finding and retaining quality talent - you state that it is essential to business sustainability but not in Britain and Sweden?

As a British based Talent Management specialist we are seeing a number of issues around shortages of quality talent and it's impact on succession planning and business competitiveness.

I wondered whether your research had identified why this is not seen to be as big an issue in the UK compared to the rest of the world?

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