Canadians for work overseas. For others,
it’s a solo research mission.
In those cases, networking with compa-ny
executives or future colleagues in the
new organization is a great starting place.
If you can find colleagues who understand
both cultures, they’ll be able to give great-er
insight into differences between the two
cultures and any potential problem areas.
“Go there totally informed, with a net-work
established, talking to the relevant
people and being sensitive to the fact that
it’s a different place,” said Khan.
Once you land in your new region, finding
a cultural mentor could be a lifesaver, too. An
empathetic and knowledgeable insider can
help you learn to avoid mistakes (or best cor-rect
them once they’re made) and ease your
transition into an unfamiliar culture.
One of the trickiest aspects of working
abroad or dealing with teams in multiple
locations is the flexibility required. Beyond
the maze of cultural differences, there’s
also the practical challenge of navigating
across time zones and, in some cases, op-erating
in more than one language. For an
HR pro to manage successfully in the face
of these challenges, it takes a great ability
to plan, to adapt quickly and to solve prob-lems
on the fly.
Flexibility, too, is a necessity, since you
may need to hold meetings outside of nor-mal
business hours. So rack up serious air
miles from time to time and brush up on
your ability to work with translators (or
learn a new language yourself ).
“Global HR pros require refined com-munication,
influencing and collaboration
skills,” said Dhanji, pointing out they often
work within a complex matrix hierarchy or
have to work with people or teams they’ve
only met virtually.
With infrequent or non-existent face-to-
face contact to humanize email-based
relationships, a manager can take steps to
establish more personal connections by mak-ing
smart use of phone conversations from
time to time and regular Skype calls for one-on-
one conversations and team meetings.
Knowing the labour market in a different
region, as well as any necessary legal issues,
is an integral research exercise when it
comes to staffing, says Joseph (Val) D’Sa,
a senior HR professional at York Region
District School Board in Toronto. So is
taking the time to develop an understand-ing
of what works best to retain top talent,
since what works in one place may be com-pletely
ineffective or illegal in another.
Finding that talent in the first place
might be a sticky undertaking, as well.
Illustration by Jupiterimages / Photos.com
“ORGANIZATIONS HAVE DIFFERENT PRIORITIES AS
MANDATED BY THE CULTURAL NEEDS AND LONG-TERM
VISIONS OF THE COUNTRIES THEY OPERATE IN.”
– BADAR KHAN, ORGANIZATION TRANSFORMATION CONSULTANT
What a particular region values may not
fit with the Canadian norm. For exam-ple,
“In western countries, you talk about
equal opportunities and being open in
communications,” said Khan. “In the
Arab setting, nationals are a priority in
whatever you do in terms of promotions,
development, rewards and compensa-tion.
A national might be a very average
performer compared to a very compe-tent
expatriate. If you hire the national
over the expatriate anywhere else, it’s
discrimination. In an Arab country, it’s
Knowing which principles apply across
the entire organization, and which must
yield to the region’s norms, is an intricate
and necessary part of the learning curve.
Similarly, when interviewing candi-dates
from regions other than your own,
it’s important to understand different
cultural norms. In some Eastern cul-tures,
for example, it’s considered polite
and a sign of respect to listen during in-terviews
and defer to those perceived as
senior, instead of being forthcoming with
anecdotes and stories to illustrate your
competence. It might be easy, in those
cases, for an interviewer from a Western
country to overlook a potential superstar
because of his or her reluctance to pro-claim
successes as loudly and clearly as a
18 ❚ MARCH/APRIL 2014 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL