For the last couple of months I have been working for Allianz Global Investors in Frankfurt and Munich helping with their talent management processes. I’ve been made very welcome and enjoyed it there.

One of the aspects of HR management of which I have been reminded in this project, is the tension there can be between global HR and regional/local HR, both in matrixed global organisations in general and with regard to HR processes. (And of course the same tensions between a global, functional business model and regional organisations, given that the HR organization reflects the business structure).

I was reminded of the times I have had large global HR roles for many thousands of people across countries and time zones and wanted to agree common global processes. And when I have had regional/local roles in the same sort of global organisations and was arguing for more local implementation and autonomy.

Although ‘think global act local’ is a mantra that has been around for many years, especially in companies trying to be global, it can be extremely difficult to manage in practice.

There are a number of dilemmas that I learned about a long time ago from the consultancy Global Integration.

In their words, these include the dilemma of community. Is my primary obligation towards ‘global’, the remote manager, team or process even at the cost of damaging local relationships, or is to support local colleagues and managers at the cost of the remote team relationship?

Then there is the dilemma of activity. Is the ‘global’ in overall control or does local autonomy take precedence overall overall co-ordination, or are we somehow on some sort of sliding scale depending on the process?

And finally the dilemma of integration. Is there a forced globality where global policies are originated at the centre and pushed out for implementation? Or is there local optimization and special cases which are preferred to a common global approach?

Is it really as simple as strategy and global process being developed and imposed centrally and the local or regional role is purely one of implementation and operation? No of course not. At least not in high performing companies.

Global is not necessarily better than regional/local. Although unfortunately in some companies the global roles are weighted heavier because of their supposed strategic importance, the job groups are higher and the pay is more!

But the lions of globalization in high-performing matrixed companies do not necessarily behave like the kings of the jungle. They integrate. They facilitate. They create communities. But that sounds easier than it is!

So, here are 10 lessons I have learned if you are ‘Global’

1. Have a small number or set of global guidelines, principles or processes that you definitely want to be the same everywhere. Plus the logic or reason why! (You can have a longer list in your head but you need to smear them out over time, maybe over years)

2. Be crystal clear what are the real few global deliverables that are non-negotiable and why.

3. Show some understanding of local implementation difficulties. Co-create the process of policy. Create ownership by all of the HR community.

4. Explain the Big Picture. Help the Local understand the Global. Not just HR but also the (local) Business.

5. Nobody is against standardisation. But as I was reminded when I was involved with shared service centres, standardisation means change for 95% of the people! So don’t forget change management.

6. Time. Nothing upsets the Regional/Local more than being asked by Global for data or information with only one or two day’s notice. You have to be really early in your requests, even for yearly global processes such as talent management deliverables. Things take longer than you realize or remember when you are sitting in Central Office. Reading, understanding, internalizing, fitting into the everyday work, selling locally, explaining to local managers and staff, implementing. It all takes time. Allow Local that time.

7. And the biggest complaint about Global is often the lack of understanding of what is really happening in the real world, on the ground. As opposed to in the strategic ivory tower. Make sure you manage this perception. Or even better make sure you do know what’s happening!

8. What can be really useful – not only for HR but also for line management – is an annual timeline, agenda or calendar of the HR processes and deliverables. We did this at TNK and it really helped.

9. Global HR often has COE roles, so-called Centres of Excellence. Wrong. Be a Centre of Experience creating a community, creating networks throughout the local and regional HR organisations and locations. Create frameworks, select common tools, share information, help each other.

10. Balance. Working in a matrix organization takes more time and understanding. And trust and forgiveness. High performing companies don’t standardize everything, they localize. Global initiatives and local freedoms. Global platform and local implementation. Local innovation and global integration and standardisation where it makes sense.

And if you are in Local or Regional HR? Try not to complain about Global and ask what it is they are doing all day. That’s too easy. Don’t be a victim. Be constructive, offer support, help in the creation and ownership of processes. You may be surprised how much you will be welcomed with open arms. Because really it isn’t global support to local or the other way around. It is support to the Business strategically, for which everyone is working, wherever they are.


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