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Sue Lingard

Cezanne HR

Marketing Director

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Five ways to ensure a smooth transformation to global HR


Choosing an HR software system that enables you to transform the way you handle data globally requires careful consideration, research and preparation for the complexities that lay ahead.

Regardless of whether you have thousands of employees or a just a few hundred, if you operate internationally, you’ll be more than aware that in today’s increasingly connected (and competitive) economy, global HR software is a ‘must have’.

It’s the only way that HR can liberate itself from endless paperwork, achieve consistency where it matters and deliver the digital HR experience, together with the business insight and outcomes, that senior managers and the wider workforce values and expects.

What you need is an HR system that can flex to serve the unique requirements of all your people across every country that you operate in.

Picking out a system that supports the shift to high impact HR across global boundaries should be straightforward. It’s clear that what you need is an HR system that can flex to serve the unique requirements of all your people across every country that you operate in.

This means that multi-country, multi-currency functionality, with language translations and the ability to reflect different ways of working in different countries are must have features. 

But, is that enough? Why do so many global HR system implementations fail to deliver the anticipated benefits – or sometimes fail to get started at all? What else do you need to ensure a smooth path to global, digital HR? In this article, we share some lessons from the front line. 

1. Simple scalability 

On your journey to digitising global HR, it’s essential to resist the pressure to do too much at once. Break your project down into bite-sized chunks. Start with the part of the business and the processes you understand the best and where you can demonstrate the fastest improvements. That way, when you meet resistance (and you will) you’ll have the evidence of a successful implementation behind you and can rely on others to support you. 

Your global HR technology has to be both flexible enough to scale (so you can add new divisions, departments, locations or processes at a time that suits you) and simple enough for you to manage, so you can adapt it to fit your needs. If you find the technology impossible to use, what use is it? 

2. Sensitive data protected 

With GDPR now in place, companies have to look closely at how they manage, secure, share, and when required, delete or anonymise their HR data. HR is at the front line of employee data protection and fines and penalties could prove disastrous to reputation and the bottom line, especially for smaller enterprises.

Most HR suppliers will have taken steps to ensure their own compliance, but will their system help you ensure your own, across all the countries you operate in? Can you, for example, control access to data based on roles or location, or bring together the information that’s needed to reply to a subject access request in the time frame that is required? 

3. Analytics that deliver answers

Running analytics sounds complex, but it need not be, and it should be one of the priorities in your global HR technology requirements list. Real-time, accurate data at your fingertips, such as global salary information, changes in headcount, gender distribution, absence statistics and performance and potential data, should be available via any system’s standard reporting functionality. 

Why? Because other departments make decisions based on data and the same is expected from HR. Your system should allow you to make evidence-based HR decisions which you can report to the board, and to show results as well as real opportunities that elevate the value of HR in a wider business context. 

4. Global flexibility that isn’t just skin deep 

HR is complex – international HR even more so. Even fundamental HR processes, like holiday and absence management, can fall to pieces if the HR technology lacks the capabilities that are required. 

Some HR professionals discover (usually too late) that while their new global HR system may be available in all of their key languages, and takes single-country requirements in its stride, it can’t accommodate different national or regional public holidays. The result is that employees and managers don’t trust the system, HR is faced with endless checking and manual adjustments and everyone wastes time. 

In essence, a global HR system must easily help your HR team to accommodate local ways of working based on a single source of up-to-date information that delivers company-wide consistency when required and encourages employee trust and adoption. 

For example, legislative requirements vary hugely from country to country. Even if English is your business language, handbooks and policies will need to be tailored to fit. Your global system needs to be able to handle multiple HR portals and workspaces. 

Here are a few of the other locality-specific functionalities you may want to investigate: 

  • Can it set up multiple document templates so you can easily send personalised communications, e.g. letters confirming salary reviews, promotions or other work-related events, to employees in the relevant language? 
  • Can you create country-specific absence plans that cater to different accrual and carry over rules, as well as country or regional public holidays?
  • Can you set up multiple performance reviews that reflect both global and local considerations and also route these to different types of participants and stages as required? 

5. Sound financial sense 

Many smaller enterprises stick with running international HR operations using local HRIS solutions that are glued together with labour-intensive spreadsheets because they believe global Cloud HR software is only affordable for large enterprises. 

This is simply not the case. There is a new kind of global HR system offering the best of both worlds: powerful global capabilities without the heavy cost and complexity. And when you’re in the position of coming from no HR system at all, the first key benefits to be recognised are usually time and cost savings associated with the automation of many tasks.

When HR professionals are freed from manually updating spreadsheets, chasing up missing paperwork, or tediously compiling reports for the board, they can instead prioritise other progressive improvements, taking ownership of activities that have a wider, more strategic impact. 

They will have more time to prioritise talent, and to invest resources in recruiting, training and creating the conditions for success. 

As Josh Bersin puts it: “Truly effective HR organisations today are taking on a whole new identity. They are still doing the ‘hard things’ well (the transactional work), but they are using automation and streamlining these ‘must do’ activities so they can focus on design, culture, values, leadership, and productivity – the people-centric outcomes from addressing the ‘soft things’”.

One Response

  1. Having had good fortune of
    Having had good fortune of implanting global talent , HR management systems across 34 countries in Africa, Middle East & Asia I would add the need to ensure that local “custodians” in each country are fully consulted, collaborated with and trained to ensure personalisation at point of impact in all local countries and regions. Huge improvements in adoption of technology and mostly quality of data especially when adopting self service i.e. like LinkedIn approach to update personal data etc etc.

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Sue Lingard

Marketing Director

Read more from Sue Lingard

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