Today, multinational companies are expanding operations - both manufacturing and support services - to different locations around the globe. Firms typically have one overarching corporate culture which includes its mission, vision, values and strategy. As the firm expands to new locations around the world, it is more difficult to ensure this central tendency. Each location will be influenced by the corporate managers' ideas about how things should be done as well as the shared history, experiences, circumstances, communication preferences, and working styles of the location's local managers and employees.
As a result, global human resource managers are key players in setting up operations in new locations. Global human resource managers must implement brand new human resource programs to meet the needs of new locations. This includes designing everything from how the work ethic is going to be managed, to what benefits people need and how people should be compensated. They must also take into account different sets of labour laws, cultural norms and ethical standards.
John Drake, past VP Human Resources and Consumers Energy suggests that understanding foreign cultures is the most important thing that an international human resource manager can do. By having a good understanding of the culture, they can ensure that the programs he or she implements meet the needs of the organization as well the needs of the people that are going to be working for the organization¹.
Ultimately, the overall success of an organization's global business strategy is often inherently linked to the effectiveness of the firm's international human resource management function. For multinational companies, this reflects the challenges that are brought forward by variations in company culture as a result of location.
Further, since direct control or observation of the overseas staff is not always possible, an organization needs to hire and retain the best talent to make the strategy work. When sending corporate managers internationally, Drake stresses that finding the right person for the job isn't just about skills; it is also about finding people with the desire to go. Otherwise, he says, expatriates with bad attitudes will not be succesful, no matter what their skill set is¹.