OD, Strategic Management Top Global Members’ HR Priorities

By Kathy Gurchiek Jan 27, 2009

Organizational development and effectiveness is at the top of the HR priority list for global members of the Society for Human Resource Management, according to a recent SHRM survey.

It topped the list of five HR priorities that also included:

  • Strategic management.
  • Employee training and development.
  • Metrics and measurement.
  • Multinational HR operations.

The findings are based on 499 respondents to a survey SHRM conducted between May and June 2008 about the satisfaction and needs of its international members. Respondents were from Canada; India; 17 countries making up the Americas (other than United States and Canada); 11 countries in Asia; 20 countries in the European Union and the Gulf Coast Council (GCC) of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“It’s not surprising that organizational development and effectiveness is the most important topic for SHRM’s international members across the globe,” says Howard A. Wallack, GPHR, director of SHRM’s International Programs. “Certainly OD is a core business concern and HR competency, regardless of region or culture,” he added.

“What this says to me is that SHRM’s members worldwide are focusing their efforts squarely on improving performance, team effectiveness, communications and trust, and guiding change management efforts to achieve their organization’s bottom-line business goals,” he told SHRM Online in an e-mail.

“Combine that with their second-highest interest in strategic management, and it’s clear that SHRM’s international members are looking at how they can add the best value at the highest level while always keeping the bigger picture in sight.”

There also was agreement among global members as to what constituted their bottom five priorities, although one topic—multinational HR operations—showed up on both lists:

  • Offshoring/outsourcing.
  • Health, safety, security.
  • Business education.
  • Multinational HR operations.
  • Local benefits.

Given that about half of the respondents perform a good deal of global HR as a part of their job, and about half do not, “that would help explain why [multinational HR operations is] coming up in both [lists],” says Eric Whipkey, SHRM’s manager of market research.

“Multinational HR seems to be more important in some countries compared to others,” he added.

Wallack added that the survey revealed that81 percent of the respondents work for a non-U.S company, including 50 percent whose organization also has no U.S. office. That and the fact that global SHRM members spend 20 percent of their time (median) on global issues also explain why multinational operations show up on both lists.

As might be expected, the survey found differences among countries as to what HR topics generate the most interest. SHRM members in Canada and India, for example, are less interested in local and global benefits as priorities compared to other regions and countries.

Members in Europe and the GCC are more globally oriented and, except for Canada, members in the Americas value global benefits and metrics and measurement over business education.

About one-third of respondents were expatriates at the time of the survey, with most working in Canada, EU countries, east Asia and the Americas.

Most global SHRM members work for an organization with 1,000 or more employees (55 percent vs. 43 percent of domestic members). Slightly more global SHRM members also tend to come from larger HR departments—more than 25 people—but oversee about the same number of people, the survey found.

Approximately the same percentage (57 percent) of global and domestic members have studied HR in a university program; globally, more than one-fourth (28 percent) have a master’s or doctorate degree in HR. Close to half have a title of director or above (48 percent vs. 36 percent, respectively).

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kathy.gurchiek@shrm.org.

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