Creating a Platform for Global Communication

How to build an HR platform that engages employees worldwide.

By Chris Keys Oct 1, 2015
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HR Magazine October 2015Web portals abound for just about every aspect of human resources—wellness, rewards, benefits, retirement, new hires, recruiting and more.

Each of these portals can be invaluable to HR as tools to help manage global communication. But for a portal to truly support HR initiatives around the world, it must provide a few essential elements that allow an organization to think globally while connecting locally:

Easy access. Establishing a single starting point for all things HR first involves making the portal site user-friendly and convenient. After encountering challenges for years with portal accessibility, some organizations have opted to make a large amount of HR content available on their public websites, thus avoiding password problems and other barriers. In these situations, organizations must weigh ease of access against the potential disclosure of competitive information.

In cases where platforms are hosted by external partners and providers, a single sign-on solution can streamline employees’ access to multiple applications. With the emergence of mature identity management solutions and federated authentication services, this is not difficult to do; an organization’s internal IT function can prompt users to provide their network credentials so that they can access a host of services.

Personalized experience. A global HR portal is most effective when the information presented is relevant to the individual based on employment status, geographic location, tenure (hire date, retirement eligibility date), program eligibility, plan participation, role within the organization and other factors. An end user accessing the portal could be greeted with news from his manager and targeted calls to action, for example, or he could be alerted about a change in policy by virtue of being a participant in a certain program.

Data access.​ It’s often tempting to collect and share data for every aspect of HR, but a boil-the-ocean approach will stall user engagement quickly. Rather, it is best to identify which particular information should be emphasized and ensure that it is readily available. For instance, a benefits-eligible employee in Texas may be focused on the balance of her health savings account, while a line coordinator in Dubai might be more interested in how much time off she has left. Neither individual really needs a virtual HR data warehouse.

One-stop shopping. Today, HR portals include a wealth of content, so searches should yield robust results and follow-up filter options akin to what one would expect from an Internet search engine. Search returns should not be based exclusively on the author’s ability to maintain “tags” but instead should be derived from actual text. Extending search capabilities across multiple online resources such as PDF files, Word documents and webpages can be done across both internal and external service providers.

Streamlined management. Some HR content applies to all employees, regardless of where in the world they are located. Consider compensation philosophy, high-level total rewards messaging, global mobility programs and leadership communication. Having a limited group of employees assigned to maintain content centrally and make it available in multiple languages helps mitigate the risk of producing error-prone variations during translation and dissemination.

On the other hand, regional content should be managed using in-region people and resources. It might be maintained in a few languages based on consumer need, with regional vs. global approvals required for publishing.

There is also the issue of who is responsible for governing the portal itself. Senior HR leaders should be charged with keeping true to the vision of the portal as an on-demand information resource and should proactively ensure that HR communication is aligned throughout the world.

Help at your fingertips. Often, employees need further clarification about HR information, programs and policies. An effective portal makes it easy to get help. This might involve making use of an online case management solution depending on the region of the world in which the user is associated, or directing the user to a local HR business partner. In either case, the servicing entity must be able to access tools that complement those provided by the portal.

One approach is to allow support personnel to see exactly what an employee is seeing, as well as to have access to supplemental information such as exception processes and instructions.

HR portals designed to provide a rich online experience can facilitate content creation processes that enable both global governance and local ownership. By selecting technology that delivers a great user experience and equips support personnel with the right tools, HR can create a sustainable communication platform that presents an integrated and personalized view of all things HR.

Chris Keys has 20 years of experience as an HR technology consultant in global shared services, cross-discipline process design and complex system deployments. He can be reached at

©2015. International Association for Human Resource Information Management. Used with permission.

Web Extras

SHRM article: Use Innovative Tech to Enhance Engagement with Global Staff
SHRM Foundation report: Engaging and Integrating a Global Workforce
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