Study: Globalization, Work/Life Balance Among Key Issues for HR Worldwide

By Susan R. Heylman Feb 18, 2011

HR leaders worldwide consider increasing globalization and regulation of labor and employment issues to be among the most important HR issues of the coming decade, according to a global survey by the International Bar Association’s Global Employment Institute (GEI).

The report, Looking to the Key Human Resources Legal Issues of the Next Decade: The 10/20 Survey, was published Feb. 10, 2011.

GEI’s report closely mirrors one released Feb.14, 2011, by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM’s report cited continuing increases in U.S. health care costs as well as global and domestic economic and labor market conditions. It cited growing regulatory complexity and the aging workforce segment poised for retirement within the next five to 10 years.

GEI surveyed HR leaders in more than 200 multinational corporations in 22 countries and asked them to rank what they felt would be significant HR issues between 2010 and 2020. GEI received 119 responses.

Among the top international HR challenges were company operations, such as restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and outsourcing. Employee mobility, management of diversity, work/life balance and social network communications were high on the list, too.

“The prominence of work/life balance in the survey [it ranked second worldwide] may reflect the extent to which employers are increasingly taking responsibility for the psychological and physical well-being of their employees, whether through providing physical exercise in the workplace or access to life coaches,” said Mariann Norrbom, vice chair for knowledge management at GEI.

Managing employees from afar ranked high. So, too, did workforce diversity. Survey researchers attribute that to fewer people retiring and more women and immigrants entering the labor market.

“As the workforces of multinationals become more and more diverse, their HR policies have to increasingly reflect this plurality of employees. This is a difficult task, particularly when multinationals move to cultures with quite different values from their original countries,” GEI stated in a news release.

The Rankings

HR leaders were asked to rank 10 issues in order of importance:

Human resources issues in transnational company operations.

Work/life balance as a key factor in acquiring and retaining talent globally.

Managing mobile employees and those working remotely in other countries.

Nondiscrimination and management of diversity in a global company culture.

The use of the Internet and social networking communications in the workplace.

Transnational sources of regulation on human resources, including codes of conduct and International Framework Agreements.

Corporate social responsibility issues in a global market.

New financial regulations and their influence on managers’ compensation strategies.

Increasing regulation of labor and employment issues at the international level.

Unions and collective bargaining.

When ranked separately, the responses from HR decision-makers of multinational corporations headquartered in the United States placed the trend for globalization first but differed markedly on a few other issues. For example, they ranked collective bargaining fifth, rather than 10th, and they ranked work/life balance eighth, rather than second.

Susan R. Heylman is a freelance legal writer and editor based in the Washington, D.C., area.


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