Building a Global HR Team

By Nancy M. Davis Jun 29, 2010

SAN DIEGO—“When I grew to a position where I didn’t have to do all the work myself, I began to hire people as part of a team,” reflected Manjushree M. Badlani, SPHR. The chief HR and administrative officer of Jhpiego led SHRM Annual Conference attendees here through a June 28, 2010 session titled “Building a Global HR Dream Team,” where participants discussed the building blocks of such an exercise: knowledge of common business models for global HR operations, and the essential capabilities and attributes of HR professionals.

Badlani works for a nonprofit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. As she grew her team she admitted that she made one “big mistake.” One of her first hires was a person with solid knowledge of compensation—and few “people” skills. So Badlani learned the hard way, advising her peers: “Don’t forget the soft skills.”

Attendees reviewed four typical organizational models for global HR. They are operations where:

  • HR is centralized. HR professionals at headquarters provide HR strategy, policy and services worldwide. If you are in Ghana and want to hire someone, an HR professional at headquarters hires the person, even if the candidate remains in-country.
  • HR is decentralized. Strategy, policy and transactions occur in-country. Many large for-profit multinationals operate this way, Badlani said.
  • HR is regional. For instance, the Africa regional HR office would create policies and conduct transactions for that continent.
  • HR functions are divided between headquarters and country offices. This is a typical model for organizations that are growing, she said.

Badlani noted that there are many other models but that “these seem to be the most common.”

In addressing HR competencies, Badlani referenced SHRM’s Human Resource Competency Study. Its authors label and identify the following types of skill sets:

  • Credible activists, who are respected and admired and who take positions.
  • Culture and change stewards, who help employees understand processes and dynamics and become stewards of change.
  • Talent managers and organization designers, who develop teams, identify top performers and build talent.
  • Strategy architects, who link HR practices to business strategies.
  • Operational executors, who manage daily activities.
  • Business allies, who bring in best practices.

This doesn’t mean each person on the team has one of these qualities. “Every day you have one of these hats on,” she said. “In any role, you need these competencies.”

Badlani referenced a list of 65 common personal attributes ranging from “action-oriented” and “able to connect to people” to “innovative” and “inclusive.”

Of those, she cited “humility” as important for global HR professionals. “When you are working across cultures and you display humility,” Badlani said, “you put yourself in a learner’s position so you can understand the context of the culture when you are making transactions.”

Being a good listener, customer-focused and agile; having a sense of humor; and being unflappable also rated high on her list. Members of the audience contributed the following traits: passion, the ability to influence without authority and the ability to handle chaos.

Nancy M. Davis is editor of HR Magazine.


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