6 Best Practices on Global Talent Development

June 22, 2012 2:07 pm

6 Best Practices for Global Talent DevelopmentIf you want to be a top executive, how important is it to have global assignments under your belt? How do companies ensure that employees and their families traveling abroad are culturally competent? How do you maximize the experience for the executive and the employees in that country?

At our spring event, DiversityInc convened a panel of executives from global companies who grapple with these issues and devise successful business solutions. Here are their best practices.


Nancy Calderon, Americas Region Chief Administrative Officer and U.S. National Partner in Charge of Operations, KPMG, No. 22 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity

Linda Clement-Holmes, Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President of Global Business Services, Procter & Gamble, No. 5 in the DiversityInc Top 50

Pat Rossman, Chief Diversity Officer, BASF, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies

Sarah King, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Wyndham Vacation Ownership. Wyndham Worldwide is one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies

Moderator: Barbara Frankel, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor, DiversityInc

BEST PRACTICE NO. 1: Align global talent management with corporate business goals

Linda Clement-Holmes: Once a year, the board of directors and top five corporate leaders, including Chairman and CEO Bob McDonald, review top talent globally. They follow up with quarterly reviews and assess opportunities whenever a top position opens up. Slates are reviewed, and the diversity of the slates is assessed. Also tracked is information about people’s ability and willingness to relocate. On a monthly basis, each of the regional leaders does a similar set of reviews.

There’s no shortage of people aspiring to global assignments, especially the hot growth markets like India, China and Africa.

Sarah King: Avoid mismatch with the person and the country they’re going to. “We have a competency around adaptability and change leadership that helps us understand the people who are strong enough to go into a different environment and be flexible so it’s maybe not that shock-and-horror thing when they’re going into a place for the first time.”

Nancy Calderon: High-potential employees get exposure working with clients, including global transfers. Partners are asked to set up new business in new countries to make sure new products and audits are delivered at the same quality level. KPMG has a three-year-old intern program with 25 percent of interns spending a month overseas. “It’s been a lovely way to introduce international travel to young people.”

BEST PRACTICE NO. 2: Stay true to global values, especially on human rights, while respecting local cultures

Calderon: KPMG has a web-based program in which employees create a profile, including religion, gender, etc. If, for example, an LGBT person wanted to go to a country where they would be forced to be closeted, the company would have a discussion with leadership to see if this could work. “We don’t ever make the decision for them but we provide a lot of information and insights so they feel they are making the appropriate decision. I would say: ‘I don’t think it would make sense for you to change your whole life and go back into the closet. I don’t see how that will work out as a positive experience.'”

Clement-Holmes: In Saudi Arabia, P&G is growing local talent, including women. They recently hired the first woman in the sales organization there. “We have company principles and values that are consistent around the world in all locations, and one of those things is that it is inclusive—we’re respectful of every individual, but we also respect local laws as well.”

In Pakistan, where culturally and environmentally the families (and particularly the mothers-in-law) are strong forces, P&G created an ambassador program. “We brought in-laws into the office. So now what happens is the women go home and are told: ‘You need to go back to work because that’s a great place for you to be.'”

King: “It’s about education and understanding the market that you’re going into.” Wyndham has a wide range of diversity-training programs that address global cultural competence at a local level.

Pat Rossman: “We’re all looking to create a safe area within the walls of our companies. We’re trying to establish those safe environments within the four walls and then keep moving the four walls out.”

BEST PRACTICE NO. 3: Convince talented managers about the benefits of global assignments

Rossman: “As we look to be a company that’s moving to be even more entrepreneurial and more customer-connected, the ability to not read it in the book but to experience different cultures is increasingly important at BASF. We are working to find that sweet spot of identifying people earlier in their careers when they may not be as encumbered by some of the family and dual-career issues that still rear their heads and yet not be so early in their career that it’s not a meaningful role.”

King: Managers get more exposure to senior leaders through global assignments. Wyndham has three business units: the hotel division, the exchange and rental business, and the vacation ownership. “I don’t see how you can help grow the organization into some of the new markets, particularly in Asia, without having some level of appreciation for what the local markets are like.”

Clement-Holmes: P&G is in 80 markets in 145 countries, and more than half its business is outside the United States. Of the top 45 leaders in the company, most have had assignments outside of their home countries. “Our global experience is on a continuum where one end is being an expat in another country. The next one is global assignments where people can be wherever they are and have global roles.

“Other ways to get that experience include extended business travel—assignments of six months or less or three months or less&amp—and it gives them that cultural immersion without picking up your entire household and moving it lock, stock and barrel.”

Calderon: Those who want to become partners sooner need to work on the biggest accounts, which necessitate being on the road a lot. KPMG has a program called the C-25. The chairman of each of three regions—Americas, EMEA (Europe and Mideast) and Asia Pacific&amp—selects 25 partners to be in this leadership-development program for two years, including two weeks with the entire group of 75 people. “We’re developing the relationships that we want with our fellow partners around the world.”

BEST PRACTICE NO. 4: Global cultural-competence training and education

Clement-Holmes: P&G holds cultural orientation for families, talking about different cultures and how people interact. “The person working and the children have the easiest time. The person who has the absolute hardest time is the person at home.” P&G also gives people what they call the “look-see visit.” Before they commit, they have the opportunity to go over with their families and look at the environment. “They talk to employees and do things like have a real-estate agent take them around to see different kinds of housing situations, visit schools, all those kind of things so they understand what it’s like to live there. From an African-American community standpoint, we talk and share what it’s like for our own families.”

Rossman: “One of the things that is an impediment to moving people is the pressure of dual-career couples. Are there things we can do better to support the whole family? BASF is helping partners/spouses with schooling so they continue to feel they are moving forward while away.”

Calderon: KPMG tries to have a host family responsible to help the spouse or the partner sitting at home.

BEST PRACTICE NO. 5: Helping ex-pats readjust at home

Calderon: “Assimilating back in takes a lot of effort. We do interviews a year and a half or two years out to make sure they are coming back.”

Clement-Holmes: As part of succession planning, P&G plans for where people are going to be on their way back. There’s always a path either home or to the next assignment. People migrate from assignments every three to five years.

Calderon: KPMG has a talent summit for people who are overseas and coming back. Local and regional leaders attend so there is maximum opportunity for visibility.

BEST PRACTICE NO. 6: Use resource groups

Clement-Holmes: Have a resource group that is multicultural and multinational. “People who come from other countries get together because they have a shared experience of not always understanding the U.S. historical perspective.”

–Barbara Frankel