Why do I need to think global?

May 28, 2014


When selecting and implementing a HCM technology, we plan for everything. We have meetings to discuss current process and what is not working correctly. The one thing that we spend little time on during all these discussions is the overall shelf life of the system.

I see this a lot when it comes to the discussion of global systems. In the distant past, only very large corporations ever considered adding global components to their systems and even then the functionality was basic. As the 2000’s progressed, the mid-markets began to be more involved with global issues. Now it has extended to even small organizations of under 500 who can now have employees outside of their home location.

The economy is changing. Those industries which have historically been in one country alone are considering having offices off shore. The emergence of SaaS and cloud computing has also made global operations more cost effective for organizations. So, how does this impact you as a project leader?

When evaluating and implementing any new HCM software, you should always plan for the possibility of some operation being conducted outside of the home country. There are few industries which do not appear to be impacted by the possibility of working globally, but changes in governmental regulations could change your industry overnight. All industries should always plan that their technology will need to be used outside of their home base.

What exactly does this mean? For basics you need to make sure that the technology you are researching can handle the basics of global data. Can the system handle addresses with differing formats or postal codes? Can fields be renamed so they are not using the specific vernacular of one company and can they be customized to accommodate other country formats?

Here are some key items you need to consider:

  • Languages. Make sure that the technology will handle double-byte characters so the alphabet from China (Mandarin), Japan (Kanji) and Russia (Cyrillic) can be accommodated. Additionally, how easy is it to add a language conversion to the screen tags within the system. This may not be done as easily on some systems.
  • Decide on what will be the language of record (remember, not all English versions are alike). While you may have fields where double-byte characters are legally required, you will want to be able to pull data in one singular language. There is no wrong answer here, but you must decide on one.
  • Localized Data. Can data items be turned on and off based on the country of local? There are many countries where you may be required by law to track religion, while others outlaw the access of such data. The system should be smart enough to be legally compliant in each country.
  • Dual Currency. You will want to store salary information in local currency, but also in the corporate office format. This will require some sort of currency conversion. While most systems offer a conversion table, you will need to think through how the data will actually be converted and how often the rate will be changed.
  • Use of Color. When creating the look and feel of the system, there are some colors which can have negative connotations in specific areas of the world. You should know if any of the countries you are working with have any of these issues.
  • Keep Legal. Many HR professionals assume that the vendor will be keeping the product legal when they purchase a global system. While the vendor will give you the structure to keep everything legal, it is still your responsibility to make sure the system is running according to current law. Have a good resource in each country you work in so you can be current on changes in the laws and interpretations. You should also be aware of the punishment for violating the law in each country – some penalties can be severe.

There are many other issues you need to address when going global, and should you be confronted with this challenge, you may need to reach out for assistance or direction. Always plan for your technology to accommodate multiple cultures and languages. If you create the right foundation you will be less stressed and better prepared when you get the call that your company is going global.

Working within a global environment can be very rewarding. It will heighten your sensitivity to the differences in doing business in other areas of the world and how language and slang can create confusion. When properly prepared for, it will definitely be rewarding in the long term.