Placing global talent around the world is a delicate balance between the company’s approach to staffing and the leader’s clear understanding of where he or she fits within the staffing philosophy. People move companies forward, not machines. A people centric approach coupled with a deep look at your staffing approaches will help you onto the path of creating not only effective global leaders, but leaders who, in and of themselves, are prepared to be inclusive no matter where in the world they are.
Global leaders must be able to handle complicated projects, problem solve, resolve disputes, coordinate and control to ensure the company’s global vision and strategies are clearly understood. In addition, they must build stakeholder relationships, transfer technology, innovate, relay information, establish relationships with licensees, vendors, operators, design and train, develop programs and protocols, all while being diverse and inclusive, in other words, they must improve conditions for the organization, in more ways than one.
Generally, there are three methods for outsourcing employees for global assignments. At times all three methods are frequently used by global organizations. The most commonly used depends on the company’s international staffing philosophy and the company’s top management leadership methodology based on their expansion needs.
I will describe the three: Parent-Country Nationals, (PCNs), Host Country Nationals, (HCNs), and Third Country Nationals, (TCNs); I will also provide some advantages and disadvantages of using them and will conclude with why it is crucial for today’s companies to look at all three when implementing a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Parent country nationals are citizens of the country in which the organization is headquartered and are usually referred to as expatriates. For example, an American manager representing an American company in Chile would be considered an expatriate or parent country national.
Organizations that rely on PCNs for major overseas positions are following an ethnocentric staffing approach. This staffing strategy tends to be utilized when overseas ventures have little autonomy, and when strategic decisions are made at headquarters. Companies use this approach in the early stages of globalization and when they are trying to establish a new business or install new products overseas where prior experience is critical.
Employing this approach means the parent company will attempt to achieve control over foreign operations by utilizing expatriates and technical staff to transfer its reporting and operational systems.
A few disadvantages of using only parent country nationals are that it can undermine productivity and encourage turnover due to limited promotion opportunities for host country nationals. Additionally, the company may experience issues related to communication, expectations and perception complications that often times surface about how to actually get things get done in their local areas. This approach demands that your leader be not only diverse, but inclusive in his/her working style so as to ensure that situations that can stall progress get addressed in respectful manners.
Host country nationals are employees from the host locations in which a global company is already operating. These individuals bring a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding customer needs, business practices, language and how to best manage host country employees.
An example of a host country national is a sales representative from France meeting with the parent company in California.
Organizations that use this type of staff on overseas assignments are following a polycentric approach; they consider each of its overseas ventures as a unique national entity that possesses autonomy in decision making. A firm who operates within this approach rarely will promote host country nationals to headquarters. So the organization decentralizes on a country-by-country basis; coordination between overseas ventures will be minimal, and the individual locations will be responsible for developing their own personnel policies and establishing their own operational guidelines.
A few advantages of using host country nationals is that the organization will employ more host country nationals, thus removing any expatriate problems, language barriers, and costly business mistakes. In addition, the company will reduce the cost of transferring employees and their families overseas.
Some disadvantages to this model is that language barriers and cultural differences between the host and headquarters’ personnel can create conflicting loyalties on the part of the host-country staff that eventually widens the gap between the two and creates barriers to smooth operations. in addition, the parent company must assure that employees in their host locations are abiding by the company’s leadership goals of attaining a diverse and inclusive work atmosphere. For example, in some cultures, especially emerging market locations the country’s population may not be as diverse as populations of more developed nations, hiring in those locations may be limited in terms of diversity, but that does not mean that inclusion should be taken for granted, as there may be many regional differences within the local population that can place barriers to inclusion. Because of that, organizations will need to work differently with leaders in those areas than with leaders of a parent country national or with leaders of a third country national.
Third country nationals are employees from a country other than where the organization’s headquarters or overseas operations are located. For example, an American employee who is working for a British organization in France is considered a third country national.
Organizations that use this type of assignee along with parent country and host country nationals are following a geocentric staffing approach. These companies attempt to send the right person to the right job anywhere in the world without concern for borders, national culture or geographic distance.
The advantages to this approach are that it allows the organization to develop a highly skilled set of global leaders. It also helps to ensure that the organization’s global vision and strategy are accepted in the different locations around the world.
Disadvantages of this approach include resistance from host country governments in terms of visa restrictions in an effort to preserve jobs for their own citizens. Also, this type of staffing is very expensive, because of the various issues related to relocating, training, developing and providing extra compensation packages to third country national employees and their families, especially for a large organization with a high number of international transfers each year.
Developing inclusion for third country nationals requires an almost hand-held approach to development. In this situation you are working with highly skilled and extremely well developed global leaders who already know a lot about culture, but may not be aware of how they may hold biases to diversity and inclusion.
These leaders have a lot already on their agenda. Sometimes they don’t take the time to slow down long enough to even see how their biases may be causing them and their organization complications.
Work with these leaders requires a more in-depth approach coupled with observation. Observing the leader in their surrounding and making adjustments and corrections in real time is better than sitting them down and talking to them about biases and diversity.
I once worked with a leader who was having trouble with his female boss, it was only after careful observations on my part and gently pointing out a few things to him, was he even ready to trust me enough to share his values on how he viewed women in the workforce. He told me he never gave it any thought. He was unaware of how his values and ways of growing up had deeply affected his attitude towards women and how those attitudes were holding him back.
This leader didn’t need to be told how to work effectively with men, he already felt confident in that area, employing the “good ole boy” air about his relationships with men, but when it came to women, his persona was completely different and he had no idea how to behave in their presence.
This leader didn’t need lessons on cross-cultural issues, he was already pretty savvy at that, what he needed was to become aware of how his upbringing was affecting his ideas about gender roles and how his attitude towards others who he perceived as being vastly different than what he perceived as being the norm was impacting his success. Building awareness and allowing this leader to experience his awareness in real-time while working on real work related issues, allowed him to experience what he called an “eye-opening” state of mind. He was amazed at how quickly he was able to make adjustments and keep them; he was able to transform himself into a more diverse leader who also became tolerant of others which in and of itself, lead to inclusivity not only in his department, but throughout his global network and while on his overseas assignments.
As today’s organizations evolve and develop their talent to be more diverse and inclusive, the more they seek to balance out gender inequalities, the more they will need to look at their global staffing approaches. By going back to that point, they will be able to define what diversity and inclusion, as well as what gender balancing means to them as an organization. In addition to developing their global talent, they will need to take into account the different roles their leaders are taking within the organization and look at the different approaches they’ll need to employ with each leader to help him or her become successful, diverse and inclusive global leaders.