"We are growing in Asia, Europe and Russia," says Joseph High, senior vice president of HR. "Recruiting in those places can be a real challenge."
To address the issue, he and his team are making a concerted effort to find out which employees are interested in working abroad. Also, the company has changed its policy to allow employees to take short-term as well as long-term assignments abroad.
"We are putting the word out that employees don’t have to commit for two years," High says. "In some places, we have specific projects that might only take a few months."
Offering shorter-term assignments allows employees to get a feel for what it would be like to live and work abroad, he says. "And then those employees come back and share their experiences with others."
The company also is stepping up its communications about opportunities abroad. One approach is its "Lunches With Leaders," at which employees are invited to hear the company’s country leaders talk about their businesses.
"Many employees are resistant to working abroad due to the fear factor," High says. The language barrier scares some people, he says. "They are afraid that if they get to China, they will say something wrong." The lunches help to address some of those concerns.
High also tries to address global issues in his monthly HR town hall meetings by inviting HR executives from different countries to speak.
A recent town hall meeting focused on the importance of succession planning. The company’s goal is to have two solid candidates for every key leader within the company.
And the challenges facing HR executives in attaining this goal are similar around the world, High says. To demonstrate that, he invited the HR leader from India to discuss the business challenges of developing talent within the country.
"This is a North American, Midwestern kind of company, so there is a lot of education that needs to take place," he says. "And people are really interested in hearing about others’ experiences in other countries."
Focusing on specific challenges that HR faces around the world helps HR managers to get a better sense of the global commonalities throughout the organization, High says.
"It provided everyone with examples of things that worked well and things that failed," he says. "Everyone could relate to the issues."
By highlighting their experiences, High hopes to show HR executives that no matter where in the world they are, the challenges aren’t that different.