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Hiring Beyond Borders: The New Normal

10.25.2011

Hiring has gone global. A recent survey predicts that over the next five years the number of senior executives working abroad will increase by more than 30 percent. In order to break onto the international stage, companies are finding that their top leaders must exhibit a broader globalized skill set, including an understanding of cultural and social norms outside their own domestic market. Here are three things we think help put global hiring in the context.

The Right Team makes a ‘World” of Difference
What was unusual when Sony selected Welsh-born Howard Stringer as their CEO and Chairman in 1998 is now commonplace. In the last few years, British brand Burberry hired US Midwesterner Angela Ahrendts as CEO, and in 2010, BP named Mississippi native Robert Dudley as the first American to run the energy giant. With the changing global landscape and recognition that their products and customers can’t be confined to national borders, companies are reaching far beyond their own geographic boundaries to attract the very best talent. Firms can’t limit their search to the talent available in their own backyard and expect to remain competitive. Companies need to be interested in the best person to do the job, not just their nationality.

Cutting a New Mold
Success as a global executive requires a different set of leadership skills than a local or even national position. Employees and peers in a foreign country will have a different context for the fundamentals of business and a talented executive should be able to understand their frame of reference, no matter his or her background. Multi-national team members will have different habits, motivations, and behavioural and social patterns, and nuances in language can easily change meaning. A strong candidate for a global position should be able to work across these country and cultural borders and will be able to navigate these complexities.

Think Big, Think Global
Global organizations must ensure that their internal processes support the cultivation of future leaders so that they are able to succeed in multifaceted international geographies. Companies like Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, and ABB have developed renowned global executive development programs to do just this, because they understand that global leadership is learned by doing global work. Employees should be hired from all corners of the globe at the junior levels of the organization and then trained up to oversee the kinds of multi-national teams described above. As many companies are moving toward similar executive training programs, it is reshaping how people think about their careers. According to a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, “The millennial generation (who by 2020 will make up the majority of international management roles) will view overseas assignments as a rite of passage, an outlook that will change the way workers and organisations approach overseas opportunities”. Clearly, perspectives are changing quickly, and companies are increasingly hiring from outside their own domestic markets to capitalize on this change. They understand that firms today cannot rely solely on their domestic market to survive.

 

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