Build a Winning Global Recruiting Strategy

Management visionary Peter Drucker opined in Innovation and Entrepreneurship that seeing the big picture isn’t enough; building a shared vision among organization stakeholders is necessary to stimulate new growth opportunities and achieve success.

When it comes to recruiting across borders, a global strategy and fostering a shared vision of success among organization stakeholders can help companies understand the talent they have and secure the new talent they need. Regardless of location, employers are discovering that appropriately skilled talent is a scarce resource, particularly when expanding global operations.

According to ManpowerGroup’s 2011 annual Talent Shortage Survey of 35,000 employers in 36 countries and territories, 34 percent of employers report difficulties filling positions due to lack of available talent. Compounding the talent challenge, individuals are more mobile and have choices of how, where and when they want to work. This makes it difficult for employers to find the right talent where and when they need it.

The war for talent is on, and to battle effectively, organizations need to optimize global recruiting processes and ensure they implement the right recruiting model to ensure hiring processes result in an effective, seamless talent acquisition function. This includes leveraging technology to deliver a consistent brand and candidate experience across all areas of operation and having access to local resources that understand the market and available talent.

As operations expand, a successful recruiting strategy should include fixed and flexible elements such as a global marketing and attraction strategy coupled with other shared services such as a centralized technology solution and consistent employment brand. All candidate management and processes, however, need to be managed locally, including candidate sourcing, resume screening and compliance.

Organizations should decide which model best meets their business needs, goals and desired outcomes. Options range from hub and spoke, hub, shared service and locally driven models. For example, an outsourced model that includes a hub and spoke approach may lead to more flexibility in terms of resources or agility to respond to changing demands in a particular region.

While talent managers are responsible for understanding the organization’s strengths and needs internally for effective workforce planning, they also need to keep their fingers on the pulse of external elements and engineer customized solutions responsive to the market. When designing an effective global recruiting strategy, talent managers need to place greater focus on long-term talent attraction and retention strategies. There is benefit to broadening thinking around sourcing, especially as many organizations are operating with limited resources and other restrictions.

Further, global program success requires a long-term business strategy, not just a tactical approach. This entails transitioning from a reactive approach to filling positions to a proactive approach that reorganizes and develops talent to meet business requirements.

Think Local, Act Global
In a world short on resources, companies must understand the full complement of talent within the organization and how to optimize the global talent pool. Organizations can’t have local labor knowledge for all of the markets they want to enter, and talent may be in a different region than where it is needed.

Further, some regions are facing a wider talent gap, and emerging economies and advanced markets are in different stages of development, recovery and growth. For example, China remains a challenging business environment, in part due to a talent shortage. According to the March 2011 “A Thriving Business Environment” survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai of U.S.-owned enterprises there, recruiting and retaining talent is the No. 1 business challenge, and human resource constraints were the top operational challenge.

Organizations need to be flexible to respond to business changes; volume and hiring needs across regions will differ. Aligning talent strategy globally can increase an organization’s ability to understand global labor markets, conduct effective talent reviews and succession planning and be cost efficient. However, for a long-term recruiting program to be successful, it is critical to build the appropriate foundation and secure support from global leadership. A shared understanding of program objectives, scope and goals also is critical.

When implementing any global workforce talent strategy, determining the best balance between local and global recruitment approaches can be challenging. Organizations should first evaluate the tasks to be accomplished, and then look at the best place to deliver those tasks. Priorities tend to be ranked based on cost and competence. The best balance will be determined by individual solutions based on near- and long-term strategy paired with capabilities. The challenge is getting independent resources to work in concert.

For example, companies with a strong local presence may benefit from keeping recruiting localized. In Mexico, business is often conducted as a result of personal relationships. Candidates are often brought into an organization by a recruiter with whom they already have a connection. In China, recruiters need to have intimate familiarity with the business, values of the employer, the position and recruiting challenges, such as finding talent for an organization in a rural or low-populated area. Local recruiters have an established local network, are familiar with cultural nuances and have experience with local laws and compliance requirements.

There are opportunities for standardization across the entire organization, but the challenge is gaining transparency across all operations. Organizations with a single, globally deployed system can provide the HR or management team with a holistic view of the workforce.

Striking the Right Balance
Achieving a fixed and flexible model that meets local requirements and supports a global strategy is an ideal end state. Elements such as brand standard, definitions and reporting will be the same across all locations. A global applicant tracking system also will be a fixed component to increase transparency and ensure the organization has access to valuable business intelligence. Other elements can be more flexible, such as the candidate recruiting environment or how open positions are advertised.

As organizations expand, mastering the nuances of recruiting locally can be challenging. In some cases local hiring managers may be hesitant to embrace new recruiting processes due to fear of losing control. However, moving from decentralized talent acquisition functions run by geographic regions to more centralized talent acquisition with global standards and reporting is a long-term strategic choice. However it’s managed, successful global recruiting programs have four elements in common to ensure alignment with business requirements.

Get shared alignment: Fostering consensus and getting shared alignment on common goals is a critical first step in designing a global recruiting strategy. Key stakeholders who understand what the organization is trying to accomplish, the resources required and the expectations can better enable the strategic vision and ensure it produces desired results. Communication is key, so develop a shared lexicon and understanding of different program elements such as the appropriate resource requirements and process milestones. Organizations should foster consensus among global teams to avoid local hiring managers concerned about losing control of their respective domains withholding support for the new recruiting process.

Certain terms may not mean the same thing to people in different parts of the world. For example, recruitment process outsourcing might mean an end-to-end solution to some individuals and selective outsourcing of specific recruiting elements such as background screening or sourcing for specific hard-to-fill positions for others. Having executive sponsorship and getting input from all stakeholders can ensure talent strategy aligns with business needs.

Design a framework: Thinking globally and acting locally can provide a project framework to meet the organization’s needs for standardization and flexibility around brand standards, technology and compliance.

Allow for local requirements. For example, space used for interviews can vary in some cultures. Other cultures involve the whole family in the interview and recruiting process — not just the candidate. In parts of Mexico and Africa, Internet access can be limited. Processes need to accommodate these limitations. For example, establish kiosks that enable candidates to apply for open positions electronically or accept paper applications.

Recruiting knowledge and requirements also mature differently around the world. Talent managers in emerging markets may not have access to the same recruiting best practices and information available in the U.S.

Also, consider local system requirements for data privacy and data sharing for technology-based applicant tracking. A trusted adviser can support program development that fits varying geographical requirements.

Deploy in phases: Successful deployment of a global recruitment strategy requires careful attention and execution. Deployment is best done in measured phases. A kickoff meeting before deployment can reinforce shared understanding of scope, rules and processes. This keeps everyone current on where things stand, where they are headed and when changes will occur.

Rather than fully deploying at once, a piloted approach and monitoring the process can help ensure successful rollout across regions. As each location goes live, monitor solutions closely, allow for a learning curve and prepare to make adjustments.

Commit to continuous improvements: Every global recruiting project, no matter how carefully planned, will require some adjustment. For example, an organization may opt to use internal recruiting staff to fill a particular role, but find that it needs to secure talent more rapidly than internal resources can manage. Or, business needs may necessitate the organization partner with an outsource provider to access additional capabilities. Talent managers need to check the internal temperature and scan for opportunities to improve or redefine processes.

After the global recruiting strategy has been rolled out, the project team likely will be redirected to other roles. However, the program still requires nurturing and support. Formal communication of project milestones can prevent the program from getting stale or failing to deliver on business requirements. During the refinement phase, take advantage of teachable moments by looking at how well the project was executed against original objectives to provide intelligence and insight for future initiatives.

Finding the Right Talent
Achieving global recruiting success depends on the right balance between local and global processes and creating alignment of key stakeholders on the programs’ business goals and objectives. It also requires standardized processes, compliance support and committed resources to meet goals.

Human potential will remain every organization’s key competitive differentiator, yet finding the right talent will continue to be a challenge. By developing and executing the right global workforce strategy, organizations can secure the people they need to win the war for talent.

Kathleen M. Donovan is the managing director of ManpowerGroup Solutions, a part of ManpowerGroup. She can be reached at