Setting Global Management Priorities in a Shifting Business World

Working globally in business today means more than travelling to an executive meeting in another country. It’s a broad-ranging pursuit that requires a deeper understanding of the contexts in which we work. International business trips not only foster exposure to other cultures and perspectives in your own dealings, but also assist in creating a more worldly approach to every level of a company. For leaders seeking a more global perspective, and wanting to develop global mindset in their teams, here are three ways to set global management priorities:

Look for quality over cost:

In my work with management teams of large international brands, I’m seeing a trend away from seeking labor that is most notable for its low cost. Companies now are more interested in the quality of the work. They’re looking for a more sophisticated ROI, which means skill level, language aptitude and time zone accessibility all rank higher on the list now, too. Cost, which was once the only question asked when looking to outsource or expand, has been pushed farther down. This trend has caused an increase in near-shoring, or companies looking to countries in their same (or closer to their same) time zone, for labor. It has also allowed high-skill workforce areas such as China and India to remain in the conversation, even as the cost of labor in those countries increases. Work ethic, cultural values and timeliness are now of greater importance to global managers than simply selecting the cheapest possible option.

Think beyond the BRIC countries:

In countries with a strong reputation for skilled labor and an ascending economy it’s now more competitive to recruit than it was when these countries were less developed. It’s also the case that BRIC countries come with their own set of challenges that foreign investors have a difficult time overcoming. Brazil’s government stronghold makes business dealings complex, China and the Chinese culture is still a mystery for many American and European firms, India’s infrastructure is difficult to navigate and the political relationship Russia has with other countries is mucking up potentially successful joint venture negotiations.

This isn’t to say BRIC countries aren’t still important markets for foreign business development, there is lots of opportunity.  But it does mean that BRIC countries are no longer as easy to penetrate as we once thought they were. Managers and companies who are looking for the next frontier of a strong labor market might look a bit farther off the traditional map: Indonesia, Chile and Ghana are all labor markets poised to take very well to outside investment. Just this week, a Chinese business group announced it is investing $2B into building an industrial park in the town of Shama on Ghana’s coast. In a few years, business investors will be looking at a whole new acronym for key international investment. Smart managers can take advantage of the upcoming shift by investing now in South East Asia, West Africa, South America and other burgeoning economies.

Renew your investment in management training:

With the rise of virtual workplaces, there was a shift away from formal management training. But company leaders have found that there has been a management and leadership deficit. In John Kotter’s recent blog, Management is (Still) Not Leadership, he points out that managers are less skilled today and individuals don’t necessarily know how and when to lead.  Today, companies are reprioritizing training teams to work more effectively, especially in virtual environments. Companies are now investing more time, money and importance in training global teams and managers are seeing the need to invest in programs so employees are well equipped to lead in global context.

The productivity and retention of employees, especially in a global team that doesn’t work in the same office, can be greatly increased by investing in training on how to effectively manage global projects and dispersed teams. Along with management training, performance management is becoming a critical issue as companies have more employees in more places. How companies assess and develop managers is becoming a critical point of investment and attention, as there is a focus on business growth and demonstrating ROI. This rapid growth makes training vital, both for internal employees moving up in the business and new employees coming in. Formal learning programs in both team and personal management skills will deliver a huge return on investment, especially in global company that is growing rapidly.

By focusing on these three management priorities, companies will set a globally-minded intention at the top and business will see efficient, more productive work from existing employees. In a growing business it’s better to make one smart, considered decision than to make two quick, wrong choices. That’s why I encourage managers to look beyond bottom line in outsourcing labor, to think beyond the common and increasingly popular BRIC countries, and to maintain a commitment to training employees in a continued, deliberate way.

Global Leadership – Skills Global Leaders Need

The McKinsey Quarterly sited a study where 76 percent of senior executives said they believe their organizations need to develop global-leadership capabilities, but only 7 percent think they are currently doing so very effectively. However those companies who are getting it right in terms of global leadership development and acting as true global players are coincidentally taking three key actions: 1)Diversifying their boards culturally and linguistically, 2)Hiring and promoting from other country locations into top leadership positions (not just from the home country where headquarters is located), and 3)Decentralizing procedures and processes to a variety of locations around the world. For example, Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant, housed their global IT system at the US subsidiary, not at headquarters in Germany. A seemingly radical move by most traditional expansion strategies.

Skills global leaders need to be successful:
  • Experience living abroad.
  • Cultural sensitivity, collaborative skills and a greater focus on emotional competencies.
  • The ability to accept that a particular situation my not be like anything they are familiar with.
  • The capacity to motivate, influence and enable individuals across cultures to uphold corporate culture and accomplish company goals.
How can leaders develop global skills?
  • Travel often and participate face-to-face in meetings with colleagues from the location.
  • Practice getting comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Be open to new ways of doing things, spend more time listening and less time speaking.
  • Commit to Global Leadership Development programs or participate in seminars.
  • Understand what’s going on-line and use all forms of technology to communicate with team members located globally.

Many say that we are at a leadership deficit in the business world and not only do we need existing leaders to improve their global skills, we need 1000s more truly developed leaders who can think, act and lead globally. Leadership is becoming more and more important in terms of motivating employees, facilitating new innovations, and driving projects forward. Are your leaders and is your organization prepared?

We’ll talk more in detail next month on how to assess and find the right global leaders.

For more information on how to work globally, contact us info@lamsonconsulting.com