ANDRÉ DURIVAGE on the HUMAN ELEMENT of INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS

Dispensing expert HR advice from EPSI's President, the highly respected author André Durivage, Ph.D.

Q: We are expanding internationally, entering foreign markets and of course we know that it requires new marketing strategies, new resources and new capacities. This change means growth in terms of employees as well. We have HRM plans in place to hire locally within the new markets as well as at home, but our focus has been on the financial realities of expanding the company and not as much on human resource factors. Could you provide some insight in regard to what we should be looking at to be successful in our new ventures? 

Maria Rodriguez
Sacramento, CA

A: When entering into International markets your product and/or services have to be good, but your people behind those products and/or services have to be stellar. Let's be honest; businesses' are run by and with people for people. Whether it's individuals with buying power, or organizations with buying power, they are all looking for the best products and services for the best price and it's with outstanding human resources that you can bring that to them. That being said, this article can't touch on every aspect that needs to be addressed in order to leverage the best from your accomplished employees, so I'll focus on a few key points. 

First, if your company has expanded into a new country you probably need employees representing your organization in that country. I'm going to work under the assumption that you are sending current employees abroad in order to manage your office(s). When selecting this individual you know that it is high stakes, so you ensure that it is someone who has demonstrated exemplary management abilities, maybe even someone who has undergone some assessment such as management in-baskets; you know your employee is good at what they do.  But are they good at what they do when they are in a completely different cultural environment? Using appropriate assessments and training it's important to ensure that your prospective candidate be someone who not only has excellent management/professional capabilities but that they possess other personality factors such as; autonomy, openness, and adaptability.

In order to forge ties between your country offices you may be offering employees from your new markets the opportunity to work in your central offices. Again, similar parameters apply in choosing who is best for this exchange.  You want someone who is exceedingly capable in their position but who above and beyond that possesses the right competencies to adapt and function abroad in new environments. Another way to help facilitate the transition is to identify foreign employees who share core work values with your organization.  Congruent work values may make it easier for your new employee from abroad to integrate into your workplace while still bringing their own flair.

These first two steps are important in building your organization's presence and market.  However, once your business is booming (or in order to make it so) your sales, marketing, services and after-sale services need to be tailored to reflect the cultural nuances of the country in which they are operating. Well developed diversity training is an excellent way of ensuring that your employee's are more fully aware of the implication of their communication and business styles both internal to the organization as well as externally with clients and stakeholders. It can be hard to understand how the culture in which we are raised forms our interpersonal approaches and structures inherent biases. Once these issues are identified and individuals have a clearer understanding of what they can do to be more culturally sensitive and open-minded it becomes much easier to put into practise.

The human factors involved in International business are quite diverse and need to be addressed by various organizations in unique ways. That being said, the most important thing to remember is that the human resource factor is fundamental to success in foreign markets. I've raised a few key points above; however, I realize that I only grazed the surface of many topics. For more information on the human aspect of International business please do not hesitate to get in touch!

To submit a question to be answered by EPSI's president André Durivage, Ph.D., please send an email to info@epsi-inc.com with 'Question for the Doctor' clearly marked in the subject line.