The Key Employee Training & Development Issues Facing Globalising Organisations


When an organisation faces challenges of globalising their business many Training and Development issues come to the fore.  These can be both strategic and tactical.  Jeremy Francis highlights the key issues and the solutions global players are using to address them.

Whether of their own choosing, or driven by their customer base, competitors or market forces generally, the number of organisations globalising their business is on the increase.

In this globalising process they understandably focus on the key issues of:

  • Communicating their global vision and objectives
  • Defining their global growth strategy
  • The size and location of their global presence.
  • The structure of their global organisation
  • The use of regional centres of excellence
  • The standardisation of their product/service offerings to achieve cost effectiveness
  • The need for global branding
  • The need for a common, global IT platform to improve efficiency
  • The deployment of common automation processes
  • The digitalisation of their business
  • The introduction of common protocols, policies and procedures
  • The building of a global culture and values across the business
  • The need to attract, develop and retain the required talent

In their concern to address these key issues important training and development (T&D) challenges emerge.

So what are these key T & D challenges and what are best in class organisations doing to overcome them?  They fall into two categories – strategic and tactical.  Over 35 years I have been working with global organisations I have identified five best practices in each category.

Strategic T&D Issues

  1. Common Job Titles and Descriptions

It is an obvious statement to make but when organisations go global they need to introduce a consistent use of job titles and  job descriptions into the business.  This is particularly important in order to ensure a common understanding of job requirements throughout the organisation no matter where the job holders are located.

Best in class organisations understand that this first step is vital if training and development needs and pathways are to be correctly identified in the new global operation.

  1. Common Performance Management/Talent Development System

Training and development plans, and accompanying resources, exist to support the improvement and development of individuals in their current and future jobs.  It is therefore essential to design and create the most effective Performance Management and Talent Development System which will operate globally.

Best in class global operators incorporate at least three different measures of future and current success:

  • Attainment of personal objectives (linked to corporate objectives).
  • Observed behaviours using a job specific, global competency framework.
  • Evidence of commitment to the global corporate culture and values.

They ensure that all three criteria are addressed by managers  and clearly communicated to all staff to ensure the effective use of Performance Management and Talent Development Systems by managers and their staff alike.

  1. Core Training and Development Programme and Learning and Development


Global organisations recognise the need for core training and development programmes which are mandated and which are used to:

  • Imbed new protocols, policies and procedures (eg for project management)
  • Bring about culture change (eg leadership and change management programmes)
  • Equip people with essential knowledge and skills (eg to use new IT systems, automated processes and digital communications)
  • Encourage team working and  cross cultural understanding (eg cross regional/multi-functional team building workshops)
  • Impart essential product/service knowledge (eg for new product launches)

They recognise the need to provide a wide variety of learning and development resources and to measure and monitor employees’ use of these programmes and also their level of achievement.  They do this using a Global Learning Management System to capture essential data and if necessary (eg in a highly regulated industry) create an audit trail.

  1. Total Capability Management

The need for transparency of the whole picture as it relates to individuals’ capabilities and the current/future needs of the organisation becomes even greater in global organisations as they seek to deploy people in the most effective and cost efficient way, and to retain their global talent.

The best practitioners are still working to achieve this even though powerful Total Capability Management Systems exist which can be quickly deployed, with links to other HR related systems, to give both a global and granular view of key data relating to:

  • Current Job Vacancies
  • Fit of current employees to job vacancies
  • External Recruitment needs
  • Training and Development Management – different career pathways,current knowledge/skill levels of employees,progress on personal development plans, use of Learning & Development resources, employee profiles including readiness for promotion etc.
  • Fit of the organisation’s human capital to future needs of the organisation
  • Employee Performance Management.
  • Employee Talent Development
  • Succession Planning for Senior Management Roles
  • Compliance and Regulation Levels achieved by employees
  • Manager and Staff development costs

The message is clear.  In a global organisation it is imperative to achieve a complete picture of the people you have, the people you need, where you have them/want them and how you need to develop them to deploy them for optimum impact in the global operation.  Only customisable software will deliver this.

  1. Global/Local Human Resource Development (HRD) Balance

In global organisations there needs to be strong direction from the centre on policy, and local flexibility in delivery when it comes to training and development.

The best in class global organisations have created centralised, global HRD functions to obtain the full picture, create and implement global training and development policies and programmes, and to act as internal consultants/facilitators to local HRD Managers and HR Business Partners.

The local HRD representatives are usually country/region specific or line of business specific.  Either can work depending on the shape and size of the organisation and its geographical coverage.  The role of the local HRD professional (which may be a whole job or part of a job) is to ensure adherence to corporate HRD policies and procedures and attendance on core programmes.  It is also to work with local, approved suppliers in the flexible provision of locally orientated training programmes and resources, whose content and style fit the needs of the local business and also support global culture, values, and protocols.

Many global organisations have decided to work with  global providers of training in specific topics whenever they can,using these providers’ local trainers/consultants in different countries to achieve this balance.

Tactical T&D Issues

If the strategic issues are mostly to do with creating a global HRD infrastructure together with the policies, protocols, resources, and processes to optimise its use for long term benefits then tactical issues are much more to do with shorter term, but ongoing, drivers of change within the business.

Tactical T&D issues are therefore very much issues driven.  I have identified five different challenges for globalising organisations at the tactical T&D level.  I shall look at each in turn.

  1. Issues Driven

Drivers of change for global or globalising organisations are not different to those confronting other organisations.  External drivers include the economic environment, political/legislative changes, technology advancements and social/cultural differences.  Organisations respond to these by revisiting their vision, changing their objectives, adopting new strategies, and introducing new structures and systems.  They also review their human resource needs.

The requirement for the HRD professional is to stay close to the business and to predict, and preferably to contribute to the response to external and internal drivers of change.

In best practice global organisations the HR Director is seen as being a strategic contributor to the  shaping of the business and not just an implementer of the CEO’s and Board’s plans (which probably have not taken into account significant HR issues).  In those organisations those responsible for T&D at the tactical level will be better informed of imminent changes impacting their T&D plans and will be better placed to create the best response in the time-frames required.

  1. Learner Centric

A global organisation magnifies the need to be learner empathetic and learner centric in any tactical T&D response.  Not only do human beings have different learning styles as individuals but different cultures also have preferred learning styles.  These need to be taken into account when formulating a T&D solution as does the job role of the employee.

The best organisations focus on becoming increasingly learner centric by careful assessment of previous T&D activities and their impact on those undertaking them.  They seek to measure not only levels of knowledge and skill but also the confidence of the individual to use that knowledge/skill.  Using an LMS they track country/regional or functional differences  and use the data to incorporate the best learning and development methodologies in a given

T&D solution.  They truly seek to grow a learning organisation and go out of their way not to create a “one size fits all” short term response to individuals’ needs.

  1. Consistent, Blended and Cost Effective

More than in any other type of organisation there is a need in the global organisation for consistent, blended and cost effective T&Dsolutions.

A solution might be delivered using instructor led training, coaching (face-to-face, telephone, e-coaching), e-learning, m-learning (using mobile telephones), and online learning and development resources, or a combination of all of them, to create the best blended solution but in the global organisation it must be consistent with core messages and global practices.  Above all it must be cost effective, deploying technologies to the fullest extent (eg virtual classrooms/virtual learning environments/ webinars).

There should be a “clearing house” of local, tactical T&D responses to prevent reinventing the solution and to share successes/best practices.

A central hub or portal, managed centrally, should be used to gather T&D challenges and solutions from around the world, and to formulate more core, global solutions thus decreasing the need for more locally based responses.

Communities of best practice sharing should be set up on the organisation’s intranet to promote action learning groups and to encourage self-development.  These communities need to be led and managed, preferably by the centre, to ensure that ideas generated are in line with the corporate direction, goals and values.

The best practitioners see the advantages of leveraging knowledge on the back of T&D initiatives and set up the infrastructure and processes to capture and share knowledge as part of every T&D activity.

  1. Speed of Deployment

Operating in a highly competitive market-place, in many locations, and across different time zones, the global organisation needs to deploy tactical T&D solutions as quickly as possible.

For example a new product launch, requiring the use of a new technology may have been devised by a business unit in one country and the training and development solutions for that country might be clear.  If however the T&D issues for other countries/regions have not been thought through, and the appropriate T&D solution devised for them, then the seamless, global customer interface will break down and the new product launch potentially could be delayed or flop.

The key message when it comes to tactical T&D deployment in a global organisation is that it needs to be fast, consistent and effective.  This means that any locally devised initiative should be cleared centrally to ensure that issues regarding global implementation have been satisfactorily addressed, and that the success of the roll out is assured.

Local HR Business Partners and Central HRD Staff need to work together closely to ensure that this happens.

  1. Monitorable, Measurable and Integrated

Global businesses succeed because they achieve the right balance of standardised, centrally driven solutions and customised, locally driven solutions.  This is particularly true in the area of Training and Development.

In order to assess whether this balance is being achieved the best global organisations use a common Capability Management System linked to other platforms to enable them to monitor and measure the effectiveness of local, tactical T&D initiatives as well as core, centrally driven activities.

A Global Capability Management System can do this in part but inclusions of data from external sources (eg customer feedback surveys, supplier feedback, benchmarking of results to best in class global organisations etc) can be very valuable in the ongoing improvement of the Training and Development process within the organisation.

The best organisations seek to include this external perspective to obtain a truly integrated picture of their success in the area of Training and Development, be it strategic or tactical.


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