Tech Insights: The Challenges When HR Technology Goes Global

Most HR tech companies are born local, and if successful, gradually become global.

Going global with HR technology can be surprisingly challenging. I remember working with software in South East Asia many years ago and running into issues such as Thai names too long for the name field, and Indonesian benefits plans that had far more elements than the software designers had ever envisaged.

I was pleased to see some companies that were designed to be global from the ground up. The UK-based Fairsail has built its strategy on being a HRIS for mid-sized global companies — a neat niche and undoubtedly a big one as you no longer need to be a large company to be a global one.

Be worldly instead of global

Another vendor clearly identifying themselves with a global niche is the benefits solution Darwin, from Thomson’s Online Benefits. Having been exposed to the challenges of global HR, vendors who have built themselves as global from the ground up have a special appeal to me.

I think both software buyers and software designers ought to think global even if their short-term plans are strictly local.

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I cannot go on using the word “global” without pointing out that Henry Mintzberg argues persuasively that managers should be worldly rather than global.

Being “global” implies a flat earth where everything is the same, while “worldly” implies a knowledge and appreciation of the world as it is. I hope that global software is actually worldly software, helping each country do things that suit their needs rather than trying to force them into our own mold.

The solution is not to get Thai to change their names or Indonesians to adopt “sensible” benefit plans; it is to design software flexible enough to work around the world.

What is interesting?

  • The world has more diversity than many Americans expect, and even well-travelled people often are surprised by unexpected variations in practices.

What is really important?

  • If you are buying HR software with the hope that it can grow to be global with you; or if you are designing software, it pays to understand how things are different elsewhere since those differences can derail otherwise good products and can be hard to fix after the fact.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.



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