While we’re all citizens of the proverbial global village, one thing remains clear: when it comes to business, like culture, America’s still pretty much the mayor. That much was apparent even on the taxi ride over to the HR Technology Europe Conference as we cruised through cobblestone streets to the sounds of Katy Perry. But as the center of the business world moves ever eastward, from New York to Mumbai and points beyond, HR remains, as a global entity, singularly stagnant, tied to the status quo (or, as it’s commonly called, “best practices”) of a country that, largely, gets HR wrong.
As Gartner’s Thomas Otter proffered in his opening keynote, the problem with HR is, simply, as long as the rest of the world continues to align itself, out of business necessity, with American norms, then we’re setting a fairly low benchmark for what the function can ultimately become. Our exports may be ubiquitous, but, like the music of Ms. Perry, it’s often a trade off of substance for status quo. I’m one of those Americans who lives in a fairly insular world, where SHRM is the be-all end all of professional organizations and for whom compliance with often draconian, arcane laws (think: OFCCP) acts, effectively as a deterrent for meaningful innovation.
But at HR Technology Europe, I was able, for the first time, to see the true effects of globalization on our function, and it further reinforced Otter’s point that, as much as we’d like to think of our workforces as being global entities, multinational organizations HR groups are a lot like McDonald’s: some slight regional variations lost in a sea of standardized sterility. Which is really too bad – because in HR, as it turns out, there’s a lot of new stuff going on in the Old World.
Semantics vs. Semiotics: In the United States, an inordinate amount of time and effort is placed on driving definitions for seemingly simple concepts like what exactly constitutes a candidate, or the difference between a talent network and a talent community. But even were we to come to a consensus (which will, likely, never happen), the end effect of this is that, ultimately, all this stuff will get lost in translation.
I’ve often derided the ubiquity of infographics and the increasing emphasis on the visual elements of communication and marketing as being omens of our decreasing attention spans and increasing collective idiocy. But when it comes to providing accessible, relevant information, companies wanting to operate in a truly global space need to focus less on the semantics of their messaging and more on the semiotics, what your brand (and by extension, your vision), symbolizes visually- ensuring continuity of communication, and relevance of content, throughout a global workforce. Because, as countless US consumer companies have proved, a strong brand transcends language barriers and international idioms.
I’ll explore the other key themes and takeaways from #HRTechEurope in coming posts – for more about top recruiting and HR trends and emerging technologies on the other side of the pond, check out: Progress Report: 2012 Recruiting & HR Technology Trends from the Talent Technology blog.