Thinking Local While Going Global


Most major businesses make deliberate international expansion an imperative. Indeed, Development Dimensions International (DDI) found that 69 percent of organizations plan to add offices or facilities outside their home country. But one of the challenges businesses face when expanding overseas is figuring out when and how to incorporate both global and local perspectives into program design and implementation as they grow their talent base globally. The question for leaders is: Which form of talent management programs – local or corporate – produces optimum effectiveness?

According to DDI’s research, the types of program that work best when corporate influence is heavier are senior-level leadership development, leadership selection and promotion, and performance management programs. With these programs, it is most effective to stick with a uniform set of talent practices. Though these programs can benefit from being slightly modified to fit the regional context, set standards should be used to define expectations for performance, selection and promotion.

Mid-level and front-line leadership development and succession-management programs are the types that benefit from a fairly equal blend of corporate and local influence. For mid-level and front-line leaders, failing to consider local perspectives means ignoring or undervaluing cultural differences in learning styles as well as local realities that effect on-the-ground operations. Succession management also benefits from blended corporate and local leadership. For these programs, carefully managed inconsistency is beneficial and essential.

Finally, DDI concluded that no type of leadership-focused program is most effective when controlled locally. This does not mean that local influence is irrelevant, but that corporate support is necessary when recruiting and developing talent.

The preferred approach to global program implementation is: Around 45 percent of resources should be spent driving a common framework and set of target behaviors for leaders that accommodate geographical and cultural differences, and 55 percent should be spent driving a common framework and set of target behaviors for leaders across the organization globally. Leaders in globalizing companies are advised to agree on and communicate the scope of autonomy for local decision-making, and conduct regular audits to confirm alignment. They should be cautious when scaling back central influence on programs involving selection, promotion and performance-management decisions, as these programs lose effectiveness without a common and globally agreed-upon leader-success profile.

Finally, while the quality of talent initiatives is critical, it is essential to consider scalability, technology, cultural adaptation and development plans as companies plan for their global rollout.