During the past decade, a catchy paradigm or slogan, "Think globally, act locally," has often been used to capture the concept of a progressive change in a global corporation that considers the whole world as its market but at the same time carefully evaluates and adapts to local priorities and requirements. However, for many firms, implementing this concept or vision has turned out to be a long and difficult process, causing not only unexpected and unintended side-effects causing many to cease competing effectively. To take an example, suppose a situation where an employee based from Bangalore is negotiating for an alteration in his compensation package due to change in rental prices in his locality from an HR head based from the organization’s headquarters in Seattle. The challenges apart from the usual semantic one’s. to manage such an organization with offices or departments spread throughout the globe, would be tough if not impossible. Why is this idea so difficult to implement when theoretically it’s logic is so apparent? In a global firm that used this popular slogan on the first page of its annual report, one local HR manager commented on its application in practice: "Our firm is organized on a simple premise. When operating under stress, and that is most of the time, they do the thinking, and we do the acting." In other words, the global thinking and local acting became two separate roles. The headquarters launches the global initiatives, which the subsidiaries are simply asked to implement within local constraints. What drives this dichotomy is the misguided view of what does it mean to be “global”. In their passion to promote global mind-set, academics and others writing from a normative perspective sometimes tend to see global or cosmopolitan as superior to local, calling for a "universal way that transcends the particulars of places." What is "local" is seen as parochial and narrow-minded. A truly global mind-set requires an approach that may be seen as the opposite to such one-dimensional universalism - it calls for a dualistic perspective, an immersion in local particulars, while at the same time retaining a wider, cross-border perspective. It requires an emphasis on local learning for the benefit of the whole organization.
From this perspective, global capability is as much about learning the needed skills as it is about implementing them in work situations. For a company to be truly global implies openness to learn from the experience of others and to understand and appreciate how others (local employees, customers, even competitors) may think i.e.be understanding of alternative views. In particular, the specific needs of local customers have to be carefully assessed-hence the requirement to be able to learn and understand the local context through local workforce. At the same time, there is no competitive advantage in being an "average" local firm, and the ability to satisfy those needs with a superior value proposition is dependent on the global mobilization of corporate resources, be it leading technology, economies of scale, or global standards and systems of performance and quality. What, then, is the competitive advantage of a global firm? In simple terms, it is the ability to tap global capabilities and skills to satisfy local customer needs. It may be useful, therefore, to re-phrase the original paradigm. Building global HR that creates a competitive advantage is really about developing people who learn locally and act globally - perhaps another contradiction, but such is the nature of globalization around us. In such a scenario, the need for Globalized HR comes in. The global firm needs to manage a diverse workforce effectively and efficiently to become more adaptable, resilient, agile, and customer-focused to succeed. And within this change in environment, the HR professional has to evolve to become a strategic partner, an employee sponsor or advocate, and a change mentor...
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