Meeting the Globalization Challenge

Insights from the HR Shared Services Executive Retreat

Superman Myth

Posted by Art Mazor

Recently at the HR Shared Services Executive Retreat, we discussed globalizing HR service delivery and how companies are approaching the challenges inherent to delivering HR services globally. A natural tendency is to begin by thinking that globalization is about trying to decrease or minimize differences in how services are delivered. The initial idea is often that the only way to deliver shared services in HR is to have everyone operating from common policies, technology, and data. Eventually, however, particularly in large, global organizations, it becomes clear that achieving so much standardization is not only hard, but also not necessary or even desirable. We also discussed how to deploy different types of HR shared services capabilities to support and enable the way organizations need to work globally.

One of the key challenges is to find an effective balance that makes the most of the commonalities that do exist across geographies and business groups, while accommodating those factors that need to remain different. To that end, some organizations choose to create a regional model for shared services, while others may establish certain global delivery capabilities complemented by regional and/or local market or country-based capabilities where necessary. In this way, organizations find they can seek the common ground and gain scalability, yet avoid trying to create a one-size-fits-all approach that rarely works to effectively accommodate regulatory, legal, cultural, language, and other true differences.  In our session, we discussed an impressive current model serving over 260,000 employees in 61 countries that relies on a blend of strategically located “hubs” around the world that work in coordination with locally-based HR teams in order to deliver on customer expectations while addressing the many real differences across geographies and lines of business.

Another challenge is determining how to capture the knowledge that is resident in a given market or country and make it accessible in as automated a fashion as possible. This is where technology becomes an important enabler, whether in the form of a knowledge base of information that employees can access, or a case management system that facilitates the movement or escalation of “cases” (issues, questions) to the right person, who may or may not be located in the geography where the inquiry originates, yet serves as the expert on the topic at hand. Implemented well, these shared services enabling technologies go a long way toward allowing organizations to stretch the reach of HR shared services more globally and to enable commonality and consistency of delivery where possible.

For example, many organizations have been able to leverage the technologies they use to deliver their commercial services, particularly when those services are complex or global, and adapt them for back-office use in HR shared services. This is true of one of the participating executives here at the Retreat. This leader’s organization “borrowed” the system that handles customer inquiries in its credit card business to manage transactions and inquiries within HR shared services. The system wasn’t built for HR, so it’s not ideal — but it does serve the practical needs.

The Retreat’s participants are bringing key points of view based on their collective HR operational experiences. While technology is a critical enabler, we’ve talked about the importance of getting the fundamental processes working well and recognizing that globalization doesn’t necessarily mean standardization around the globe within HR processes.  In fact, during our Globalization session here this morning there were many examples shared of processes that may have similarities in how they are implemented or the key outcomes of the employee experience – yet delivered with differences in the way service channels are used in each business or geography.


Art Mazor Art Mazor is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice. He collaborates with complex, global clients across industries to transform Human Resource strategy, service delivery, and organizations with a business-driven focus.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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