HRD talked with three global HR professionals about how they deal with this complex task.
The myth of the ‘Asian territory’
There’s a common perception to think of Asia as one homogeneous region, said Carolyn Moore, the former regional HR director of JWT Asia Pacific; “It’s not. It’s so diverse.”
It’s important to remember that each country has its own characteristics when it comes to languages, culture and social & economic development.
“You have Australia and Japan which are highly developed countries, through to Pakistan which is war-torn at the moment, Vietnam and Laos which are developing, and the new tiger economies. It adds layers of complexity to everything we do in HR.”
Striving for regional consistency
“Perhaps my greatest challenge as a global head of HR is … finding the right balance between global and regional in initiatives and control,” said Eileen Burnett-Kant, executive global head of HR at Orica.
The key is to aim for some consistency throughout the region, getting agreement from local employees about which aspects stay the same across the board and which show some local variation.
“In the end, there’s no substitute for getting out … to listen to people,” she said. “Connect with them on a personal level and make sure you understand what they’re trying to achieve and vice versa.”
The need for flexibility and understanding
“APMEA is a highly diverse region,” said Mike McCarthy, the group head of HR for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa at MasterCard.
“This, in addition to differing cultural and legal frameworks, necessitates a great deal of flexibility based on an understanding of the differences and nuances present in each jurisdiction.”
It is important that both HR and the business exhibit a global outlook, treating regional staff as the local experts and openly listening to their suggestions, he added.
With MNCs continuing to expand throughout the Asia-Pacific, HR is expected to effortlessly step into the role of managing a regional workforce.