Original insights in international business and marketing
To become a genuine world-class organization you have to make some difficult choices. Picking where you will be located or based out of is a big one. After all, it is hard to lead on the world stage and set new standards of performance when you are based in a second or third rate location and hire only locally. Think: isolated small town in the countryside, a suburb of an industrial city or perhaps a less-than-appealing region/country.
Hear me out. World-class performance and standards are driven in large part by the quality of the players in your organization. You therefore need to implement practices that emphasize the recruiting and retention of A-grade players from the world stage.
Location will weigh heavily when top talent has to make a professional decision about whether to accept a position. If lifestyle ranks high on their priority list, then you have already eliminated a significant portion of the world-class talent pool. This is obviously less of a problem for major cities or places where international talent naturally flocks to (e.g. Silicon Valley for technology; London, Hong Kong & New York for finance; Hollywood for cinema, etc…). You may try to recruit internationally but chances are that top players with ambition and prospects usually have many options, not to mention families, which will weigh heavily against relocation to an out-of-the-way locale with little appeal.
The direct result is a disproportionate reliance on local talent, which comes with its own unique idiosyncrasies and particular mindset. Sure, you may get the odd economic refugee fleeing a recession plagued home country (e.g. Greece or Spain). Alternatively, you may also get the young and single worker who is prepared to make certain lifestyle sacrifices to give their career a boost with a marquee name organization. But these workers will often be short-term focused, fairly green/early in their careers and be significantly outnumbered by local employees who will inevitably imbue the organization with a particular type of groupthink and behaviors that are specific to the region/country. Ultimately, this will work against your world-class aspirations.
So what is an organization to do? Aaaah, choices… I think that every organization has to make a conscious decision about whether it truly believes in behaving as a global leader versus just talking the talk.
In the former case, practices & policies can be put into effect to address the geographic limitations while in the latter, an organization can simply accept their geographic constraints while peppering their corporate speak with references to being a first-rate, world-class organization. Many companies do just the latter and seem perfectly content. With a little investigating, they are easy to spot.
But there are companies that effectively work on the global stage and are able to attract A-grade players in spite of their location handicap. One such example is Procter & Gamble whose global HQ is based in Cincinnati.
If you asked a group of 100 top international marketing executives, chances are that none of them would ever propose Cincinnati as one of their top work destinations, let alone in their top 10. Yet many a leading executive in the corporate world today has done a pilgrimage through “Porkopolis,” the city by the Ohio river.
The reason is that P&G has created true a culture of excellence that has stood the test of time and has consistently attracted and retained top talent from around the world.
You see, great talent begets great talent. Smart and ambitious people are naturally drawn to excellence and organizations that intentionally draw top talent – often in spite of a geographical handicap. Perhaps you’ve heard the adage that goes: “B-level players attract C-level talent so that they can shine and look better. A-level players recruit A+ talent because they want to win.”
So the good news is that location issues can be addressed and successfully overcome. This requires a determined focus with HR policies and practices that purposely seek out world class talent and facilitate their relocation. While this is good to get people to move, you also need policies to keep them in place. This can only be achieved by giving people meaningful and rewarding work surrounded by other top talent they respect and can continually learn from. A tougher task – but no less significant – than drawing them to you in the first place.
At the end of the day, the true acid test of a company with so-called world-class aspirations is the percentage of managers & executives from a particular country and especially the percentage from the local region. Too many people from the same country/nationality, but especially too many people from the local area, are potential warning signs for any recruit who has expectations of working with the best (global) talent the industry has to offer.
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