How increasing globalisation in the workplace is changing the role of HR managers

"The landscape has evolved. It’s time to tear up the rule book and drive innovation in HR"

As the world becomes increasingly globalised, we find ourselves working together but separately in a large yet small, digitally-connected world. The unexpected events of the last few years, notably the acceleration of digitalisation and the move to hybrid and work-from-home models, have added a new level of complexity to HR as we juggle the many pressures facing the workforce.

Critically, the wellbeing of the workforce has never been greater, especially after the height of the Covid-19 pandemic which took a toll on mental health and forced a reappraisal of employee behaviour and expectations. This presents HR managers with both a priority and challenge.

How do we create consistency, a culture of care and connections between employees across borders, in a virtual, globalised world?

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This is where wellbeing can be a powerful common thread to drive organisational resilience, but only if approached holistically. By this I mean not just focusing on mental health, for example, but ensuring that all five wellbeing pillars – mental, physical, financial, social and digital – are addressed. There is a wide range of wellbeing offerings available to us today, and in the future. We need to leverage them to create happy, healthy and productive teams.

Doing this successfully requires having a wellbeing strategy in place that is globally consistent but culturally relevant enough to connect employees, no matter where in the world they are. The sense of belonging and community that this provides will increase employee engagement and productivity, while also unlocking financial benefits for the business.

Worldwide Broker Network (WBN) represents over 150 members across 100 countries so creating this connection between our members is crucial. That’s why next month we’re launching our new Employee Benefits Tech platform, which creates a unified, online collaboration platform for brokers working cross-border to support multinational clients. It will encapsulate WBN’s 'wellbeing zone' which provides access to service providers representing all five of the aforementioned pillars, ensuring that clients have access to global solutions to meet all their wellbeing needs.

The HR challenges of a truly global world

Adopting this more global approach needs a shift in mindset. Times are different now and the landscape has evolved, so it’s time to tear up the rule book and drive innovation in HR.

With this comes a huge opportunity to break down siloes which have traditionally existed so that we can create alignment and play a more central role. The HR function is inherently involved in so many aspects of an organisation and naturally crosses over into other functions, therefore the closer we collaborate the more effective we can be. This is especially true as organisations continue to elevate their enterprise risk management strategy, ensuring that all functional areas of a business are contributing to the overall business continuity and success.

We also need to understand what is most important to Generation Z (young graduates entering the workplace or future workforce, and people who are teenagers to mid 20s, born between 1997 and 2012) when looking for a job. This generation is going to have the most impact on society and industry.

Research from Deloitte Digital reveals a disconnect between what Gen Z actually wants at work and what their bosses think they want, with their top priorities being flexibility, mentorship and mental health support.

When it comes to flexibility, so much has changed. We need to make sure we have reinvented our approach to the workplace accordingly.

Have we adjusted the way we target our recruitment? Are we responding to our employees’ desire for a better work life balance? Are we working to a new set of parameters that make a person apply to, stay in, or leave a job? Once deemed employment luxuries, these considerations are now mainstream non-negotiables by which people filter out potential employers.

There are so many challenges keeping HR managers awake at night. But let’s not forget the exciting and important role we find ourselves in. We live in a truly global world where the paradigm has dramatically shifted, so we need to adapt and futureproof both our roles and the global workforce. HR deserves a seat at the top table where we are involved in strategic decision-making and can address the complex issues facing our teams.

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At WBN, our emphasis on creativity, collaboration and cultural intelligence has proved our secret weapon. It is our duty as HR managers, employee benefits specialists, any position in fact, to encourage these qualities by tangibly demonstrating their value.

By Liz Yovich, global engagement and employee benefits director for the Worldwide Broker Network