· 2 min read · Features

Global business has changed how we all communicate

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The world is a much smaller place than it was when I started my HR career. The way people work and communicate has truly changed forever, and this has changed the nature of businesses.

Being a global business no longer means you have to be a huge, publicly traded corporation, or even act like one. Smaller organisations can now act globally. They can establish presences in key locations and markets and support flexible and remote workers from any corner of the planet.

AppSense has its roots in the north of England, a great place to do business. As amazing a group of workers as we have at our headquarters, though, we can't afford to ignore the unrivalled pool of talent located in Silicon Valley. Similarly, a large proportion of our customer base is large corporations and the financial services sector, so it makes sense to be in New York. Add our offices in Australia, Singapore and numerous places around Europe, and you get an idea of just how wide a smaller organisation can spread its net.

By going global the company has become a more diverse and rewarding place to work. None of this has come without its challenges - every day, something new gets thrown into the mix. This only reinforces the need for HR to be the most flexible function of any organisation.

Knowing and understanding people is what underpins human resources. As clever as communications technology is, you can send all the emails you like, dial into as many conference calls as you can manage and spend hours video conferencing, and none of these will ever have the same impact as a face-to-face meeting, however brief it is. Becoming a global organisation teaches you that every second you can spend with someone is precious - you may not see them again for months - the stronger your relationship, the easier future long-distance collaboration works.

A particularly steep learning curve for our company was figuring out how to come to terms with cultural differences from location to location. Sometimes the most subtle of misunderstandings can cause problems. A lot of people assume the US and UK are culturally very similar, when in fact the two countries contrast in their approaches to working culture. Differences in things as simple as office etiquette and opinions of what is the correct level of formality have caused tensions that should have been avoidable.

But diversity can be an opportunity instead of a challenge. For example, it can help us to integrate workforces. If our working environment never changes then we risk being less tuned in with the needs of our colleagues and companies. Diversity can breed vitality and community. An integrated global workforce can share best practices and the whole organisation will benefit from shared experience.

Another advantage of diversity is that the possibility of working abroad appeals strongly to prospective employees, so it's a great motivator in a global company. Even if they realise it's something that might not happen right away, staff know that if they work hard and get results they may be rewarded further down the line with a chance to work in another part of the world.

I have been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented people from all over the world, and as we continue to grow, I know I will be welcoming many more on board. At times the working days have been long and challenging, but there has never been a dull one.

Katy Clough (pictured) is vice president HR EMEA at AppSense, a provide of virtualisation technology