Diversity Asia

The International HR Impacts of America’s Less Perfect Union

Our current fractured democracy is impacting relationships around the world. No longer able to rely on a solid national reputation, HR leaders must enhance their own organizational reputations to continue efficient, effective recruiting and talent management.
By Jill Motley

For many years, American companies benefited from the country’s reputation as a global leader. Its democratic style of government, booming economy, and resilient population of highly educated workers allowed American firms to operate with exceptional privilege and status in international markets. The sudden end to America’s years of high status – punctuated most emphatically by the shenanigans in the capital on Jan. 6th – mean that American firms need to quickly adapt to a new reality.

In order to continue to be able to attract, recruit, and retain top talent domestically and abroad, American HR teams need to do three things. First, they must establish their own unique identity and track record as an independent organization. Next, they must find a way to clearly articulate the opportunity their organization offers to potential new hires. Finally, they must remain more consistently aware of their evolving reputation to continue to remain desirable destinations for top performers.

Finding a Reputation of Their Own
In the past, it was easy for US-based HR teams to lean on the country’s reputation as an opportunity center when recruiting top talent. Now, the U.S. seems less attractive to many, including native-born candidates. Why pursue a career with a U.S.-based and U.S.-oriented company when there are so many rich opportunities elsewhere, such as in the technology centers of Europe, Asia, and India?

To combat being written off as “merely” another American company, firms need to develop their own independent reputation. What makes the company unique as an institution? Why is the firm a leader in their industry or an innovator in the field? What specific track record can be highlighted to prove that the company is moving on an upward, positive trajectory? For certain industries, it may be especially important to cultivate a reputation designed to be “in contrast” with America’s current international standing.

This “in contrast” reputational approach will also need to be modified depending on the primary regions of recruitment. Firms recruiting in China, for example, may need to be explicit in how their organization is positioned relative to the current administration’s stance on Chinese technologies and business practices. Firms whose primary recruitment zone is Europe, on the other hand, may need to establish an identity independent of America’s Cold War legacy and modern Russian conflicts.

Defining The Opportunity And Communicating It Well
The next step for HR teams is to clearly articulate the opportunity their organization offers to potential new hires – and especially to high–potential performers. Beyond saying “we’re a great company” in general, firms will need to address candidates’ growing need to have a solid answer to the question of “What’s in this for me?”

Salary and benefit packages alone will not do this job well. For savvy top performers, money often is not the primary concern. They want to understand how the role at hand will grow their skills, maximize their talent stack, fit into their work-life balance, and provide sufficient amounts of interesting work to do. What kinds of mentorship opportunities are available? What is the three-to-five-year career trajectory for others in similar positions? Why does working for this company, right now, in this role, align with the candidate’s potential long-term goals?

Thus, with the financial package as a backdrop, HR leaders and competitive recruiters will need to practice clearly communicating the full scope of the opportunity. It is no longer “Work for a leading tech company” but “Work for a leading tech company in our family-friendly innovation hub near Austin, supported by our 360 degree feedback program and included in our cross-function mentorship academy.” One of those opportunities, by virtue of being more specifically tailored to what leading candidates are concerned with, is much more likely to be accepted.

Only with continual vigilance and attention can HR leaders ensure that their firms are protected from the impact of America’s changing position in the world.
Monitoring Reputation With An Eye Toward Top Talent
Finally, HR teams and corporate leaders must remain more consistently aware of their evolving reputation so that they continue to remain desirable destinations for top performers. This goes beyond the typical sorts of headline-news scandals and corporate black eyes; firms need to be watching their public image not from a pure branding and marketing perspective but rather from a bottom-up employee view. After all, while headline news can be embarrassing, it is the quieter, more one-to-one conversations in forums, Facebook groups, Twitter DMs, and sub-Reddits that will sway individual performers’ decisions.

This is particularly true when it comes to high–potential prospects that may be from traditionally disadvantaged population. As an example, some firms are considered good places to work … unless you are a woman. Or the company is a great place for women to find support but not welcoming environment for people from specific religious or ethnic backgrounds.

Even beyond the company as a whole, specific departments or teams can garner reputations that can make it practically impossible to recruit international talent. Thanks to the power of social media and the transparency that tools like LinkedIn provide to job seekers, top talent can get a much more unfiltered view of team composition, power dynamics, and prominent belief systems than ever before.

As a result, HR teams need to be particularly mindful of what employee engagement surveys, 360 feedback reports, and exit interviews reveal about departmental and company wide reputations. This needs to be watched – and, if necessary, addressed promptly when concerning information arises.

Only with continual vigilance and attention can HR leaders ensure that their firms are protected from the impact of America’s changing position in the world. By growing an independent reputation as a strong company, developing and communicating strong value statements about specific opportunities, and caring about employee viewpoints from the bottom up, HR teams can minimize the collateral damage of America’s changed position and elevate their own firms as companies worth working for today, tomorrow, and for years to come.