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The Global Pendulum: In Which Direction Is Your Globalization Pendulum Swinging? the Future Search Conference Has Some Answers. (Trends)

Article excerpt

Globalization continues to be a dominant and recurring theme among training and HRD professionals, but what does it mean to the training and development function when an organization changes its global focus? That's one of the key questions that emerged from the Future Search Conference in Orlando, Florida, last June, when 64 HRD business leaders, practitioners, and scholars from around the world met to explore the future of the profession.

Three overriding trends dominated the discussion:

* increasing effects of globalization and diversity in the workplace

* increasing demand for just-in-time learning

* increasing shareholder pressure for short-term profits.

After the conference, we spoke with a number of globally savvy professionals to learn what companies are doing to meet the challenges of training and development in a global economy. To our surprise, we discovered that the globalization pendulum swings to create unique positions in the marketplace and that education about diversity is more diverse than ever.

How t&d supports globalization

The concept of globalization is controversial, and disagreement simmers over definitions. We define globalization as the crossing of financial, technical, and cultural boundaries to facilitate a global flow of goods, information, and services. Terminology aside, many companies have developed a global presence in the past two decades through technological advances and eroding trade barriers. Among the positive effects of globalization is a focus on improving communication among employees from diverse backgrounds and countries. There's growing recognition that a positive relationship exists between cross-cultural communications and effective teamwork and productivity. Training and development professionals can play an important role in sustaining that relationship.

In supporting international operations of a company, the d in t&d is more important than the t, according to the evidence. Many companies use relocation training to prepare employees for international markets and expatriates for overseas service. Developing talent is a major goal of training and development.

Frank Smith, vice president of global organizational development and training at Wyeth Ayerst Pharmaceuticals, says that the war for talent requires more than simple expatriation training.

"A big payoff of globalization is the capacity to gather the best talent from anywhere to work on your biggest problems," says Smith. "T&d in support of that goal must identify, assess, select, and develop people who are capable of working anywhere."

The war for global talent is at the highest technical and managerial levels. Consequently, training budgets are often channeled towards grooming talented employees for international work--with the expectation that such training and advancement opportunities will increase retention. Our evidence suggests that many companies have invested in two strategically critical areas of development for executive and managerial talent: supporting global leadership programs and developing global teams.

Global leadership programs. What are organizations doing to enhance global t&d efforts for leaders? In Europe, it's common for business leaders to have lived, studied, and worked in many countries. In the United States, fewer top leaders have international experience or speak multiple languages, so their capacity for global leadership must be developed. T&d approaches typically emphasize the development of cross-cultural skills that are effective across borders, creation or revision of training materials to be more international in scope, and development of global leadership capabilities. Strategic thinking is key. Many global leaders find that they're constantly reevaluating their companies' strategic positions along a pendulum that swings from a regional focus to a global one, as dictated by business need. …