The Path to Being Globally Consistent and Locally Relevant

local map

As a novice world-traveler, your attention is drawn to the differences between your native culture and the foreign one you are immersed in. However, as you become a road-tested, travel veteran (as I have by growing up in a military family, and working for a company as global as Western Union) your focus shifts to recognizing the things that are consistent, no matter where you go.

For example, whether you are in Mozambique or Milwaukee, you could find parents who would relate instantly with each other when discussing the antics of their teenage children. The practices of said antics may be locally relevant, but the principles will be globally consistent.

Being globally consistent and locally relevant requires a balance between overarching principles and specific practices. Since Western Union does business in over 200 countries and territories, and has employees in 57 countries, we’re always fine-tuning this balance. That’s especially true as WU seeks to attract the best talent on such a global scale. We’re constantly evolving our recruiting methodologies to meet the preferences of our diverse candidates. At the same time, we’re a centralized HR function that needs to demonstrate the value of our professional services in a globally consistent manner to our internal customers.

Here are a few overarching global principles we’ve adopted, that clear the path for effective localization (hear more in Las Vegas):

  • Agile Iteration — Back in 2012, I asked our talent acquisition team to research and implement video interviewing. There were new entrants in the market, the technology was getting better, and I believed it would drive process efficiencies. The team found a leading partner and off we went to recruiting fame and glory … until we didn’t. What we quickly learned was that our company’s infrastructure wasn’t quite ready to handle the demands of video interviewing and our partner’s technology wasn’t quite flexible enough to meet our needs. We could have stopped there … but we didn’t. Instead, we continued on the journey and found places where the technology did work and where our candidates loved the experience (like Lithuania … who knew?!), and we stopped the process in other parts of the world. Fast forward to today and video interviewing is a critical part of our global recruiting process (a six fold increase in usage from 2014 to 2015), yet is intentionally used in different ways around the world, in line with candidate/client needs. Being an early adopter comes with expected bumps along the “road less traveled,” but there are also great rewards when you find yourself ahead of the insights curve, and are able to quickly tailor your approach on a global scale!
  • Decide What Matters Most — Being absolutely clear on the consistent, overarching criteria for success allows teams to have confidence in the nuanced decisions they can make locally, while still supporting global objectives. As a function that literally charges the business for our services, we are held accountable for delivering superior results around the globe. Setting consistent quality/financial metrics, while allowing some differentiation for key roles or geographies, has enabled us to deliver better outcomes globally and locally. We have centralized key processes and, over time, created detailed scorecards on candidate/hiring manager satisfaction, time-to-fill, and other metrics which we benchmark in partnership with CEB. Over the last year, we saw more than 4 percent growth in hiring volume, but were still able to reduce average time to fill by 6 percent. This discipline has given the business confidence that we are meeting/exceeding our desired outcomes, and our HR functional assessment scores reflect our improvements (business approval score of the recruiting function has more than doubled from 2014 to 2015). Additionally, we have emphasized full transparency in all recruiting-related costs, which has helped us drive down our global percentage of agency use by over 6 percent. One highlight was our APAC region, where we saw agency use drop by almost 75 percent from 2014 levels, translating to significant cost avoidance. When we started setting global targets, people were skeptical … however, what we’ve experienced is that setting high, global expectations has raised the bar for everyone and the business has benefited.
  • Rely On Diversity — The value of diverse teams goes far beyond simply “celebrating” or being happy about the fact that you have different perspectives in the room. To gain the full benefits of diversity, you need to create the expectation, and space, for diverse perspectives to be shared and implemented. Some of our best ideas have come from entry-level recruiters (many of which are millennials). Our #WomenAtWU social media campaign is a great example. In our Costa Rica office, comprised of 80+percent millennials, our employees felt it was important to celebrate International Women’s Day. They took the initiative to post professional photos and inspirational quotes of some of our highly respected female colleagues on their local WU Careers Facebook page. The response was so positive locally that we decided to use the local campaign as a template for what became a highly visible, impactful campaign on our global WU Careers Facebook page! The global campaign ultimately generated 650k+ impressions and a 28 percent engagement rate (industry standard being in the single digits). By the end of the campaign we saw engagement rates on individual posts climb as high as 48 percent! Additionally, we saw a 21 percent increase in applicants during the campaign, and our talent community doubled in size. More broadly, we saw many leaders and employees sharing the pride they felt in being associated with WU, and the campaign has helped position WU as an employer of choice for women, a key talent strategy as we look at shifting workforce demographics in the years ahead. For me, this was a great example of how relying on diverse perspectives, in this case from millennials and women, can drive powerful results!

Working with an organization that has been in business since 1851 has taught me that constant evolution is critical for long-term success. However, even as our practices have evolved, we have remained true to an overarching principle of connecting people, across borders, in meaningful ways. 160 years ago we were using innovative telegraph technology to connect people via telegram messages, in a way that had not been possible before. Now we’re at the forefront of fintech innovation, with our recently announced WU Connect platform; connecting people across the world, as they send money to their loved ones at a global average pace of about 30 transactions per second.

As we continue our evolution we will remain a mission-driven brand, with employees who are driven by doing #WorkThatMakesADifference.

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Evolution is just as important in talent acquisition. Gone are the days when we could rely on meeting candidates face-to-face at a career fair or placing “Help Wanted” ads in the newspaper. What works in one part of world, may not work in another region, but that complexity is exactly what makes global recruitment so exciting, and rewarding … when you get it right. You’ll need to decide/discover what principles will enable your organization to be globally consistent and locally relevant, but the principles I’ve shared here will help take you at least three steps in the right direction.