Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has around 51,500 employees in over 100 countries. “The business wants to work with us to find the right talent to support the overall strategy,” explains director of global mobility Helen Walton.
“Some people think GM has to make decisions about who goes where, but I believe our job is to support the business and help HR meet its talent objectives,” she says, adding that for international assignments this is a top priority. The GM team identifies where the business needs skills and where talent development is required.
Walton says the organisation is well disciplined in how assignments work and many senior leaders have been through an assignee process and are supportive. Assignees usually work on short-term commercial projects in areas of growth for the business.
Geographies are driven by commercial opportunities, the biggest market being the US – a ‘well-trodden path’ for assignees. Walton anticipates new markets in India and North Africa but admits some locations are challenging as they’re not always the easiest places to live.
“We usually go to capital or second cities – there’s less risk. When supporting people into Colombia and Venezuela, for example, we’ve used third party providers, security services and assessments,” she explains.
Walton believes the organisation has improved its decision-making capability and GM programme by cutting costs. “With larger budgets, a lot of money was wasted,” she says. “You end up with a lot of it being risk money.”
Providing ROI is an aspiration. “We want to simplify for the organisation: what will assignees do, what will they achieve and then what are we going to do with them?”
Allianz - maintaining culture along growth
Allianz Worldwide Care provides international health insurance and has around 800 staff. “Our GM strategy is related to our clients’ needs and where they are based,” says head of HR Claire Cusack. “As a service-based business, this dictates where we need to have sales and operational support staff.”
The company’s HR function is centralised in its Dublin headquarters but each HRBP has regional responsibility. “Through our performance management and development system, which provides monthly touch points for each employee, everyone has clarity on their primary objectives for the year,” explains Cusack. “We also hold town hall meetings to communicate our strategy in all regions where we have a large number of staff. Those based regionally visit head office regularly.”
She adds that ensuring culture is maintained alongside growth is a priority, so the company sends experienced staff to international offices to act as cultural mentors. Cusack anticipates more growth opportunities in markets such as Latin America, Asia and Africa. “These all pose their own relocation challenges,” she admits. To address this, the company offers a support package.
“Once the family is established there’s regular contact to ensure they’re settling in well. If we’re not familiar with the HR challenges in a particular country, we can call on the advice of another Allianz business that already operates in that market,” adds Cusack.
When hiring local people, she says all employees must experience consistent culture and processes, and benefit from the same performance and development system as head office staff. Having experienced staff will help to set the bar in terms of service standards and give local workers opportunities to spend time at head office.
Having company branded promotional material on the desks, posters on the walls can go a long way to ensuring that regional employees feel part of the team, says Cusack.