To Create A Global Enterprise, Start With Employees
If you don't think the world is globalizing at a rapid rate, then check out the following statistics: In 1990 there were little more than 3,000 multinational companies. In 2012, that number had snowballed to 100,000.
If you want further proof, watch a World Cup match. The national origins of the companies being advertised around the soccer pitch and on the shirts of the players are sometimes difficult to determine. Those that are easy to determine - McDonald's, for example - are as comfortable in doing business in a bustling city in China, as they are doing business in a small, mid-western town in the United States.
Achieving this level of global seamlessness hasn't exactly occurred overnight. Large enterprises have spent considerable time and funding making sure their global expansions have gone on without a hitch. My favorite story about the pains that come with expanding beyond your shores involve the introduction of the American auto company General Motors' successful Chevrolet Nova to the Latin American market in the 1960s. The car's sales were dismal in that region until someone figured out that 'No va' means 'It doesn't go' in Spanish!
We at Infosys know about the subtleties of global expansion. We've helped countless companies use technology to spread their business wings and open themselves to new markets. Finacle is probably the first global success story - it empowers virtually anyone to conduct banking no matter where they are.
But what about your company's employees? You might have the finest Information Technology in place and your operations are transparent across the globe thanks to Big Data and analytics. But, do your people measure up to your technology? That's a question a group of professors at the Thunderbird School of Management set out to discover. That is, what are the qualities of employees that best prepare them to help drive companies that have big plans to expand globally?
The result was the Global Mindset Inventory, a sweeping study of human capital in an age of globalization. We often scrutinize other forms of capital in our businesses, but what about human capital? It turns out that the people around us can be as valuable as the technology that runs our operations.
According to the study, the ability to grow a global mindset is based on three types of human capital. All three are crucial if an ambitious executive wants to speak and learn beyond her traditional borders. What I found most valuable about the study is that it attempts to quantify that which is unquantifiable - those 'soft' skills that have become very underrated in today's culture of extremely quantifiable technology. Make no mistake: I put the word soft in quotation marks for a reason. These remain skills that are difficult to obtain and they are not for the soft-at-heart!
For instance, the first of the study's three core capitals is Global Intellectual Capital (GIC). By that they mean the cognitive ability of a manager to truly know her business and be able to analyze and interpret global information that will make it easier for her enterprise to grow beyond its current borders. This is a different way of speaking to one's ability to adapt to changing conditions - an ability that's so important when opening offices in a new country where a manager might experience new layers of bureaucracy or local traditions. GIC also speaks to how cosmopolitan a manager is. If you can attend a networking lunch in another country and pick up on the 'vibe' immediately, then you are more likely to make contacts and begin selling your company's products and services faster.
The second core piece of capital is Global Psychological Capital (GPC). At Infosys, we teach our employees about the many facets of Design Thinking because we've found that one of the major components of that way of thinking is empathy - the ability to gauge what other people around you are feeling and thinking. GPC is not unlike the empathy we like our employees to carry with them across the globe.
According to the Thunderbird study, employees who are often chosen for expatriate assignments are those who display tremendous technical know-how in the business, but might not be as empathetic as they should be in a new country. Those colleagues who perform best in a new country are those who view cultural differences as a learning opportunity rather than something to feel threatened by.
Lastly, there's Global Social Capital (GSC). We use this core capital to build long-lasting and trusting relationships with people anywhere on earth. For instance, people in the West enjoy leaning back at their desks and their feet up on the desk. To display the sole of one's shoes to someone in the Middle East-North Africa region, however, is an extreme insult. Someone with high GSC would pick up on those unwritten cues because they can read body language and have an innate sense of local customs and etiquette. When you build trust in a global enterprise through social capital, you ensure that your company is well received in a new country for decades to come.
The best news about these three core capitals from the Thunderbird study is that to a certain extent, much is innate, but the rest can be learned. If you want to be a part of your company's global expansion and success story, build up your own global mindset. But also instill in yourself and others a confidence that your organization can take a very important leap of faith into the global community. Breaking down cultural borders will pay off in big ways down the line.