Compensation survey: Where you live matters

A management challenge for employers

New York –
Where you live continues to be a key determinant of how much you are paid, a new study shows.

A job that demands an average salary of $30,000 nationally can pay as little as $26,820 in Little Rock, Ark., or as much as $36,870 in San Francisco, according to the 2003 Geographic Salary Differentials Survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting. This represents a pay variation of more than 33 percentage points — from 10.6% below the national average to 22.9% above.

Each year, Mercer’s survey compares local pay rates for more than 175 cities to national medians at different pay levels. The 2003 findings suggest that geographic pay variations are less pronounced, but still evident, at higher pay levels. For a job with an average salary of $60,000 nationally, pay varies from a low of $54,780 (–8.7%) in Asheville, N.C., to a high of $70,980 (+18.3%) in San Francisco, for a variation of 27 percentage points.

Even at $90,000, there are still pay variations by geography. Cities like Omaha, Neb., Knoxville, Tenn., and Buffalo, N.Y., represent the lower end of the pay range at $85,500, $85,590, and $85,680, respectively. Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and New York hold the top spots at $104,400, $103,590, and $103,410, respectively. Among the cities in Mercer’s survey, the pay variance at this salary level is about 21 percentage points.

“What’s noteworthy is that pay variations exist at the higher salary levels and to this extent,” says Darrell Cira, a senior compensation consultant in Mercer’s Philadelphia office. “It was once believed that geographic pay differences disappeared at salary levels of $80,000 to $90,000, where the market for talent tends to be national rather than regional or local. Clearly, that’s not the case any more.”

“Today, you need to take geographic location into account even for salaries of $100,000 and higher, especially in cities like New York and San Francisco,” he notes.

Mercer’s geographic analysis highlights the challenges faced by large employers with employees in multiple locations throughout the US. Sensitive compensation issues can arise when an employee moves from a relatively high-salary area to a relatively low-salary area, or vice versa, Mr. Cira says. Having good information on salary variances helps employers handle these situations in a fair and consistent manner.

However, he notes, it is important to apply geographic salary differentials correctly.

“Differentials are helpful for adjusting pay structures and for broadly understanding differences in pay to help formulate pay policy,” Mr. Cira explains. “However, employers also need to be aware of the micro-markets within their geographies. While salaries for all jobs may average 5% more than the national average in a given location, individual jobs may be at the national average or 10% above the national average. These micro-markets are often the source of employee complaints that they are not paid competitively.”

The 2003 Geographic Salary Differentials Survey can be purchased by contacting Mercer at or 800 333 3070. The cost is $495 for a web-based version of the survey.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting, one of the world’s leading consulting organizations, helps organizations create measurable business results through their people. With more than 13,000 employees serving clients from 142 cities in 40 countries worldwide, the company is part of Mercer Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago, Pacific, and London stock exchanges.

Currency Market Flux Impacts Int’l Assignees

As we all know, there are many important areas to be considered in the process of relocating employees. From the physical removal of household goods, to settling children into new schools, there seem to be an endless number of items to check off on a relocation ‘to-do’ list. Yet as a currency specialist we continually find that the all important purchase of the employees local currency is often overlooked.

Whether transferring a lump sum to purchase an over seas property, or simply forwarding a US Dollar salary abroad every month, we have experienced that general corporate practice is to stay somewhat removed from this aspect of an international assignment or permanent move. Simply allowing employees to blindly use their banks to make their own decision on how they are going to move their Dollars abroad, however, can be a costly mistake!

Volatility in the currency markets is an undeniable and unavoidable daily occurrence. With a daily turnover in excess of $1.5 billion and an uncountable number of factors playing into which way the market will move, it is impossible to forecast currencies with 100% accuracy. While large corporations employ market professionals to manage billions of dollars worth of currency risk, private individuals are often left at the whim of this massive market feeling uneducated and at risk.

So why should this be a concern for HR professionals? Because you want to be sure your employees are looked after properly and feel comfortable with the currency aspect of their international move. Let’s look at this in a realistic and specific light; you are the employee that is on an international assignment.

If you put yourself in the shoes of an international employee, it is quite simple to see how the currency market and exchange rates directly affect your life: While your employer is a US-based company you will more than likely receive your salary in US Dollars (USD). This income may be deposited into your US account every month or possibly into an international account that has been set up in your new country. Either way, you will usually need to exchange your USD income into the local currency in order to buy groceries, pay bills and maintain a standard of living.

The process of using your bank can be frustrating and may also be expensive.

Think of it this way; every month you will need to contact your bank in order to initiate the exchange from your USD account into your local account. You will more than likely speak with a different person every time you call and you will most definitely receive a different exchange rate every month.

On top of all that your bank will charge you a wire transfer fee ranging from $15-$30 per transaction. While the cost of wiring these funds on a regular basis will certainly add up over time, the inherent risk you face not knowing what rate you will receive in the future is MUCH more concerning.

Imagine being on an assignment in Canada during 2005. Looking at the accompanying chart which illustrates US Dollars (USD) vs. Canadian Dollars (CAD), you can see the rates move against you by nearly 11.5% over the course of the year. (See chart below.)

To illustrate let us assume that you were transferring USD$5,000 in wages to Canada on a monthly basis. In May of 2005, your USD$5,000 would have converted into roughly CAD$6,350 at a rate of 1.27. By February of 2006, that same USD$5,000 would have purchased you just CAD$5,700, a difference of CAD$650 every month. Assuming that you were using your bank, you would have also been receiving a wire transfer fee for each transaction totaling somewhere around $300-$400 in bank charges alone.

The solution is simple; if you want to protect against currency risk, receive better rates of exchange and avoid needless fees, don’t use your bank! Most private individuals in this situation do not realize there is alternative to their bank, but using a currency specialist like HIFX can in fact remove the stress and hassle of these such requirements all together. HIFX’s Private Client Services include the securing exchange rates for up to 24 months, the setting up of direct debits which will avoid all transfer and bank receipt charges, and a simple, friendly service that is designed to put clients at ease.

Whether your employees need to make regular transfers abroad or are moving larger sums of money for their international purchases, it is worth knowing that you can point them in the direction of a world renowned currency specialist which completely understands the relocation process.

The details expressed in this transmission and accompanying documents are for information purposes only and are not intended as a solicitation for funds or a recommendation to trade. HIFX, Inc. accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damages suffered through any act or omission taken as a result of reading or interpreting any of the above information.

Currency Exchange and Today’s International Compensation

Volatile USD causing rethink

Jason C. Kovac, Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) and Certified Benefits Professional (CBP)
WorldatWork •

As the global economy struggles through a recession, employers need to look closely at how they pay for talent. Critical elements of rewards – external and internal pay equity, merit pay as well as job design – determine how well an organization motivates its workforce, especially the key talent pool.

Challenges in Attraction, Retention and Motivation
For the rest of 2008, it appears that the tide of compensation and benefits rewards is not flowing in favor of workers. With salary budgets hitting historic lows and remaining there for the near future, and health care costs continuing to rise, employees could start to feel a hit.

Organizations need to conduct a thorough skills analysis otherwise they may begin to see key talent (defined as any individual contributor who plays a key role in the organization) move to positions with other organizations for more pay. Merit budgets hover around 3.5 percent and organizations struggle for the best ways to differentiate pay based on performance, so employees could realistically see an increase of 10 to 15 percent by accepting another job.

Employers are trying to enhance the employee value proposition by distinguishing rewards based on performance. In other words, with the little monies organizations have, the high performers are receiving a bigger piece. However, organizations will soon need to determine if they are willing to “break the bank” to keep this talent.

During economic downturns, employees are pulled by differing motivational pressures. This is where a holistic total rewards approach could play a larger part in the employee’s decision to stay or go.

The Importance of Job Design
It is important to determine how much a job is worth and how much the individual talent within that job is worth. Job design should be considered the cornerstone of any compensation program. If a role is determined to be key within an organization, it is important to ensure the talent within that role satisfies the requirements of the position and the organization is paying well for that talent. Organizations will need to review budgets and determine if additional training will increase employee skills, or if it would be more cost-effective to hire from the outside.

External and Internal Equity
Once job design is factored in, it is important that organizations determine the monetary value of the job. In times of recession, external equity of key positions becomes a focal point. External equity—more frequently called market pricing—is a tool that can be used to survey what the market is paying for a specific position to ensure your organization is paying competitively. If employees perceive that the company down the street pays more than yours does, this will create a major impact on retention as well as attracting a large talent pool. In a down economy, it is vital to keep a pulse on what the market is paying and beware that your organization is not losing its key talent because of stagnant pay.

Most organizations strive to find a balance between internal equity and external competitiveness. Internal equity is another way to assess pay when comparing the salary and value of not only key employees, but also of critical skills or unique positions that are essential to the success of an organization. This could be a buyer for a retail establishment or a programmer with knowledge of a specific program for a software company. Organizations usually command a pay premium over external market rates for these positions or skills. In an economic downturn, organizations need to know which positions are critical and ensure they keep a pulse on market data as well as apply an appropriate premium to retain this group of employees.

Merit and Incentive Pay Matters
Merit pay is often a good alternative to salary increases when the economy is unstable. These programs, where payment is contingent on performance, would only be offered if the employee performs to expectations or above. In order for a merit pay system to work effectively, managers need to be able to differentiate performance and the organization needs to be able to pay for those differences.

Managers often find it difficult to rate a low performer as low—knowing that they will not receive an increase this year. What typically happens is that most employees receive the base increase, with little or no differentiation between high and low performers. This can be a demotivator for high performers and a disincentive for low performers (because there is no real upside potential for high performance).

Even though merit increases have been relatively flat for the past several years, differentiation is attainable. Organizations need to be cognizant of who their high performers are and train managers to differentiate performance—this will lead to a system that will enable true merit pay.

Another tool that organizations will use during a recession is variable pay, or incentive pay, as both a supplement and in lieu of base pay increases. These monies minimize organizational expenses year over year, and still reward employees based on performance.

Outlook for Compensation
As budgets become tighter, more organizations are going to rely on performance differentiation and merit pay to attract, retain and motivate key and critical talent. As profits and revenues shrink, it will be interesting to see what trends emerge in employee compensation. Though trends for the past few years show that employees have a certain level of security at their current jobs and hesitate to leave for another opportunity, it is unlikely that an organization will keep all its employees. When the economy does turn around and profits return to business, look out for any feelings from employees that the organization “owes” them.

About the Author
Jason C. Kovac, Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) and Certified Benefits Professional (CBP), is a practice leader for WorldatWork. As such, he develops instructional course content in the disciplines of compensation regulations, job analysis/documentation/evaluation, base pay management, market pricing, statistical applications, and mergers and acquisitions. Kovac has authored three books:FLSA Compliance: An Overview for the HR Professional ; Job Evaluation: Methods to the Process ; and Elements of Base Pay Administration. He is in the process of writing a fourth book on career development. In addition to writing a monthly column called “Back to Basics” in Workspan magazine, Kovac has been quoted in Dow Jones, CNN Money, East Valley Tribune, Compensation and Benefits, Denver Post, Business and Compensation Solutions ,, and many others. Kovac can be reached at .

Sudden Loss of Leadership: 2/3 Companies Not Prepared

Lack of succession planning is more acute in small- to medium-sized organizations

The benefits of an effective succession plan are seemingly plain to see, but most companies are apparently wearing blinders, according to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp…

The study showed that more than two-thirds of polled organizations are not immediately prepared to fill a suddenly vacated leadership position, and just a third have identified an internal interim successor should their CEO suddenly depart.

Of all respondents, less than half (45%) reported they have a formal succession plan in place, and only 46% conduct regular talent reviews to gauge the readiness of employees who may be counted on to fill leadership roles in short order.

“It’s somewhat surprising to me that more attention isn’t being paid to succession planning issues,” says i4cp executive-in-residence Jim Thomas. “Having the right people prepared to fill key positions is an essential business strategy in this time of fierce competition for talent. The defining moments in a company’s ability to stay competitive may rest in the focus it places on filling key positions with assimilated and capable replacements.”

Large companies, however, are paying closer attention to succession planning issues. When broken down by company size, 66% of organizations with more than 10,000 employees said they are prepared or very prepared to immediately fill a leadership role, while 75% have identified an interim CEO successor. Also, among companies with more than 10,000 workers, 86% reported having a succession plan in place and 69% conduct regular talent reviews.

“I have held executive-level HR positions with several large companies, and the importance placed on succession planning was extremely high,” Thomas says. “It just makes sense. The future successful management of the company depends on the strategic initiative it places on having an integrated succession plan – specifically one that is consistently reviewed and used to fill key positions within the company.”

Of the organizations that have succession plans, 45% have a specific group (HR or other department) overseeing the plan (that number jumps to 74% in companies with more than 10,000 employees), while 39% include the plan in their career planning process. More than 38% review and/or refresh their plans a minimum of every two years, and 38% discuss strategic issues. Asked to describe their planning programs, 27% have an entry-level management trainee program (43% for companies with more than 10,000 workers), 26% have a formal plan for future hiring needs (50% in companies of more than 10,000), and 24% formally measure trainee job performance (41% in companies with upwards of 10,000 employees).

Almost a third of companies that have succession planning programs have had them in place for two or more years, while 23% have a system integrated with other business processes and 20% have a stand-alone succession planning program. For companies with more than 10,000 employees, 55% have programs that have been in place more than two years.

The organizational levels most likely to be addressed in companies of all sizes are at the executive and director levels – both at 45% – followed by CEO and vice president levels at 40%. In large companies, 81% of respondents address the executive level, while 76% include the vice president level and 71% address the director level.

The Taking the Pulse: Succession Planning Survey was conducted by i4cp, in conjunction with, in July 2008. There were a total of 275 respondents. The full results of the survey are available exclusively for all i4cp corporate members.

About i4cp, inc.

i4cp is the world’s largest private network of corporations focused on improving workforce productivity. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members – among the largest and most respected organizations in the world – access to:

1. Peers to spark new ideas and prevent “reinventing the wheel,”

2. Research to enable members to understand current practices and next practices,

3. Tools to put ideas and research into action,

4. Technology to enable members to easily access tailored information and execute workforce strategies.

With more than 40 years of experience and the industry’s largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity.

# # #

UN to US Grads: Become

Have a readiness to change countries more often than jobs

New York —
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown called on New York University (NYU) graduates to fully engage with the world as true “global citizens” and live up to the words of former United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt by casting aside isolationism.

Speaking at the commencement of the University’s School of Continuing and Professional Education, which included the first batch of graduates from the Program of Global Affairs, Mr. Malloch Brown praised the students for their “determination and initiative” to pursue further studies and a career at the same time, and recalled his own experiences relating to continuing education.

“As a former chief of the UN Development Programme, I have a particular perspective on continuing education: that of the countries of Southern Africa as they emerged from long and vicious civil wars. In places like Mozambique and Namibia, many of today’s leaders spent their traditional university years in the bush as freedom fighters. Yet when justice and democracy were established, many of the rebels went back to school,” he said.

“Mozambique became, almost literally, a country governed by continuing education. The determination to learn reflected a determination to rebuild. To put the war years behind them and to regain lost ground, Mozambicans decided that it was never too late to learn, to go to school, to set a new course for themselves.”

Recalling these examples, Mr. Malloch Brown told the students that their studies in NYU’s classrooms “should be the beginning, not the end, of a lifetime of learning,” adding that his own continuing education has been based on a sense of “global citizenship – a readiness to change countries more often than jobs.”

He also outlined the breadth of the UN’s work, from promoting democracy and literacy, encouraging investment and trade, to ensuring decent education, checking nuclear proliferation and combating bird flu, highlighting that whatever the students’ fields of study, the world body’s work “concerns all of you.”

“More than half a century ago a great New Yorker, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, made a passionate plea for America’s global engagement. ‘We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away,’ he declared. ‘We have learned that we must live as men, and not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.’ ”

The Deputy Secretary-General voiced hope that the graduates would “continue to represent not just the ideals of this University and the vibrancy of this city, but also the exhortation of President Roosevelt,” adding “that, ultimately, is the charge of global citizenship.”

euro Workplace Options

LONDON — Accor Services ( and Workplace Options announce that Employee Advisory Resource (EAR), ( one of the UK’s leading providers of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) and Work-Life services, will join forces with Workplace Options (WPO), the largest provider of Work-Life employee benefits in the United States and a current partner of Accor Services.

This strategic partnership will allow EAR’s growing portfolio of global clients to quickly and effectively extend coverage of their employee benefits outside the UK. It will allow WPO’s EAP clients to expand their work-life services internationally and will provide them with access to an extensive network of behavioral health providers throughout Europe. These combined forces will now be able to share ideas and investments, in order to bring innovative new products to the two most dynamic marketplaces for work-life and employee support services.

The partnership reinforces Accor Services’ global EAP/Work-Life strategy, which seeks to leverage shared quality/service standards and technology platforms with a strong local presence. Accor Services currently has EAP/Work-Life subsidiaries in the UK, the US, Australia and France. In addition, its rapidly expanding international network of affiliate partners enables Accor Services to provide EAP coverage in more than 35 countries and to reaffirm its leadership in the global HR benefit market.

Laurent Delmas, Managing Director of Accor Services UK, said: “Our portfolio of international Blue Chip clients is increasingly telling us they need innovative products and services of the highest quality which are consistent across the geographies in which they operate. This is exactly what this partnership will deliver to our clients and their employees.”

Workplace Options’ Chief Executive Officer Dean Debnam said: “This is an exciting development for both existing and prospective clients of Employee Advisory Resource and Workplace Options. Through this innovative partnership, leading global businesses will get the benefits of one contract to cover their employees in more than 35 countries.”

“We are delighted to offer a truly international work-life service to our clients in the U.S.,” said Alan King, president of WPO. “This also allows us to expand our emindhealth network to include mental health professionals in 12 European countries.” For further information please contact: Sandy Egan, Director of Service Promotion at (919)834-6506 x2161

Accor Services designs, develops and manages innovative solutions which combine personal aspirations of employee with employer’s productivity objectives. Over 340,000 organizations and 21 million employees in 35 countries use our services. Accor Services belongs to the Accor Group, a public company with more than £5 billion revenues worldwide.

Employee Advisory Resource (EAR) is the pioneer of EAP in Europe, established in 1981. EAR’s integrated approach to EAP includes a wide portfolio of services, including counseling, information services, management consulting, training and coaching. EAR has a track record of service innovation, including ManagerAssist™ and EAPDirect™, the UK’s leading Internet based EAP and Work-Life service. Over 300 organisations across Europe take advantage of EAR’s services.

Workplace Options (WPO) is America’s largest provider of Work-Life services and software that help EAPs and other third parties run their business more profitably and efficiently. Founded in 1982 and servicing nearly 15 million employees and their families, WPO is recognized for its innovative web delivery capabilities, flexibility and affordable pricing models.

Behavior Interviews in an Intercultural Context

Maureen Rabotin, CEO and founder
Effective Global Leadership •

The behavioral interview technique — one used by employers to evaluate a candidate’s past experiences and behaviors in order to determine their future potential for success — is once again on the rise in companies across the U.S. According to Career Services at SUNY Brockport, currently 30 percent of all organizations are using behavioral interviewing techniques in some manner.

Why is this technique so popular? Because, presumably, it works. U.S-based surveys like that done by Quintessential Careers mentioned in the article titled Behavioral Interviewing Strategies for Job-Seekers by Katharine Hansen have shown that behavior interviewing is 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.

Another factor contributing to the growing use of behavior interviewing, according to a December 2007 survey conducted by the Novations Group, is the broad demographic shift underway in the workplace. According to Tim Vigue, Novations executive consultant, “An increasingly diverse talent pool demands that organizations hire the best from the broadest possible pool. To do so employers have to use objective methods that won’t screen out qualified candidates due to bias.”

Implied then is the fact that behavior interviews are fair and take into account the diversity of applicants. But, do behavior interviews take into account the diversity of the job for which the candidate is interviewing? Does the popular technique consider the intercultural contexts of the job? Can behavioral interview questions accurately assess whether a candidate’s past experiences will predict success or failure in an intercultural, international assignment?

Bob’s Behavior and What It Tells Us About Our Own

Meet Bob. Bob graduated at the top of his class at one of the most prestigious universities in Texas and then went on to finish his MBA while maintaining a rigorous and demanding position at a top corporation in the food industry. Bob’s greatest asset was his charismatic approach; he was a real down-to-earth, people person — and the company had taken notice. Bob was up for an international assignment and passed the interview (which included both conventional and behavior-based questions) with flying colors.

Here is an example of how Bob thought he had nailed the interview. When he was asked by the interviewer, “What do you do when working on a tight schedule with several priorities? Give an example of how you handle this,” he responded like a S.T.A.R. Bob’s answer started with the perfect Situation, moved into dealing with a specific Task, and went on to explain his Action orientation on prioritizing projects to meet deadlines and the successful Result of surpassing expectations. In fact, his response went something like this: “Due to extenuating circumstances, our team project was moving forward on a very tight schedule. The project was nearing deadline. Two of the team members had sales forecasts to finish up for a meeting the following Monday. With my urging, the team agreed to stay late, work through dinner and meet late Sunday to wrap up both our sales forecasts and tie up some loose ends on a procurement proposal that needed to be revised. By gearing up the team’s motivation through commitment and accountability, we were able to easily finish everything with time to spare. By Monday morning, everyone was satisfied with the results. Of course, this is not my preferred way of time management, but when everyone on the team is motivated, you can move mountains.”

Bob seemed to have the perfect U.S. corporate culture, “can-do” attitude. That, however, turned out to be the problem.

Bob got the job and was hired to run the newly acquired Spanish office in Madrid. After several “discussions” with his superiors, Bob was brought back to reassume his position in the U.S.

Why did he fail at his international assignment?

According to the HR director at the Madrid office, “We hire people who resemble us.” In the Madrid office, a sure hire’s response would be more in tune with family values (paternalistic), personal honor and dignity. In Spain, human relations count far more than logic or efficiency. Spaniards influence colleagues with personal appeal — not rules, regulations or deadlines. They do not like being rushed and no one is ever too busy when asked to lend an ear. Thus, in Spain, when a candidate is asked, “What do you do when working on a tight schedule with several priorities? Give an example of how you handle this,” a S.T.A.R. might give the following answer: “When our project team was working on a tight schedule, we knew that the deadlines were out of reach. Knowing that the extenuating circumstances were beyond our control, there was little we could do to meet the deadlines imposed by headquarters. To ease everybody’s sense of urgency and stress, I made sure that the team members were following the instructions I had clearly defined for them at the outset of the project. Plus, they knew they could count on me to take the responsibility for any delays. We worked late into the night preparing some presentations to explain where the project was expected to be delayed, and of course, we finished our sales forecasts for the upcoming year.”

See the marked difference in the responses? Bob’s efficiency was totally out of synch with the relationship-building, hierarchal and paternalistic structure of the newly acquired Spanish company — a company that needed a culturally sensitive, effective manager (especially during the integration phase), not an achievement and profitability-focused number cruncher.

The reason that the company could not determine if Bob’s style and approach would integrate well with the Spanish division is because the right questions weren’t evaluated in the right contexts. The behavioral interview questions were evaluated ethnocentrically, giving great credit to answers that could only be predictive of success or failure in U.S-based positions. So, is behavior interviewing effective when screening for international positions? The answer is yes, but with modifications.

A Different Paradigm Calls for Different Questions, Different Evaluation Contexts

The behavior interview is based on the theory that past behavior is often a good indicator of future behavior. By framing questions on knowledge, skills and abilities that are the basis of the competencies needed for the required position, the results should show how well a candidate may or may not succeed in the position. But, how do we interpret answers that indicate success in international positions when the questions are written and asked within a U.S. paradigm? How do we assess the “right” answer if the evaluation is not culturally adapted for the position? We educate the interviewer, ask different questions and listen for different answers.

First, educate the interviewer about this paradigm shift. This involves:

• A comprehensive understanding of the position’s location and culture

• An understanding of the behavioral skill sets required to succeed in a position located in a country with a completely different cultural context

• Homework — proper probing of the candidate’s previous expatriate or international assignments

• An understanding and awareness of one’s own cultural biases, pre-conceived judgments, values and assumptions

• A consideration of the cultural frameworks and job “fit” of the candidate’s national culture compared to that of the destination country

• An appreciation of the adaptability and flexibility particular to a candidate with previous expatriate experience

• Insight into what makes a person successful in international assignments, especially those who have been on the global nomad track, sacrificing family and home security for challenges and the need to add value to the global organization ( i.e., how do characteristics like independence and self-reliance work with a group-oriented, family-style culture?)

• Familiarity — interviewers of applicants for international positions should have had an expatriate or international experience of their own in order to better frame their questions

• Language proficiency — interviewers who speak more than one language are preferred so there is a sensibility with respect to vocabulary, articulation and word choice

Secondly, think through how to elicit the responses you need to make a determination. For example, if you know that to succeed in this position, a candidate must be a team player, discover unique ways to phrase questions that will prompt the candidate to speak about collaborative experiences. As you brainstorm questions, choose situations and words that work within an international context. If this process causes you anxiety, enlist the help of a cross cultural training consultant who is familiar with the cultural contexts of myriad international locations.

As an example, Bob’s interviewer should have know that to succeed in business in Madrid, an understanding of the following were required: a hierarchical system; family-first culture; flexible attitudes with respect to time and physical closeness; national and personal pride; and care and concern for others. Thus, examples of the questions he/she could have asked to determine if Bob had these understandings include:

• Tell me about a time when you felt pressured for time and a colleague needed to discuss an issue with you. How did you react? What options did you consider? (Answers would speak to time management in a polychronic culture.) :

• Give me an example when you felt frustrated over an ethical decision by your superior or departmental manager. What actions did you take to resolve your inner conflict? (Answers would speak to hierarchy issues in a protocol-oriented culture.) :

• Give me an example when family matters prevented you from giving your utmost at work. How did you handle that? How would you handle that situation if it involved an employee? (Answers would speak to time in relation to a family-oriented, work-to-live culture.) :

Next, draft the questions and have an HR counterpart at the international destination review them for cultural context and sensitivity.

Finally, analyze the candidate’s answers with the destination HR counterpart and with a wide lens. Based on the candidate’s answers, evaluate:

• How will this candidate’s behaviors be perceived by colleagues and superiors within this context? :

• How well do the candidate’s characteristics translate across cultural and linguistic boundaries? :

• How well will this candidate fit into the new organizational culture? :

• How capable will this candidate be in influencing local team players? In developing senior, local and regional-based employees? :

• How will this candidate recognize the motivational drivers of the employees in the new contexts? :

• What level of observation skills does this candidate have? How comfortable is he/she with listening more than talking, observing more than participating? :

• What will need to be taken into consideration if this candidate is accepted for this international assignment? Is there a dual career issue? An aging parent concern? Childcare and educational issues to take into account? :

• In general, what are the risks, what is the potential for success? What is the cost of early repatriation to the company? • :

Although our Western-style need to standardize, structure and measure performance will resist change, we need to remind ourselves that in an increasingly flattened world, change is necessary. In today’s global marketplace, we must take into consideration the context within which we measure success. This means rethinking the behavioral interview process when it comes to interviewing candidates for international assignments and taking a long, hard look at the ethnocentrism that has pervaded the hiring process for far too long. The result will be better hires and a faster integration of corporate and functional cultures in a boundary-less world.

Maureen Rabotin, CEO and founder of Effective Global Leadership, is a Global Executive Coach and Cross Cultural Training Consultant. She has coached and trained more than 450 global leaders representing 125 Fortune 500 companies. For more information, please visit

HR function: Increasing stature, influence

SILICON VALLEY — The Glowan Consulting Group has introduced a targeted new process for Human Resource Organizations and Human Resource Professionals aimed at increasing the stature and influence of the HR function within organizations.

Offered as an “in-house” process for Human Resource organizations, “A Seat At The Table” helps HR organizations reposition their people and function as strategic business partners rather than the more traditional role of support and compliance.

This new way of thinking about Human Resource’s role is achieved by evaluating and assessing the strategic positioning and impact HR has on the business operations and the financial performance of the enterprise. By assessing where the majority of HR time and energy is spent, HR professionals readily discover whether they are spending most of their time in “Intervention”, “Prevention”, or “Advancement”.

Utilizing a Glowan design combining the technologies of Appreciative Inquiry and Root Cause Analysis, the process arms participants with the tools, techniques and skills to move Human Resources from their more traditional place in the organization to one of true leadership.

Components includes:
*Introduction: Earning a seat at the table
*Characteristics of a high performance workplace
*Creating a Coaching Culture
*IPA: Intervention, Prevention & Advancement
*GROW Assessment
*Personal and organizational planning and goal-setting. Professional and Executive Coaching is included in the process.

HR Responsible for Strategy Alignment

ONTARIO, CANADA – “The responsibility to align the company’s business strategy with its Human Capital strategy belongs to the Human Resource function,” says a recent study conducted by Brian Lowenthal, of The Benchmark Partners, LLC, a consulting firm with over 25 years of HR experience.

The companies in the study that were able to achieve and sustain the alignment of business strategy to Human Capital strategy saw their Human Resource functions contribute results across five dimensions for HR Effectiveness: Strategic Alignment, HR ROI, HR Operations, HR Technology and Stakeholder Alignment.

The study further showed that when HR was ineffective in two or more of these five dimensions, HR was seen as making no significant or material bottom-line contributions. Additionally, HR was seen as adding little value to organizational performance.


Lee Hecht Harrison
Los Angeles office

When job candidates meet with human resources professionals, they often try only to reveal things about themselves that they want to be seen. But savvy HR professionals can recognize a variety of personality and leadership traits that are revealed during what can be, depending on the job, a lengthy and thorough interviewing process.

Recently, there was a very well publicized, and perhaps the most important, job opening in the country with two top candidates in the running. That job is president of the U.S. with the HR department being the voting public.

“But regarding regular business, of course HR professionals will know what to look for during the interview process that will indicate in this case who the best candidate for the job might be,” says Don Wells, senior vice president and general manager of leading career services company Lee Hecht Harrison’s Los Angeles office.

Whether it is a presidential candidate or a C-level job applicant, many of whom go through an arduous process of up to 10 interviews before being offered a position, Wells believes that it’s imperative for the interviewer to have sufficient information about a candidate’s leadership ability before making a decision.

In this spirit, here are four important “Cs of Leadership” to watch for during your interviews during the next year or so:

It may seem obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough. Some of the most important attributes of a good leader are positive and developed communication skills. Is the candidate’s message clear? Does he or she stop talking and judging long enough to listen to others?

A challenge faced by many leaders is remaining steadfast in their values and maintaining the corporate culture despite being pulled in many directions at once. It is crucial to demonstrate that they can be trusted to follow through on what has been promised.

Good leaders must be able to get buy-in from important stakeholders on the tough decisions. They should encourage and value the perceptions and interests of others, set an environment for clear and honest discussions and understand all sides of an issue, rather than only seeking information that supports their own opinion.

Leaders at any level should be able to find common ground in the face of conflict, while focusing on the important issues to meet the needs of their constituency.

“Obviously there is no template that will be effective for screening all job candidates,” says Wells. “However, given careful scrutiny, their true leadership traits will become evident.”