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Question: one of the biggest hr challenges facing global businesses today...

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One of the biggest HR challenges facing global businesses today is how to most effectively train and develop a global workforce. In fact, there seems to be no single generally accepted approach for handling this increasingly important function. Even firms in the same industry adopt very different approaches. Take Chevron, for example. Chevron is a global energy company headquartered in California but with operations in more than 180 countries. Chevron uses a flexible approach to training in that it assesses each training opportunity as a unique activity and then develops it accordingly. For instance, Chevron recently announced plans to open a new production facility in Angola and wanted to staff the facility with local employees and managers. However, the firm also felt that local employees lacked some of the technical skills needed for their new positions. Chevron also has a long-standing partnership with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAT) in Canada. SAT agreed to develop a custom training program to help train Chevron’s employees for their new assignment. Forty five Chevron employees from Angola then spent 11 months in Alberta learning new technical skills. Schlumberger, the world’s largest energy services business, uses a different approach. All Schlumberger employees are trained locally. Sometimes relying on local expertise and sometimes relying on Schlumberger managers sent on temporary assignment, Schlumberger employees routinely receive classroom training on the newest job skills as well as managerial competencies without needing to travel.

Meanwhile, Schlumberger’s biggest competitor, Halliburton, uses a hybrid model for employee training. Like Schlumberger, Halliburton uses local experts plus its own managers to provide on-site technical training. However, managerial and leadership training activities are centralized at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School in the United States. Each year, several hundred Halliburton managers travel to Texas from around the world for training programs ranging from 1 to 5 weeks. This training is focused on management and leadership competencies and is intended to help prepare high-potential managers for future leadership roles. Ironically, however, while most global firms do a reasonably effective job of preparing employees and managers for overseas jobs and assignments, most also do a somewhat less effective job of helping people on short-term foreign assignments prepare for their return home. Companies sometimes invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to help a manager prepare for and then execute a foreign assignment, but then devote virtually no attention to that manager when the assignment ends and the manager returns home. Unfortunately, though, about 20 percent of managers and other professionals leave their employer within 2 years from returning home after an extended overseas assignment. Consequently, it would seem that even globally successful companies still have a ways to go in developing comprehensive training and development strategies for their employees.

Case Questions

1. Why do you think there is so much variation in how companies handle global training and development for their employees?

2. What kinds of additional training might be used for managers taking on a new overseas assignment?

3. Assume that you have been on an overseas assignment for 2 years but are now preparing to return home. What might you do to prepare for this transition?

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