After I was hired we took a trip to some overseas sites. Before we left the U.S. I told him to keep his talking to a minimum and focus on listening. He nodded and then proceeded to talk non-stop everywhere we went. At the end of the trip he commented, "I sure am glad I went on this trip. I learned so much." Hmmmmmm . . . . .
I can look back on it now and laugh. But in retrospect I acted in a similar fashion when I began my stint in International HR.
Both of the following examples happened a long time ago when I acted more like my manager than I would like to admit. But I gradually changed when I realized that I could learn a lot if I kept my mouth shut and listened.
Example 1: A manufacturing site in Malaysia wanted to reduce its healthcare costs. The HR manager developed a scatter gram that showed locations where large numbers of employees lived. She then identified clinics/hospitals in those geographic areas, visited 4-5 and made a pitch for special, lower fees. In return she committed that our employees would not go to clinics outside the “network”. Due to the volume of employees, the clinics agreed. The result? Lower healthcare costs.
This HR manager had very little knowledge of PPO’s and HMO’s in the U.S. She just came up with the idea herself. Made sense. I was really impressed. The fact that it surprised me spoke volumes. I had this belief that I (representing Corporate) was there to teach her --- that new ideas just didn’t come from an overseas site --- only from Corporate. Corporate HR was smarter than local HR.
Example 2: A manufacturing plant in Bangkok was reconfigured and the old equipment was replaced with new computerized equipment. The production operators were trained to run them. Whereas before they all stood in a row and each operator connected Part A to Part B --- each of them was now responsible for keeping 3-5 machines up and running and doing minor maintenance on them.
HR realized that these new skills meant the jobs couldn’t be matched in compensation surveys. They were neither traditional production operator jobs nor were they full-fledged technician jobs.
They were somewhere in between. So the HR manager decided to introduce what, back then, we would have called “skill-based pay”. Pay for these jobs was pegged at the operator level with additional pay for extra skills.
Keep in mind this was manufacturing – and manufacturing has pretty basic jobs --- production/assembly operators, technicians, manufacturing and quality engineers. The operator jobs were so standard in Bangkok that it was a true anomaly at the time to introduce an “operator plus” job. None of the competitor manufacturing sites had them. Hybrid jobs just didn’t exist then.
Once again I was surprised at HR’s ingenuity. And once again I had to face my old engrained beliefs. A light bulb went off --- just maybe Corporate doesn’t have a monopoly on creative ideas.
Maybe none of you have ever experienced this. Maybe I'm the only one arrogant enough to think Corporate had all the answers. I have to tell you it was a very humbling experience.
The world is full of great ideas ---- and if you keep your mouth shut and your ears open like I do now, believe me you’ll learn something!
P.S. Hey --- when you do, feel free to pass it on!
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in
Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.