Going Global: An HR Handbook

Sunday, September 16, 2012
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The 2012 Olympic Games were truly global -- the actual and virtual coming together of people, ideas and cultures. This inter-connectedness is something multi-nationals are embracing as well, or ignoring at their own peril.

HR leaders must play a role facilitating the global phenomena through sound HR policies and practices. Often, there's a tension between local culture and laws, and the need for global policies and practices. In our experience, the balance in this tension is swinging toward a higher demand for globalization -- illustrated by an increasing demand for unified, global employee handbooks. Successfully implementing them is not straightforward, especially considering the world's legal and cultural diversity. Here, though, are tips to get HR started:

* Homework -- Establish if the local entities within your organization have implemented handbooks. If not, establish what the applicable local work rules and/or policies and practices are.

* Clean slate -- Find out what legal and/or HR processes need to be followed to repeal old versions of handbooks and to roll out the new global one.

* Consult -- Local HR managers should advise whether there are any statutory or contractual obligations to consult with local works councils, trade-union representatives, health-and-safety committees, etc., before a new global handbook can be launched. If so, find out what these requirements are, who needs consulting and how long it will last.

* Translate -- Local HR managers should advise if there is a legal requirement to have the global policy and the local country addendum translated into the local language.

* Receipt -- Establish whether employees are obliged to confirm their acceptance of the new global handbook and, if so, what the implications are if they refuse to sign an acknowledgement.

* Dual structure -- The first part should contain the policies and procedures generally applicable to all employees worldwide. In doing this, try to find as much as possible that is common or can be applied to all jurisdictions. The second part should contain country-specific appendices outlining the distinct local policies for each affected country.

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* Legal blessing -- Ask the organization's general counsel or a qualified law firm to review the global handbook and ensure that it accords with local law in each applicable jurisdiction.

* Engage -- Ensure that the local HR managers are familiar with the provisions of the new global handbook so that they can implement its provisions and address any questions that may arise.

* Roll out -- Make sure all employees know that a new global handbook has been implemented and ensure that they understand its contents. Provide training as appropriate to ensure compliance.

* Review and update -- To ensure that the handbook remains current and up-to-date, review its contents on an annual basis and, if required, make necessary amendments in accordance with local customs and legal requirements.

This may seem like an "Olympian" effort -- but it's what HR leaders need to do if their firms are to compete globally.

Paul Salvatore is the co-chair of New York-based Proskauer's global labor and employment law department. He can be emailed at This column was co-authored by Peta-Anne Barrows of Proskauer's London office.

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