Safeguard Global – How Can Companies Redesign Workforce Strategies By Being Globally Fluent With Brian Dames
On today’s show, we have Brian Dames from Safeguard Global here to talk about how companies can redesign their workforce strategies by being globally fluent.
We’re actually gonna be talking a lot about global fluency, or multinational employment proficiency, which Brian will define and break down for us as well. He’s really an expert in this whole area of global employment.
Listening time: 29 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Brian Dames from Safeguard Global, and we’re gonna be talking about how, how can companies redesign workforce strategies by being globally fluent? So we’re actually gonna be talking a lot about global fluency, which is can be a really fun topic. Before we get all into that. Brian, would you do me a favor and the audience a favor and introduce both yourself and, and safeguard?
Absolutely. And William, thanks, thanks so much for having me, I really appreciate it. I’ve listened to many episodes, so very excited to be on. So a little bit about the company Safeguard Global, I’ll just keep it really simple. We essentially help multinational companies employ and manage their global workforce. And what, when we talking about this a bit when we specifically talk about global fluency, but you can imagine the complexity that comes with you know, finding talent globally, it’s gotten even more interesting given what we’ve been through over the last year or so.
So, you know, we work with those multinationals to help them employ that talent, sometimes through us, sometimes directly, and then help them manage their workforce. Whether that’s, you know, changing exactly how the talent is deployed globally, how they’re managing it, in the countries that they’re in. Things like that. So so I’ve been with a company going on four years. And I serve as you know, the lead for a marketing organization and our strategy organization. It’s really the work and the strategy side that sort of, you know, with a team, helped us arrive at that this concept of global fluency, which I’m really excited to talk about today.
Well, let’s, let’s jump right into that. So let’s just define global fluency. What are we, when you say that to somebody? What do you in general, what do you mean?
Yeah, so so it, it stems from many conversations that we’ve had with our clients. So we work with multinationals in many different industries, many different size companies. And inevitably, because they know we work with so many different companies, we get the question, asking, you know, where that particular client sort of stacks up against either the market in general or, you know, their industry or their competitive set.
And, typically, you know, depending on who within our organization, you’re speaking with, you know, you will get, you know, historically sort of an anecdotal answer to that question. And we sat down and put our heads together, and we said, Boy, there must be a better way for us to be able to answer this and to be able to leverage all of this great, you know, experience that we have with these companies to just provide a maybe a more fact-based and more quantitative answer. And that’s what we set out to do. And we went out and did research with 250 multinational companies. And we’re actually going to, we’re going to go back and update the research, given everything that’s occurred in the last 18 months or so. And, you know, ask them a lot about, you know, what their, what they cared about what their aspirations were, as a multinational employer, and then sort of measured, you know, attributes of, you know, their coverage and sort of the state of their data and the proximity of the data to the people that needed it.
What we found was there are really three main categories that differentiate multinational employment proficiency. One is how well a company knows the markets that they’re in, or the markets that they want to be in. You know, as you can imagine, there’s tons of complexity that goes into employing in different countries, obviously, their language issues, their currency conversion issues, there are understanding that the tax law and the nuances and the changes to those laws over time, there’s employment law and legislation that’s changing all the time. You know, there’s the social and political climate of countries that you’re in all of those things manifest themselves in data and, and it’s really how well an organization understands that data, about the markets that they’re in and the Ones that they want to be in. And that’s really the first bucket. And it’s what we call intellect. So how well do you know kind of where you are?
The second thing is, is, you know when that data is presented in different forms, how well is that organization absorbing that information? So, you know, given all the data that’s coming from all those different countries, are they normalizing the information? Are they getting in the hands of the people that needed to make decisions? And that’s really the second bucket. And that’s what we call acumen.
And then the third is, once that data is in place, how well is it being analyzed, you know, decisions being made, and it’s actually applied to evolve the multinationals proficiency. And that’s really the third bucket. And that’s what we call agility. That is particularly important, because you need to have that data at your fingertips is their shifts in the marketplace, we’ve, we’ve just been living through the biggest employment, we’re just really even, you know, social shift, given COVID that maybe any of us have seen in our lifetime.
So, you know, it’s those three buckets that make up what we call global fluency. And because we have this benchmark, we can, through asking our clients and prospective clients a few questions, can benchmark them against the data set that we’ve built. And we can measure actually, their global fluency.
So I love the framework, by the way. So so it makes sense for multinationals and multinationals. For those listening, just think of, you’ve got an energy company in Houston, Texas, who’s got 300 employees, but they just so happen to be in 40 different countries. You know. Multinational, multi-country. Could be multilingual, multicultural, there’s a lot of things to kind of factor in, as is brought us into. But I with a lot of companies that are looking at expansion.
So either American companies, and I’m thinking about Europe, or they’re thinking about Southeast Asia or Australia or something like that. And so they’re not quite multinational. But they’re thinking about becoming multinational. So when should they get on the curve? Because like, like, I get, like the company I just mentioned, the energy company in Houston, they’re already a multinational, like, they should already have some fluency or a recipe down the path. But if they’re, if they’re thinking about expansion, and they’re not quite a goal of global or a multinational, yet, when should they start thinking about this framework?
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s an interesting question. And it’s what makes our business so so fascinating. Is, you know, we work with companies of that size, you know, that we have clients that are either recently funded or working on getting funded, very, very early stage and in exactly in that spot that you’re talking about thinking about? You know, should they expand globally? What should that look like, all the way to us working with multibillion multinationals? And, you know, you know, my answer that, I guess, generally is, if you’re thinking about it, then you should probably start thinking about actioning it because, number one, if you’re thinking about it, it’s likely that your competitive set is as well, or already has, number two, accessibility to global commerce is easier than it’s ever been.
You know, the available ways for employees to connect, you know, we’re seeing a lot more demand from global talents on being able to work anywhere in the world. We hear that a lot. It’s actually our point of view that that multinationals need to think about much more than just location when, when engaging their employment brand with different talent. But it’s so accessible to companies and it always, it seems very daunting, I’m sure, in classically, there’s really been a couple of options. So if you want to open a sales office or you want to offshore, some, you know, engineering or manufacturing, you know, typically there’s really only been a couple of options.
One is to contract within that country. And what we find is that 60 to 70% of companies that contract you know, to employ outside of their headquarter country are noncompliant. And you know, local governments don’t take too kindly to companies coming from another country and just contracting their talent. Second is you set up an entity and that can be very timely and very costly and is difficult to navigate if you’ve never done it, and just because you’ve done it in one country, doesn’t mean that you know how to do it in the next one.
So, so the problem with that is just the expediency in which you can get into a country. So you may make the strategic decision and you won’t be in the country for another year. And, and one of the options that we provide is, is, you know, we allow companies, our clients to employ through us so we can get them in country within a matter of weeks. And that’s just one example of, of the services and the technology that is available that make global expansion available in ways that it never was, you know, you know, 15 to 20 years ago.
Right. So you mentioned work from home and remote. And so I wanted to ask you, because, on one level, you’ve now got access, because we’ve proven ourselves that a lot at least of knowledge worker jobs, right, you can work anywhere in the world monitor, you know, stay within the timezone, or you can work within the timezone and or deliver on the things that need to be delivered on, you can work from anywhere in the world. And, and or you can recruit from everywhere in the world.
So it’s opened up on both sides, that candidates now can look at jobs in Paris. And Parisian companies can now look at, you know, people that work in Chicago, or they live in Chicago, how is that? How is that impacted? I want to say, you know, it’s COVID, but it’s also just a, we were already down this path, pre-COVID. But COVID definitely sped some of this up someone’s uh, silver lining for a lot of the knowledge workers that, you know, you don’t necessarily have to be in that office to do that job. How has that changed your customers and the way that they look at talent, and even maybe the way that y’all look at talent?
It. William, it is a massive shift. What, the way that our view on it is that the power dynamic has shifted between the global employer and the available global talent. And what I mean by that is, I think there was sort of a, in the, in the collective global consciousness, there was this belief that there had to be the localization of employment to be successful. I think all companies have been engaging remote talent and in various ways for a while now. And we’ve, you know, we figured pieces of that out. But, you know, it was a very rare case that a company either had sort of hybrid models where, you know, people could come in or work from home or work from different locations.
You know, it was, it was a fairly standard operating employment model, to have most of your workers in office and, you know, supporting remote work where you could. I think, what we proved over the last 18 months, and what what has entered the consciousness of the, you know, the global talent across the whole world is that we proved, fully remote can work.
If anything, you know, productivity improved in places, and we’re seeing a power shift, as companies think about, you know, how they’re going to configure, you know, the available, you know, the structure of how their employee base engaged with them moving forward, that, you know, talent is not going to be willing to do the things that they did 18 months ago. You know, there, there are already companies that have said, hey, you have to come in full time, and they’ve seen their attrition rates go up, because people are not willing to do the commutes that they were doing prior.
So, you know, I think there’s a recognition that hey, as the talent, I can work from anywhere. But it’s our also our view that this is not just a location issue, you know, that we see a lot of people talking in the market about future of work being work from anywhere, well, that that’s here that’s happening, we believe it’s about work, really, in any way that you know, you can. You may want to classify yourself as a different type of employee, maybe you want to work for multiple companies.
You just want to be project-based, you know, that you may want to be paid in different ways or in a periodicity that you define. You have may have certain requirements around diversity or culture. So, so I think that the power dynamic is definitely shifting and global talent is recognizing what it has available to offer. And I think we’re gonna see talent making different demands than we’ve ever seen before. And I think that is all a result of what we’ve seen in the last year and a half.
It’s interesting, especially from a recruiters perspective, is now the aperture is wide open, it’s like holy, I can, I can look at, you know, prior to this, if you’re in San Francisco and you’re hiring a software engineer, it was nearly impossible. But, but now wait a minute hold on software engineers in Wyoming and, and other places in the world are open to me. And again, we’re dealing with, if you’re a bank cashier, or you know, the world of work probably hasn’t changed as much.
But if you’re a knowledge worker, it is really gotten interesting for the recruiters and employer brand side of things, as well as the talent, I love the way you, you, you brought it back to the talent. Again, prior to this, you probably had to think about, you know, localization. Now, you can still think about localization. However, you can also think a little bit beyond that if you need to. Let’s get back to some of global.
And I’m sorry, one more thing. And I think it’s not just a recruiting thing, I think it’s a retention thing as well. So well, you know, we’ve had clients come to us or even brand, you know, prospective clients that then you know, converted and became clients. And said, Hey, I have this really talented person who, you know, fell in love with a guy in Germany and wants to move there. Yeah, and we don’t want to lose her. And we don’t have anybody in Germany, we don’t have an office. So you know, we can get them set up very quickly. And that is going to be a requirement, you know, people are going to want to be more mobile and, you know, have different options. And it’s a way to recruit people as well.
We were laughing about in pre-show about Austin, and the influx in Texas, in general, of folks that are that historically have not lived in Texas. And that’s true of like all kinds of places, you know, I have friends in Idaho and Salt Lake and, and, and Denver, that they’re getting an influx of talent as well. It’s just, it’s fascinating. And at the same time, as an HR person or a recruiter, I can also see it being a bit chaotic.
And again, you and I are just talking about the US. But really, I loved your example of someone that wants to go to Germany and your user, you really want to keep that talent or you don’t. If you want to keep them and they’re really good at their job, then you find a way to do it. And this is a great way to think of it. So let me ask a question about global fluency. And let’s get back to because I’m just fascinated by the topic, how should companies think about global fluency when they think of their workforce strategy? So how do they meld the two together?
Yeah, you know, in the framework, as we’ve defined it, you know, what we have found is that, that our clients have big ideas as to how they want to improve their function, how they want to improve the brand experience for both employees or sorry, employees and candidates. You know, they have a lot of ideas, how do they want to build efficiency into the way that they do the business, do their business and be more fact-based, and, you know, have the available talent or data to make decisions about talent.
What we have found is, it’s difficult to get the attention within the organization, run and rally folks around those ideas, because typically, it’s a multifunctional problem, right? They have to get IT involved, they have to get finance involved, they have business stakeholders that have to buy in, and it can just be really tough to get people aligned. And what we have found is that people are using this framework to, to first orient themselves and say, okay, where are the areas of improvement for us? And what exactly is it that we need to do?
You know, to number one, figure out where we’re behind and where we need to improve but to can we actually create competitive advantage, and, you know, not a lot of, you know, folks in HR are thinking about things like competitive advantage, but there are definitely ways that you can build differentiation into your brand by the way that you offer the brand to candidates the way that you know, get the best talent, the market the way that you retain it. And then once you know sort of, once you orient yourself and know exactly the things that you need to work on, you know, something like global fluency can provide a fact base and sort of quantification of exactly how much you’re behind or exactly what the opportunity is to go after to create competitively.
So, so this framework allows folks to say, Okay, here’s what I need to work on. But here’s what I think the net effect will be in the value that will be delivered, ultimately to the business. And then And then third, I think it’s a great way it’s it’s sort of a megaphone, in a way to go out and get that buy-in from stakeholders and say, Hey, this isn’t just me saying it, because I want to, you know, I want an initiative that helps my function, I have a, you know, a fact base of research that says that we’re behind in these areas, and that and then also that these are areas of opportunity for us to really improve and gain an advantage.
So, you know, it helps, you know, bring other people along on that journey. And then ultimately, you know, there’s a, there’s a standard framework that you can measure that over time. So we actually ran an analysis for a really big tech client brand, one that you would know. And they have already started on a ‘work anywhere’ initiative. And what we identified was that they were actually behind the tech industry in general, five years ago. And because they started expanding their employment in various countries, they had sort of caught up to the current day, but they’re playing on future expansion actually creates differentiation.
So they’re gonna, they’re gonna have more available talent, global talent to them based on their expansion plans. And they had an independent fact base that verified that the things that they were doing were the right things. And then we’re going to go ahead and measure them, you know, 18 months from now to see how they’re progressing against that. So it’s a really clean way to say, where’s my fluency against, you know, sort of either the whole industry, you know, all HR departments in all industries, or, you know, just my industry or just my competitive set. And then how am I going to improve that over time?
So let’s, let’s talk through because you mentioned a couple, but let’s talk through a couple for HR in particular, and we can use recruiting as a part of HR, which a lot of companies do. But the obstacles, roadblocks, and challenges to global fluency. What have you seen from not just your customers, just in general, when it comes to HR, and thinking about global fluency? What are some of those things that they have to overcome?
Yeah, it’s, what’s interesting is, I think, I think it’s different depending on who you’re talking to. So, so if you talk at a sort of a practitioner level, you know, they’re the fluency attributes that they’re worried about is, oh, oh, no, we just bought a company in Belgium and I have no idea how to run a Belgium payroll. I don’t know what that looks like, from a data perspective, I don’t even know what employees I’ve just inherited. I don’t know how to, you know, what currency I’m going to have to use, you know, there, it’s just a complete unknown, and there’s nothing but anxiety around that.
So at the practitioner level, it’s constantly dealing with the nuance of entering new countries or divesting or, you know, having to get things right, sort of at the employee level. You know, CHRO is thinking about very different things that, you know, they’re thinking about more of the things that we were just talking about, that there’s been a complete shift in talent, that, you know, maybe they’re looking at rising costs in a particular area for a particular function and are evaluating whether that should be moved.
But also understanding where, you know, the pockets of talents are globally, to be able to move to the areas where they need to. So so it’s highly variable. And then the other thing we see is that it’s different depending on where they are in their evolution as a company, and then also what industry they’re in. So if we, you know, look at small to midsize companies, you know, very small companies are trying to get the right tools in place, get their data together, and, you know, just be able to operationally, you know, run the way they need to, you know, in compliantly.
Whereas mid-tier companies are thinking more about, you know, integration of new countries that they’ve entered, you know, because they’re inheriting different ACMs in those countries and maybe have various partnerships, whereas enterprise companies are trying to, you know, integrate the data and analytically access it and make decisions. So, so it’s, it’s, it’s very different depending on who you are in your organization, the evolution of your company, and even what industry you’re in. Which again, is what part in part makes it so complex.
Well, and you mentioned it before it also, and how many other folks care about this topic within the organization? Right. So finance, OPs, IT, you know, you got sales, everybody, you know might care how many people are going to because like, what’s wonderful about global fluency is it’s just a nice tie into workforce planning and thinking about workforce planning in different ways.
And so workforce planning at least historically has been a combination of, of Ops, finance, and HR, all of them care about it. They all kind of, they care about it in different ways. And so I think one of the things for listeners to think about is, where you’re at on that maturity curve, from where you’re, where your global fluency is, and who needs to get involved. And if you’re an HR leader, and you’re really progressive, and you’re really thinking about these things, you might want to start advocating for these conversations sooner rather than later. Because, you know, doesn’t happen overnight. I’m assuming.
You know, and William, exactly to that point we did, we did see, it’s interesting when you begin to connect some of the data together in the data set. So we, when you analyze, sort of small as they migrate to mid-tier, and then mid-tier to enterprise, and you look at the data across those different segments, there’s almost this sort of split, or this bifurcation that occurs, where you can see it right in the data.
Because the mid-tier companies who don’t take the time to get the data right and do the proper integrations, you can see the exact percent split and how well they’re accessing the data and making analytical decisions, right. And when they don’t make those investments early on, you could see that it hurts them in their growth trajectory. And again, when I talk about competitive advantage that that hurts you.
That’s right, how do you make great data-driven decisions? Yeah, if you don’t trust the data, and or if you haven’t invested in making sure the data is where it needs to be me, it’s never gonna be perfect. Like, that’s an illusion. But, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t spend time money, and energy and making it as perfect as possible.
But yeah, there’s some interesting top-line data that 80% of HR leaders believe the ability to operate in different countries is vital to their company’s success. So So, you know, they inherently know that we’ve got to be out there, and we have to be diversifying in the way that my point. But then when you connect that to things like 60%, you know-
Seventeen payroll systems.
60%, you know, rarely or never use analytics. Yeah. It just could, that that was an eye-opening number. And then 30, only 32% using workforce data for strategic planning. So so there’s, there’s a huge disconnect between what I know is important, and the things I’m doing to fulfill on it. And there’s just so much opportunity there, and the ones that are doing it. Yeah, exactly. You’ve never heard that before, right?
Well, listen, brother, this is, first of all, we got to have you on the show again because I want to get into some of the benchmarking stuff that you’re doing with global fluency. So we’ll spend the next show getting really into the data and geeking out a little bit.
But, Brian, I really appreciate your time today. It’s been wonderful, just kind of, again, getting the audience getting myself wrapped around this concept. So thank you so much.
Thanks so much for having me on and would absolutely jump at the chance to do it again. So really enjoyed it. Thank you.
Alright, my friend. Listen, and thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.
The RecruitingDaily Podcast
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
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