Our latest HR postcard is from Andrew Dahms, Vice President, Human Resources at Hitachi Johnson Controls. Andrew is an experienced executive who has worked in country, region and global HR roles for IT, Financial Services, Telecommunications and multi-national conglomerates. Andrew has lived and worked in the United States, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
We are thankful to Andrew for generously donating the time to converse with us about his personal experience of HR across the multiple markets that he operates in. 

What are the challenges of the business environment you are operating in?

“JCH is a global HVAC business operating in residential, commercial and industrial heating and cooling applications. In terms of the challenges we face, our customers and distributors span 80 global markets and we have engineering and manufacturing in 18 countries, so meeting customer expectations, growing faster than the market and meeting regulatory requirements are key focus areas. There are different environmental regulations that we are required to meet or exceed in each market and ours is a very competitive industry with many large global and local players”. 
What are your key observations on the HR trends playing out in the market?
HR is becoming increasingly involved in change management, breaking down trust barriers and supporting business leaders with cross cultural communication issues as work spans across countries, cultures and business matrices. Our teams are often dispersed and trying to solve complex business problems so more sophisticated business management systems are required. 
A key focus for my team is hiring HVAC talent with the right skills, take engineering for example, our business is growing rapidly around the world but it can take us as long as 12 months to secure the right type of person with the critical skills we needs. It’s important that HR leaders are developing both an internal and external pipeline of talent whilst also considering different organization designs and ways of operating such as using technology to enable knowledge transfer, enhanced communication and team work."

What are some of the differences in the HR landscape offshore when comparing to Australia?

“It’s been a while since I’ve been working in Australia, however when comparing the differences, I think Australia is quite advanced in most of its HR practices, particularly in terms of talent development and leadership development. Australian HR professionals are great at fostering a healthy workplace culture and producing high levels of engagement across the workplace, most of these are transferable skills.
“Australian companies are generally more sophisticated in terms of the deployment of HRIS technology and they utilise that to create workforce analytics, planning and efficient deployment of resources.  When I started to take on regional and global roles, I observed a lot of diversity in HR practices; I would say that Australia is up there with most mature markets in terms of its HR strategies, practices and initiatives. 
It’s important when operating outside Australia to understand different ways of doing business, the different employee relations and legislative environment and different role of HR, you will need to adapt and take various approaches to be successful. Particularly when you are dealing with emerging markets or a country with a very different culture you need to think about tailoring the HR offering to suit the market you operate in. Be globally minded but locally pragmatic as to what you can accomplish and how quickly you can do that.”

What you have benefited from as a HR professional in stepping out of an Australian only role and into foreign markets?

“I’ve travelled back and forth for a number of years, i.e. working in America, spending time in Japan on four separate occasions and also Singapore. HR has taken me places I never imagined it would, I didn’t think when I embarked on my HR career that I would get the opportunity to work overseas as regularly as I have. Personally, a benefit for me has been getting exposure to different cultures and work practices and more nuanced communication styles, importantly I’ve had the opportunity to create the HR strategy as opposed to being the recipient of it
“In a Global role, there are more customers and more markets to be aware of and as a result you learn more about your role and your company. You also need to cooperate to accomplish your goals and figure out the best way to communicate with a diverse group of people & thinking.
You need to be Global to Win so the HR role requires you to take what the business wants to accomplish and translate that into a meaningful HR strategy that can be deployed across the globe and that for me has been intellectually stimulating and challenging."

What advice would you offer to someone seeking to go abroad into new markets?

“Be open to every opportunity that comes your way, if you are expecting an overseas opportunity, it never seems to arrive at the perfect time. You’ve got to be flexible and willing to take a chance.  If you don’t, you run the risk of not being presented with another great opportunity for 5 to 10 years if at all!
When you work globally you get exposed to a bigger range of markets, you get to learn more about the business across all regions rather than just participating on a local level.  It’s also a great opportunity to enhance your communication skills.
‘I’d also say, be clear on your career objectives, for example if you aspired to be a CHRO of a global fortune 500 company then vocalise that early on to get the right people on board. Talk to the leaders about the steps you need to take to make it a reality.
Once you start working at a global level, your organisational skills need to level up – you go from planning a week ahead to literally planning 12 months ahead, ask yourself, where am I going to need to be? What is it that I want to accomplish over the next 3 years? That even can include things like planning to see your family.
Finally, build your network. Certainly when I moved to Japan, it was important to build a network within the Japanese HR community to understand what best practice looked like in that market."
The Next Step - partnering with organisations who seek to Buy, Borrow or Build talent.

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