The way we do things here

By Glen Jenkins, CIPD Reward Examiner

I was talking to an American at a dinner party recently who was an expatriate working for a company here in the UK.  His international experience had taken him to work in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and now in the UK and among other things we got around to talking about international rewards and how American expatriates were faring in this time of austerity.

The discussion moved on to whether there was such a thing as a global reward strategy.  I pointed out that recent international reward surveys had indicated that 60% of companies working in an international environment claimed they were increasingly centralising their reward decisions and developing a global reward strategy. Many of these companies were seeing this as a key feature of their management of employees on international assignments. 

I was therefore surprised to hear that my expatriate friend strongly felt that there was no such thing as a global reward strategy because it was so difficult to manage and centrally control the diverse requirements in the various countries where he had worked. He was also of the opinion that the specific requirements in each country for such things as taxation, housing, health and social insurance and the way we do things here, meant that the international reward manager back in the parent country could not possibly deliver a universal global reward strategy and if he/she did, it would be too costly to run. At a minimum they could only deliver guidelines on financial control and that some independence in the host country was essential.

The picture I was left with following our chat was that the international reward manager is not like the strategist some commentators would like us to think. They are not analogous to the imperial Roman Emperor who dictated in Rome to his generals abroad ensuring that alignment and control is maintained through the conquest of 'corporate' culture over national culture. It is more like a Federal system that is adaptive to local values and cultural orientations and builds on a mutual understanding of reward practice in the host country. So when companies say in a survey response that they have a global reward strategy should we should we take this literally?

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  • Anonymous

    I think this is a really valid point raised. There is a desire to move towards centralisation of services and yet in a lot of cases this can move towards a service that is so generic in order to "meet all needs" that it actually doesn't meet any.

    The fact that in this case it is a reward strategy i.e. one designed to motivate and encourage staff, makes it even more hard to imagine that there can be a one size fits all. If the specifics of the culture, working day, leisure & family needs, health etc are not all taken into account the strategy may just be an expensive effort that actually de-motivates by it's obvious lack of recognition of what the employees need.

    It relates well to the my feelings on management. I am seeing so many problems with a "one size fits all" management approach and even at this level the management needs to be about the individuals that are being managed and managers need to flex according to the teams they lead. (Referred to in this blog if of interest: )

    It's not easy to centralise things that deal with individuals with personalities, needs and feelings. But if we wish to be successful we need to ensure that the things put in place to bring out the best in our people actually take into consideration who they are & what they need.

  • This post is very closely allied to my CIPD blog on executive reward in emerging markets:

    I strongly argue that having a global strategy at anything more than a generic level damages the ability of a business to respond to fast moving local market changes.  Particularly in emerging markets demand outstrips supply added to the geopolitical risk issues means that having a fixed strategy can damage the ability to respond  in the right way at the right speed.  Global reward has to be more about tactics than strategy in this fast changing and difficult environement