Global Leadership Truths Here and Abroad

Alexandra Levit, Managing Partner, PeopleResults
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I’m always talking up the importance of sitting down with senior-level execs periodically and learning all you can from them.  One rainy afternoon, I did just that with >Lieven Lambrecht, the former global SVP of HR for First Data Corporation and now a Principal with iHR Talent Solutions in Europe. In his expansive career, Lieven has worked all over the world, and I hoped he’d help me get my finger on the pulse of the most critical leadership and HR issues in the global economy.

Lieven, what is the state of global leadership today?

I’ve met CEOs from countries around the world, and I see very little variation. CEOs differ in gender, background, and culture, but by the time they get to the top, they have been molded into very similar individuals who do not necessarily know more than their employees. They have been and still are on remote control. Not being on the front lines has resulted in a lack of customer focus in many leaders.

What do you think is the most important HR-related problem facing multi-national organizations right now? What about those based in Europe?

Multi-national companies are struggling with diversity and resembling their customer base. Also, the world in general, but especially Europe, is having a huge problem with unemployment/underemployment of young professionals. For example, Spain’s unemployment of college grads is nearing 50 percent. A major exodus of talent is occurring as young people leave home and never come back. HR in EMEA also continues to lack strategic vision because of all the legal and administrative hassles left over from socialist days.

How do you recommend companies onboard employees in emerging markets who may be isolated from the main operation?

It’s cold far from the sun – there’s no emotional connection to the company. Rather than trying to integrate these new employees and make them just like everyone in the home operation, focus on assimilation in your onboarding program. Empower people at lower levels to make their own decisions and as much as you can, govern from the bottom up.

How are demographic shifts affecting multi-nationals?

Across the world, no one knows what to do with the Boomers. Most multi-nationals want them out to make room for the young, and there is a lot of discrimination against the middle-aged. At the same time, it is difficult to recruit and retain the young professionals, who carefully measure what they can get/are getting out of the company.

What do you see as the prime motivator of employees?

They want a rewarding job that’s secure. Salary is not as much of a factor in EMEA as it is in North America. For instance, in Scandinavia, people are happy working for $50K because if they make $500K, they pay $400K in taxes so there’s no point. Society is more equal so the pressure to get ahead is off.

Thanks Lieven for the fresh and highly relevant insights!

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