Can companies train the talent needed for a global economy?

Executive Summary

As multinational corporations expand their footprint abroad, their appetite for workers with global business skills grows apace. Some of the world’s best-known brands now base most of their operations and workforces outside their home country, and more employees than ever are being sent abroad. As a result, the ability to manage an international workforce effectively has become a key determinant of success for companies navigating diverse cultural terrain. These businesses face an array of challenges in training, deploying and retaining employees who can operate in an increasingly globalized economy. Among the questions being raised: Does an employee need to spend time abroad to be a successful global manager? Are business schools doing enough to address the training needs of multinational corporations? Can technology help a multinational workforce surmount differences?

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Caligiuri, Paula, “Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals,” Jossey-Bass, 2012. A Northeastern University professor of international business and strategy discusses the cultural skills needed to succeed in today’s international business world.

Caligiuri, Paula, David Lepak and Jaime Bonache, “Managing the Global Workforce,” John Wiley & Sons, 2010. A Northeastern University professor (Caligiuri), a Rutgers University professor of human resource management (Lepak), and a professor in the Department of People Management and Organization at the Spanish university ESADE (Bonache) cover a wide range of topics essential for global human resource managers and others.

Moussa, Mario, Madeline Boyer and Derek Newberry, “Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance,” John Wiley & Sons. A consultant and faculty member in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s executive education program (Moussa) and two lecturers in the school’s undergraduate programs (Boyer and Newberry) use Wharton research to develop a handbook for building effective teams.

Salomon, Robert, “Global Vision: How Companies Can Overcome the Pitfalls of Globalization,” Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. A New York University associate professor of management and organizations examines the cultural, economic and political risks international expansion can pose to organizations.


Burnham, Kristin, “Social Business: Slow and Steady Worked for Philips,” Information Week, May 20, 2014, Royal Philips Electronics, a health care, lifestyle and lighting business, develops a social networking site for employees to share knowledge.

Griffith, Erin, “Vente-Privée USA to Shut Down,” Fortune, Oct. 24, 2014, A journalist looks at the breakup of the U.S. joint venture between France’s e-commerce site Vente-Privée and American Express.

Kalman, Frank, “MetLife’s Global Mobility Surge,” Talent Management, May 1, 2015, The insurance giant develops an in-depth strategy to give top managers international experience.

Swift, Mike, “At Google Groups are Key to Company Culture,” The San Jose Mercury News, June 22, 2011, Google turns to employee resource groups to pull together workers from around the world.

Whitney, Kellye, “Special Edition: Executive Education,” Chief Learning Officer, Feb. 22, 2016, Executive education programs from top-name business schools are thriving.

Reports and Studies

“Global Business Driven HR Transformation,” Deloitte, undated, accessed March 9, 2016, The consultancy examines necessary changes for human resources managers as the business world evolves.

“Globalization of Management Education. Changing International Structures, Adaptive Strategies, and the Impact on Institutions,” Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International, 2011, accessed March 8, 2016, The nonprofit seeking to foster the development of top-quality management education worldwide examines management education at business schools.

“Ready-Now Leaders: 25 Findings to Meet Tomorrow’s Business Challenges. Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015,” The Conference Board and Development Dimensions International, undated, accessed March 8, 2016, The Conference Board, an independent business membership and research organization, and DDI, a human resources consultancy, survey corporate leaders about their top challenges.

“Talent mobility: 2020 and beyond,” PwC, undated, accessed March 8, 2016, The consultancy looks at changes in employee mobility, along with expected trends for the future.

“What’s Next: Future Global Trends Affecting Your Organization,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, undated, accessed March 9, 2016, The research arm of The Economist examines forces driving workforce globalization.

“The World in 2050: Will the Shift in Global Economic Power Continue?” PwC, undated, accessed March 9, 2016, The consultancy considers economic changes in the world’s largest economies by 2050.

Daniel, Shirley J., Fujiao Xie and Ben L. Kedia,, “2014 U.S. Business Needs for Employees with International Expertise,” for the Internationalization of U.S. Education in the 21st Century conference, April 2014, A University of Hawaii at Manoa accounting professor (Daniel), a Ph.D. student at the same school (Xie) and a University of Memphis professor of management (Kedia) survey more than 800 companies about their international business and the need for employees with international skills.

The Next Step

Business Education

Addo, Koran, “Harris-Stowe begins first-ever study abroad program, sends two students to China,” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3, 2016, Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, one of more than 40 historically black colleges and universities partnering with Chinese universities on study-abroad programs, sent two students to study business and Mandarin at Ningbo University in eastern China.

Ortmans, Laurent, “MBA by numbers: US students the least globally mobile,” Financial Times, March 13, 2016, Few U.S. graduate business school students study overseas or switch careers, industries or countries after completing their degrees, compared with students from other nations, according to an annual survey by the Financial Times.

Redden, Elizabeth, “A Push to Send Students Abroad,” Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 2, 2015, Studying abroad can improve students’ employment prospects and their knowledge of international business, said university officials during a national summit on expanding study-abroad opportunities for U.S. students.

Expatriate Employees

Carr, Stuart C., and Ishbel McWha-Hermann, “Expat wages up to 900% higher than for local employees, research shows,” The Guardian, April 20, 2016, Expatriate workers in six low-income countries make far more on average than local workers with similar education and experience, according to the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council, and they also oftentimes receive extra benefits.

Hannibal, Ed, Yvonne Traber and Paul Jelinek, “Tech Tools to Track Your Expatriate Workforce,” HR Magazine, April 1, 2015, Human resources departments should factor in cost and necessity when choosing whether to use products that track expatriate employees’ activities and the repatriation process, say three employees of a global consulting firm.

Ratanjee, Vibhas, and Andrzej Pyrka, “Fixing the Leadership Gap in Southeast Asia,” Harvard Business Review, May 27, 2105, To increase their share of the global economy, Southeast Asian countries should develop the skills of local executives and rely less on expatriate executives for business leadership, say two Singapore-based employees of global research and consulting firm Gallup.


Carey, Scott, “Expedia supports global workforce collaboration for 18,000 users with Dropbox cloud file storage, eyes Project Infinite,” Computerworld UK, April 27, 2016, Travel-booking website Expedia implemented a business-oriented version of Dropbox, a cloud-based storage platform, that will allow its global workforce to securely share information through a central system, rather than through individual Dropbox accounts.

Craig, Ryan, “LinkedIn And The Golden Age Of American Education,” TechCrunch, Feb. 26, 2016, Web job portals and employee profiles have streamlined the hiring process, say experts, and the CEO of job-centric social networking site LinkedIn expects every company and member of the global workforce to eventually have a tailored profile.

Sweet, Julie, “Access to Digital Technology Accelerates Global Gender Equality,” Harvard Business Review, May 17, 2016, Developing countries can broaden the global talent pool for companies and bridge a gender-based skills gap by boosting access to technology for women, according to research by management consulting firm Accenture.


Gordon, Sarah, “On board for Eurostar’s journey across cultures,” Financial Times, May 23, 2016, European train operator Eurostar teaches its entire workforce, ranging from senior management to hospitality staff, how to better communicate with guests and colleagues from various cultural backgrounds and also has its own in-house language school.

Molinsky, Andy, “The Mistake Most Managers Make with Cross-Cultural Training,” Harvard Business Review, Jan. 15, 2015, Cross-cultural training programs often emphasize cultural differences but do not train employees to adapt to specific situations or give them real-life examples to test their training, says a professor of international management at Brandeis University.

Vollmar, Rick, “Cultural Training: Conference Addresses ‘Intercultural Competence,’” Bloomberg BNA, March 17, 2016, Firms entering global commerce must have policies and practices that work effectively across cultural lines, and they are more likely to succeed if they train employees to be culturally competent, said international business experts at a March conference in Washington, D.C.


AACSB International
777 S. Harbour Island Blvd., Suite 750, Tampa, FL 33602
Global association dedicated to advancing management education worldwide.

Association for Talent Development
1640 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314
Professional association that supports those who develop knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world.

The Conference Board
845 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022-6660
Nonprofit business membership and research organization.

Society for Human Resource Management
1800 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314
World’s largest human resources membership organization.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
Palais des Nations, 8-14, Avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
United Nations body responsible for dealing with international trade.

World Trade Organization
Centre William Rappard, Rue de Lausanne 154, 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland
Organization dealing with the global rules of trade.

Worldwide ERC
4401 Wilson Blvd., Suite 510, Arlington, VA 22203
Association for those who manage international employee transfers.

DOI: 10.1177/237455680212.n1