Five ways to adapt to globalisation and the changing workforce

We live in a connected world. Companies are expanding internationally and customers expect borderless interactions. Services must be simple, agile and tailored. Customers want to choose how, when and where they will interact with businesses.

One of the common challenges faced by the human resources sector in this environment is responding to these changes quickly and imaginatively while supporting people to adapt. As Charles Darwin believed, it's not the strongest or most intelligent who survive but the ones most responsive to change. How organisations respond to change is crucial to success.

"The overwhelmed employee is becoming one of the biggest challenges organisations face."
Anouk De Blieck, General Manager, Human Resources at ANZ

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The modern workforce must be adaptable, resilient and responsive to different demands while still delivering seamlessly to customers. This involves changing how we work with customers and across teams, as well as building the capabilities of people to enable them to move with the changes. Here are five ways I believe organisations can deal with cycles of change and stay ahead of the game.


Create a diverse and inclusive workforce that mirrors your customers. Develop staff knowledge, skills, resilience, mindset and ability to service customers and create a learning environment that supports flexible working. This is easier said than done.

“You need five fingers to touch the factory and five touching the customer," founder of clothing retailer Zara, Amancio Ortega says.

Zara have become known for its agile work environment and devolved decision making, empowering employees to share daily discoveries (local trends and what is hot on the street), so they can respond quickly to the needs of fashionistas.


A connected workforce is the glue keeping this new virtual and global world together. Clarity of purpose will ensure you connect people, customers and communities to deliver seamlessly to customers anyhow, anywhere and anytime.

Delivering to customers is becoming more complex. Differentiation is no longer about price or location but service and solutions. Collaboration across geographies is required to make a difference. There is no room for silos.

Creating cultural awareness and respecting different cultures is part of this journey. Creating joint ownership and accountability is also extremely powerful.

Many digital companies have such a culture. Google have been placed at the top of Fortune's Best Company to Work For list six consecutive times. Although Googlers share common goals and visions for the company, they represent a diverse team reflecting its global audience. They strive for an open culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinion.

Of course, the challenge in Silicon Valley is gender diversity – so there is no perfect model.


It's important to have agile leaders who move with the change or are ahead of it. They can anticipate trends, deliver innovative strategies and provide a clear purpose and vision.

They can also create an open learning environment where people can challenge the status quo and feel empowered.

“When you were made a leader you weren't given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others," ex-GE head Jack Welch once said.

In every organisation leaders set the culture. Now leaders need to be able to manage economic cycles, feel comfortable with ambiguity and lead teams in a volatile and uncertain world.


Create the right mindset. Communicate change so everyone understands it, believes in it and knows what it means for them. Be global but act local by ensuring the local voice is heard. It's about bringing hearts and minds together to ensure people are convinced and have beliefs and behaviours to underpin that.

The overwhelmed employee is becoming one of the biggest challenges organisations face. Companies need to equip employees to be able to respond to change so they become learners rather than feeling victim to what is happening around them.

To be adaptable and responsive you need to continually learn and create the belief you can do so. It can be hard to stick to good habits or develop new skills. The biggest challenge is sitting between your ears. Our mind is a powerful thing.


Change is permanent. It can disrupt and unsettle but presents positive opportunities. Being aware of trends and getting regular feedback from customers is important to stay ahead of change.

Many organisations become too internally focused and stuck in their own processes. It is important to be outward looking and learn from others and never become complacent.

American technology company Eastman Kodak invented the digital camera in the 1990s but refused to exploit it in order to protect its existing business in film and processing. The business failed as they did not see the writing on the wall.

Haier Group, a Chinese Multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company was named market-share leader for major appliances for the sixth consecutive year in 2014.The group has reinvented itself at least four times since 1984 focusing on customer-responsive innovation.

Its latest transformation is its "networking strategy". It involves opening up the company to intensive collaboration, not just with customers but also with innovators around the world - including competitors.

Importantly, leading in a changing environment is not just up to the HR function in organisations to deliver. It is everyone's responsibility and an opportunity for all of us.

Anouk De Blieck is General Manager, Human Resources at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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