First Take Monday – Do Global HR Leaders Really Understand Yurop (also known as Europe)?

Nov 21, 2011 Posted by

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the first annual HR Tech Europe conference in Amsterdam. I found the conversations enlightening and a stark contrast from those with HR leaders in North America. Three key themes resonated throughout the three days…

  1. While everyone likes to lump all European countries into a single bucket, “Europe”, each region and country has very unique localized needs. During his fantastic keynote, my good friend Thomas Otter poked fun at Europe’s uniqueness, pulling a definition out of Urban Dictionary referring to Europe as, “Yurop…an ancient continent, rumoured to have been sunk, just like Atlantis. It used to be a magical, super-fun land, full of fairies and butterflies, trolls and other magical creatures.” To truly understand Europe means you must understand the local needs, privacy rules, and regulations particular to the respective country.
  2. IT, particularly HRIT, plays a completely different role for European companies (in part, due to the demands on localization). Data models are extremely critical as the cost impacts — both positive and negative — can be significant. An additional observation is that the merits of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model are still under debate in Europe. While many progressive companies such as Barclays, Nokia, and Virgin Media, are embracing SaaS and recognizing the benefits, the paradigm shift is still evolving. This is not unique and IT shifts in North America, where SaaS has become the preferred delivery model for business applications, often have a lagging effect to take hold in Europe (typically between 18-24 months). Interestingly, like North America, in Europe the business is recognizing the value of SaaS in advance of IT.
  3. Talent management and talent mobility is completely different across Europe. While North American companies tend to take a “tops down” approach based on hierarchy and status, many European companies tend to take a “bottoms up” approach. In North America, talent pipelines are often built based on open positions, flight risk and critical roles and gaps are filled by looking down through the organization. Conversely, companies in highly regulated countries such as France, Germany and others, identify high performers and then look for where they can be mobilized across the organization. American companies can learn a lot from their European peers regarding talent mobility.

As globalization accelerates, and companies increasingly look across the globe to build their talent management strategies, understanding Europe is essential, even if you are not there today.

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