Molex's early decision to align its global human resource management (HRM) strategy with its international business structure was the single most important factor taken toward successfully managing its diverse, widespread workforce. According to its website, Molex operates 55 manufacturing facilities in 19 countries and has 18,000 employees in 115 locations around the globe. Furthermore, the company's operations outside the Americas generate approximately 60 percent of its total sales.1 This paper will demonstrate how Molex combines host country HR expertise with company-wide HRM standards and clear communication to remain profitable while keeping its employees focused and motivated.
A key part of Molex's HRM strategy is to employ host-country human resource (HR) experts. This polycentric approach to HRM helps the company gain acceptance as an integral part of the host country and acts to subdue the "foreign company" image many global companies contend with outside their home countries. Another benefit is local national HRM managers are often informal leaders in the community and they know the laws, customs, culture and the language.2 According to Malou Roth, Molex's former vice president of corporate training and development, it's relatively easy to send someone from the home country to oversee technical operations overseas, which are typically more standardized. But it's viewed as a more difficult task to export people who know how to effectively recruit and manage local talent.
That's where the company's policy of hiring host country HR experts enters the picture. Additionally, the costs involved with an expatriate HR workforce can range from two to five times an employee's annual base salary.4 Molex's use of locally hired personnel experts further serves to reduce the cost of transferring expatriate HR specialists from the home country to another. But how does the company meld geographically separated employees from different cultures into a coherent team?
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Molex lays a solid foundation for its worldwide workforce by providing minimum HR standards to all entities, regardless of location. "What I tried to do when I came to Molex 15 years ago was take the basic HR programs and practices that I knew were good ones and make those things standards or consistent practices at every entity in every country," says Roth. 5 Although staff at each operating location has the flexibility to add to the basic HRM standards according to local needs, the baseline standards remain in tact to ensure all parts of the company are heading in the same direction as it relates to HR. This practice allows both employees and management to understand what is expected, no matter what country they're working in. However, it is not enough to merely create standards; they must be effectively communicated.
Although many leading companies today have clear objectives with well-defined strategies for accomplishing these objectives, their communication plans remain vague and poorly conceived. But Molex has developed an effective communication process as an important part of its global HR strategy. Each of its entities conducts scheduled meetings to discuss the company's priorities and any new business developments. Kathi Regas, corporate vice president of HR at Molex says: "Our annual communications meetings ensure that our employees know they're a part of something much bigger than their local entities."6 Employees become more knowledgeable and the company benefits from the exchange of "best practices" and ideas. The company uses communication as a means to strengthen its corporate culture by making sure employees are aware of their roles in that culture. And the more Molex employees know, the more they feel they have a vested interest in the company's success.
Molex has succeeded at creating a workforce that feels supported and informed through the use of solid global HR practices. The company promotes its global mindset by capitalizing on host country HR expertise, providing and articulating minimum HR standards for all entities, and maintaining open lines of communication. These HR principles match Molex's business goals and act as the glue that holds the team together. Additionally, they facilitate employee and company success. In an article published in The Business Ledger, CEO and Chairman John Krehbiel declared: "Our employees' ability to be successful within the company keeps them interested and motivated. They know their hard work and effort has helped to build one of the fastest growing and most profitable electrical connector companies in the world and we think they like being part of that team.
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