The Secret to Managing a Global Workforce

Frederick Jerant Human Resources, Issue 09 - Jan/Feb 2014 Leave a Comment

AGCO Senior Vice President of Human Resources Lucinda Smith divulges the key to globalization: education.

By Frederick Jerant

Although products, markets and corporate structures are key factors in the success of any business, the development of an organization’s people is just as critical. Even the best products and processes will not yield success unless they are supported by well rounded employees. At AGCO Corp. (see sidebar), Lucinda B. Smith is a key player in the company’s efforts to develop its workers’ abilities to attain corporate goals.

Smith joined AGCO in 2006 as Director of Organizational Development and Compensation. In 2009, she became Senior Vice President (SVP) of human resources (HR), and in early 2013, assumed responsibility for the company’s new global business services (GBS) function. Before joining AGCO, Smith worked as Global Director of HR at AJC Intl. Inc., and prior that had held advanced HR management positions for Lend Lease Corp., Cendian Corp. and Georgia-Pacific Corp.

AGCO’s GBS group, according to Smith, “comprises about 650 global professionals who develop, deploy and implement strategic solutions for technology and people demands to improve overall effectiveness and productivity.”


Global Change, Local Implementation

One fruit of GBS’ labor is an Organizational Change Management Council, with members drawn from HR, manufacturing, legal, marketing, sales and other functions within the company. This council, Smith said, has developed a framework and toolkit for organizational change in and through project management.

“They can make it easier for a business unit to run a project,” she said. “Sometimes groups don’t know that they can find particular expertise within the company, so they hire external consultants. We want to build a strong base of services internally to reduce reliance on outside vendors.”

Smith points to a hypothetical global change in purchasing procedures. “It would change the way people work, and so you’d expect to get some level of resistance. GBS could provide change agents to work directly with people at various sites and help them resolve relevant issues. Essentially, they’d be knocking down the barriers to accepting change that you sometimes encounter in large-scale projects.”

As this development process evolves—and more managers have the tools and training needed to assume those duties—GBS likely will step out of the picture and turn its attention to other needs.

With a presence in more than 140 countries, AGCO’s global reach means that its employees represent a multitude of cultures, languages and even approaches to working. And although one of the company’s core values is respect—“We appreciate other individuals with their own cultural identities,” Smith said. “We embrace differences.”—everyone must be on the same page within the corporate culture.

Smith_Lucinda_sidebarEmployee Education for All

That is one reason AGCO University, in which Smith is a leader, was established in 2005. The resource offers classroom and distance-learning instruction in management and leadership skills for all employees.

“We use this employee education initiative across many regions and job functions,” Smith said “and at all levels of the organization.”

The Country Navigator, a recently developed online educational tool, exemplifies the company’s commitment to diversity. “It helps enhance employees’ global skills in cross-cultural teamwork, leadership, decision-making, negotiation and managing conflict,” Smith said, recognizing that these abilities would benefit AGCO in any of its locations.

When Smith refers to educating staffers at “all levels,” she means it. Consider the Simply Management class, a two-day course based on the same-titled book by AGCO Chairman/President/CEO Martin Richenhagen. “It’s a required course for all managers,” Smith explained, “and covers our CEO’s approach to daily effectiveness and lasting success.” The curriculum focuses on seven principles, including essence of management, strategic planning and goal setting, and communication and motivation—all in a manner that aligns with the company’s mission and values.

“It provides a common foundation for working together, and how people are managed, all over the world,” Smith said. “For example, we believe a manager cannot force someone to be motivated; but that same manager can create an environment in which a person becomes motivated.” In essence, the course content mixes a philosophy of doing business with nuts-and-bolts approaches to implementing it.

Part of that philosophy is the “70/20/10” approach to employee development: 70 percent of development should come from on-the-job experiences; 20 percent from coaching or mentoring, by external or internal coaches; and 10 percent from formal training, whether face to face or virtually.

“We think it’s a very practical approach because it gets people to learn and develop through their work, not just by sitting in a classroom,” Smith said. “Personally, I learn the most from difficult business situations, not necessarily by reading a book.”

Empowering Women

Another global development initiative Smith supports is the AGCO Global Women’s Network (AGWN). Since its establishment in 2011, AGWN has encouraged women within the company by promoting their development and career advancement strategies.

“AGCO is powered by creative thinkers,” Smith said, “and they know that women in leadership positions have led businesses to increased capital and ROI. They’ve also seen that globally, more and more women are graduating from universities—in the U.S., it’s about 60 percent—so supporting women’s’ advancement throughout the company is a good way to prepare for the future.”

The business advisory group provides many developmental opportunities: product/industry education, panel discussions and career planning workshops, among others. “AGWN has a committee at each of our major sites,” Smith said, “and it plans localized activities for development and networking. We’ve seen lots of success from it.”

As evidence, Smith tells of an AGWN group in Kansas that visited other manufacturers in the area. “They shared those companies’ best practices,” she said, “and brought several ideas back to AGCO’s shop floor.”

Smith’s closing remarks are directed toward HR professionals, but these pearls of wisdom apply to workers throughout an organization. “Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others,” she counseled. “Your boss probably has many problems to solve; if you can help solve one, you’ve increased your value to the company. People can get so tied up in competing with each other that we forget why we’re here—to help the business, and each other, achieve success.”

Frederick Jerant is a freelance writer based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


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