The mission of Going Global, which appears on ePrairie on most Tuesdays, is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.
MILWAUKEE Ė Jeffrey Joerres is the CEO of Milwaukee-based Manpower. Joerres was appointed president and CEO of Manpower in 1999 and chairman of the board in 2001. In part two of a two-part Q&A, ePrairie international expert Michael Muth spoke with Joerres about multinationals and changing regulations.
Michael Muth: How closely coordinated are your relationships with multinational and French companies from country to country?
Jeffrey Joerres: The need for coordination of services across multiple countries has grown exponentially over the past decade. This need has particularly grown in the past five years as more multinationals are seeing the value of strategic buying across national borders.
This phenomenon began in our industry with big U.S.-based multinationals. In the past few years, weíve been seeing it with European multinationals as well. Fortunately, we really were the key player in the multinational employment services area from the beginning. Thatís why weíre able to develop our service model ahead of our competitors.
Our service coordination across borders is managed through global account directors. These people do a lot of traveling to ensure we are meeting our service requirements across all geographies. We also have unique software programs that enable our clients to know exactly the status of our work for them at any given time.
They can press a button and know who has been hired for a given position in each country, what their qualifications are and when they will start working. For a global company, that kind of technology is a tremendous asset. One of the biggest challenges for us in serving clients across national borders is that they sometimes would like us to provide services that arenít yet legal in certain countries.
For example, it was illegal for us to do recruitment of permanent staff in France until January 1, 2005. Prior to 2005, we had to advise clients that we could provide the service in most countries but not in France. This was frustrating for them. Fortunately, we were instrumental in getting the law changed, which has benefited both Manpower and our multinational clients.
MM commentary: As the world globalizes, the need for truly global account management rises. Many companies purport to implement global account management responsibilities, but in many cases because the U.S. market is the largest in the portfolio, international markets get less attention.
Because 80 percent of Manpowerís revenues come from outside the U.S., the companyís global account managers have to pay attention to their international markets.
MM: Have you seen differences in the levels of implementation of new technologies in France as compared to the U.S.?
JJ: A few years ago, the difference was bigger, but now itís not just a matter of the level of implementation but also the manner of implementation.
Not every technology platform will work in all countries. Companies can spend millions trying to get all operations on the same platforms worldwide, but by the time you have the last country implemented, the technology need may have changed and youíve invested a ton of money without the requisite return on investment.
What we do is something weíve termed ďrapid incrementalism,Ē which is to select technology platforms that make sense in many operations and roll them out where they are most needed and to the degree they are needed as quickly as possible.
There are two IT transformations weíre currently putting in place. The first is about efficiency. That is the consolidation of our data centers to three locations worldwide: the U.S., the United Kingdom and Singapore. There is nothing particularly tricky about this. Itís just a lot of hard work.
The second transformation is in our front-office systems where we have 10 million candidates a year applying for jobs and more than 2 million people who are hired and placed in positions for our clients. Weíre moving that process to a Web interface for self-application. This is enabling candidates to apply and take the requisite tests for the positions they seek all online.
When they qualify, we can offer them jobs more quickly. They can then create their own home page in order to manage their relationship with us. Itís about improving our ability to efficiently and effectively attract and retain the best talent. Overall, our IT approach is to locate the best technology around the world, develop it as a center of excellence and expand across other operations from there where and when it makes sense.
We use this process outside of technology as well to identify the best innovations in service delivery and processes and then expand them around the world in the appropriate markets.
MM commentary: It has been a while since Iíve filled out an application at a Manpower office, but given the volume of data they process, automation is an absolute requirement.
MM: How has the French government supported your business in France?
JJ: The French government is keenly aware of the need to continuously create jobs in order to fuel their economy. We have always worked very collaboratively with the French government as with other national governments to help ensure that labor policies and programs are developed in a manner that enhances the level of employment.
This relationship has evolved over time as the needs of the labor market have changed along with the times. The most recent change that I can point to is the January 2005 change in the employment law, which now makes it legal for us to provide permanent placement services to our clients in addition to the temporary placement services we have been providing since 1957.
Previous to 2005, it was illegal for us to provide recruitment services for permanent positions. Jean-Pierre Lemonnier, managing director of Manpower France, meets with the labor ministry often to maintain this strong relationship.
MM commentary: My personal impression is that while the U.S. economy is centered around the consumer, itís centered around the worker in Europe. It manifests itself in many different ways. For example, consumers there accept lower levels of customer service in deference to the needs of the worker. Itís natural and beneficial that Manpower would enjoy a positive relationship with the French government.
MM: How have the changes in regulations regarding dismissals and the work week affected Manpower?
JJ: The 35-hour workweek legislation has translated into an opportunity for us. The whole purpose of the 35-hour workweek was to generate more jobs for more people. By reducing the work week, it opened up 11 percent more work hours and additional people were needed to fulfill that workload. Itís simple math.
Over the course of about 30 months since the law first changed, we saw more demand for our services. The way the law has been changed recently has provided more flexibility by removing the mandatory work week and enabling employers and employees to rescind the work element as part of the normal negotiations process.
The impact on Manpower from this change will be very marginal. We donít see our customers and major companies going to their bargaining units and negotiating to open up their contracts in order to have more hours worked. While they might make a change like that on a contract cycle renewal, they wouldnít open a contract just for that.
MM commentary: Itís great to confirm that the free market does a better job of creating new jobs than legislation.
MM: How has Manpower fostered commerce and cross-cultural exchange between the U.S. and France?
JJ: While we provide some expatriate experiences for individuals, our most important contribution is in social programs. We do a lot of work putting the unemployed to work. We have created programs in many countries to work with the government and employers to provide opportunities for those who have more difficulty finding work.
These programs differ from country to country but they accomplish the same goal: giving people an opportunity to work and support their families. In the U.S., we have a program called Tech Reach where we provide candidates with training in IT careers so they can gain sustainable jobs with a decent wage.
The government helps to identify good candidates for the program. We partner with our client companies to provide the program graduates with their first jobs in their new careers. In France, the culinary arts are an important career path for many people. The country has a huge Muslim population who struggle to gain employment due to low proficiency in the French language and weak math skills.
We have created a program that helps individuals to gain basic and culinary skills while enabling them to move ahead in their career path. It really means a lot to the individuals who benefit from these programs.
MM commentary: Because there are few expatriate opportunities these days, this is a great example of taking something local, changing it to adapt to a local market and implementing it there.
MM: What has Manpower gained from these cross-cultural exchanges?
JJ: Beyond the positive impact it has on our employees when weíre able to help someone get on a path toward a more sustainable career path, we also enhance our brand and generate revenue.
Any time we can place qualified candidates into better jobs, we also make more money. There is shareholder value in addition to the social value of providing these programs. We like to say: ďWe do good while we do well.Ē Itís a very unique position and itís the best way we can make a difference through our services.
Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Click here for Muthís full biography.
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