October 24, 2018

MU0012 [Employee Relations Management] Set2 Q1

Q.1) Explain the approaches for management of overseas branches.

Ans:

Management of Overseas Branches
Internationalised companies have a wide range of choices to decide on how an overseas branch can be managed. The deciding factors are the industry in which they function, the structural form, and the stage of development of the company. 

There are four major approaches to manage overseas branches. They are:
• Ethnocentric
• Polycentric
• Regiocentric
• Geocentric

The details of above approaches are as follows: 
(1) Ethnocentric: It is often seen that the decisions relating to value, culture and strategies are determined by the parent company. Very little power is vested in the subsidiaries. The subsidiaries of a company are managed by an expatriate or a former staff of the parent company. The locals have very little to do with the way things are carried out in a company. Lines of communication are usually uni-directional as commands are issued by the headquarters. The host-country branch has a diplomatic role to play but is dominated by the customs of the parent company. It is believed that this is during the first stage of development of companies intending to go international and the management at the headquarters takes an alternative step only after a specific period of time (when the company has made progress or established itself internationally).

Many American and Japanese companies have been charged of trying to introduce employee relations policies and strategies which are suitable to their home culture but incompatible with the host-country tradition. This strategy is followed in organisations as they believe that their strategies are not only the best but also the only way to proceed.

The organisation runs the risk of not taking notice of the tradition and culture of the host-country thereby offending the local employees. The local employees in the subsidiary may not believe in the same values and thoughts and hence do not adapt to the parent company regime. McDonalds follows the ethnocentric approach.

(2) Polycentric: Here the local conditions, values and system are taken into consideration in a company. The subsidiary is governed by a home-country (the country in which the headquarters is located) staff and considered as a self-governing business unit. Major decisions, strategy planning and financial investments are decided at the headquarters. However, in this approach the manager of the subsidiary is a local staff and manager-employee relationship is better. This approach helps in maintaining the policies in employee relations as it is compatible with the culture and regime of host-country. Companies like Lever Brothers and Unilever follow the polycentric approach. 

(3) Regiocentric and Geocentric: Here the subsidiaries are not limited to boundaries such as home country or the region where an organisation has presence. It is organised on a regional basis or geographic basis such as worldwide or global. Control of staff and decision making responsibility is based on regional or geographic constraints. In case of regiocentric, the managers are appointed from the host-country and in case of geocentric, the managers are from any part of the world, that is, the most suited person is appointed for the job. Colgate and Palmolive are examples of companies that follow geocentric approach.

It is seen that the companies which follow Polycentric, Regiocentric or Geocentric are truly globalised. In such companies we can expect development of a region or worldwide approach to employee relations policies and practices.

This is the matter of the overseas department to manage foreign branches of the company. Today many large companies have overseas branches and subsidiaries across countries which help tackle new markets and find new opportunities for business development. The function of Foreign branches management commits the overseas department to fulfill the following sub-functions:
Controlling subsidiaries' activities
Providing assistance and help for their development and expandability
Managing finance flows and monitoring subsidiaries revenues, depending on the level of provided authorities

Software for the overseas department workflow management
VIP Task Manager is a Windows operated task management system that allows to specify and control the tasks, procedural steps, operations and activities of the overseas department.VIP Task Manager provides solutions for creating customized workflow types to meet specific demands of the departmental workflow. Process-oriented and task-oriented approaches realized in VIP Task Manager allow the staff members to be focused on particular jobs, documents and shipment data. In general, the workflow management software brings the following advantages for the overseas department management:
Customizable workflow types to create management solutions and meet business demands
Permissions to grant/restrict employee access to the department database
Common work environment among the subsidiaries and the department
Storing tasks and documents in secured and centralized database file
Improved communications between the employees
Reports on task statuses and performance analysis

Planning tasks to maintain overseas branches and representative offices
Overseas department coordinates and streamlines activities of the foreign branches and representative offices of the company, providing a centralized maintenance and advice. The function of foreign branches management ensures consistency in the company's international activities, management of financial flows and maintenance of overseas corporate policy and its execution. The foreign branches coordinator is responsible for controlling and assessing work of overseas subsidiaries and offices. His main tasks are to conduct the review activities of each foreign branch. An example of these tasks is shown below:
monitor tasks and assess productivity of each employee in the foreign division
oversee local projects and check schedules
evaluate compliance with corporate policies and procedures
review financial statement and assess the adequacy of the financial condition
identify opportunities for workflow improvement in the foreign branches

This example of core tasks of the foreign branches coordinator can be effectively planned and performed by using VIP Task Manager. The branches coordinator can use Calendar view to create and schedule to-do lists that help plan activities of the overseas divisions. For example, in the task group 'Overseas projects' he can create the task checklist that allows step by step planning and monitoring of the projects of overseas branches. Task reminder will help keep the task planning on schedule. Calendar view displays the tasks in daily, weekly and monthly modes, making it easier to plan short-term (one week or one month) and long-term (quarter or even year) projects.

Tracking foreign projects 
The head office of the company needs to be sure that overseas subsidiaries do their jobs in compliance with corporate policy and established plans. The first and primary task of the foreign branches coordinator is to monitor and track projects and tasks of the employees in the foreign branches. Task tracking and project monitoring is much easier by using VIP Task Manager. The software allows to track several overseas projects at one time, as it stores all tasks of the foreign divisions in common database file which is accessible by the employees in any subsidiary. The branches coordinator can connect to the overseas branches database through Internet connection and track all ongoing activities in real-time mode.

The Filter panel makes task and project tracking easier. For example, to track projects of European division of the company, the branches coordinator can apply the filter by the folder 'European division' in Task Tree view. Then, all European projects will be displayed in Task Tree view. If the foreign branches coordinator needs to see only ongoing tasks in the projects, he can apply the filter by status 'In Progress'. The Filter panel also allows to filter tasks by such parameters as Assignment, Priority, Time Left, Dated Completed, and other. For better usability the branches coordinator can save filter settings to profiles, for example 'All ongoing foreign projects' profile, and raise it any time.

Measuring performance and getting reports 
Performance measurement and task reporting are the ways to determine whether an overseas project has been successfully completed. To measure performance, the foreign branches coordinator can use special indicators (so called KPI - key performance indicators) and then build a summary report that will include the used KPI. In VIP Task Manager such functionality is available. The foreign branches coordinator can use Custom Field feature to build and apply key performance indicators per task and project. The software allows to sum up the indicators and define min/max/average values. 

For example, to define average costs per task in the project of European division, the foreign branches coordinator can create the custom field 'Costs' in which the division's employees will enter real costs per task as far as the project runs. At the end of the project the foreign branches coordinator can calculate the average project costs. The average value will be displayed on the level of the task group 'European division' (as shown on screen shot). To include this KPI in a short status report, the foreign branches coordinator can use Report Builder in VIP Task Manager. This reporting tool allows to create HTML, text, visual and Excel format reports. 

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