debbie mcgee IHRLast year I met a subject matter expert on international HR issues through my local SHRM chapter. A few months later, when I was looking at some HR challenges affecting our expatriate employees, I ran across her again. When I spoke at ALSHRM in May, she was presenting across the hallway on international human resources best practices. In other words, she knows what she’s doing! So I wanted to take a moment to chat with her and learn more about the special niche she fills.

Ben: So, let’s establish your credibility. Tell me about your background. 

Debbie: I have been working with international employee issues for more than two decades. 13 years in international individual taxation and another 12 years in International Human Resources/Global mobility. I have worked as a Senior Manager with Big 4 Accounting Firms, as well as run corporate Global IHR departments for multinational corporations with more than 2,000 expatriates.

In addition, I have managed more than 60 country combinations, including Asia to Europe, Europe to the Americas and  Americas to Asia/Europe. That means travel is a big part of my work: I’ve visited over 30 countries and even lived in Europe for 6 years.

As far as credentials, I am a CPA as well as GPHR, so I think with both sides of my brain and easily switch the conversation from talent development to accounting/taxation for that same talent. My current role is President and CEO of PZI International Consulting, Inc, where I helps clients effectively and legally expand their talent into global marketplaces.

Ben: How did you end up working in an international HR role?  

Debbie: After managing national accounts for the accounting firms and designing programs/policies for their international HR departments, it was a natural progression to move to the corporate side.  I wanted to make a bigger impact with one company and felt by going in and designing the program as a best practice Center of Excellence from the ground up, I could impact not only the corporate culture, but also have an impact on individual employees career as well as quality of life.

My first role as a Global Mobility Manager was with an accounting client.  They wanted to grow the program internally and focus on more than the tax/payroll piece of the IHR program.  I was brought in to design and run that function.

Ben: What was your favorite part of working globally within HR?

Debbie: I like helping people and knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life.  As a CPA, I felt I seldom gave good news to a client, but as a Corporate Head of IHR, I could directly affect an employee’s quality of life while they were working abroad for the company.  Often employees would call me on their last day at the company to thank me for helping them and their families during a difficult situation while they were based abroad for the company.

My main goal was to make the family unit a successful team while they were abroad.  They were the face of the company, whether in the local markets, the local schools or the foreign workplace.  If they were challenged, happy to be there and excited about what they were doing, that would reflect well on the corporation as well.

Ben: What was the most challenging part of international HR work?

Debbie: Human Resources are often a last minute thought for many business units.  They are so entangled in getting the business, closing the sale, that the human capital piece of it is seldom thought through.  I worked diligently at changing the corporate culture around what was required to expand the company into international markets.  I spent a lot of time training the business units, the other functional areas, rather than waiting for them to come to me, I went to them.

I think being proactive and making people aware of why they need to talk with you lets you be an equal stakeholder in the business development, rather than a stumbling block for the business units.

International HR/Global Mobility is still not a well understood area within organizations.  It isn’t until something goes wrong, someone is in jail, someone is turned away at a border, that many companies begin to look at this function and realize the complexity of it and why they need to have people running it that know all the questions to ask and where to find the answers.

Ben: If you could go back and offer some advice to yourself as you were getting started in this type of role, what would you say?

Debbie: No one knows everything.  Being a subject matter expert is a good thing, but you have to understand the business and the business needs.  Otherwise just because you may know the answer, doesn’t mean the business wants to hear it.  Most important part of being a stakeholder in a business is to :: Ask, Listen, Solve.  In that order.  Don’t assume you know the answer before you ask the question.

Ben: Any closing comments, wit or wisdom?

Debbie: Companies should grow their networks, read up on developing trends in the IHR industry. “the authorities haven’t caught us yet” is no way to do business internationally.  Investing in your international HR group is as important as investing in your 401k plan or your product development. Every company today should be looking at how they can expand into international markets, the business is definitely out there.  Expanding into these markets means expanding your human assets into those markets.  Make sure you are as diligent with your human assets as you are with your product assets.

Ben: Thanks for your time, Debbie! This has been incredibly insightful.


I hope you enjoyed this interview exploring some of the ideas around international HR practices with Debbie McGee. You can find her at her website or on LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts about international HR? Is it harder than domestic HR? How did some of these comments influence your opinion? 

This is another installment in our “Day in the Life” series, this time focusing on the HR directors out there. In case you missed one of the previous pieces, here is the full list:

Read on below to learn about what those HRD’s do all day, including some funny comments, in-depth descriptions, and other helpful details.

day in the life hr professional

The Life of an HR Director


  • Company/industry: Non profit mental health and autism service provider
  • Years with current company: 4
  • Years in HR: 10
  • Degree/Certification: Masters in Workforce Development and SPHR
  • Average day: Assisting mangers with coaching their employees with disciplinary issues developing leadership training for front line supervisor currently working on employment engagement survey
  • HR wit/wisdom: They call me HR ninja :-)
    Happy cows make better milk meaning happy employees perform better!


  • Company/industry: Non-Profit Residential Treatment Center for at-risk children and youth
  • Years with current company: 6 months
  • Years in HR: 6.5 years plus pastor of 6 churches
  • Degree/Certification: BS in PSY, Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry
  • Average day: I spend half my day trying to attract and retain great employees at non-profit pay. I do the full range of HR from orientation to termination, compensation and benefits, and everything between. Bench-marking, crisis response planning, organizational development, training, statistical reports, disciplinary procedures, workers comp., evaluation, labor legislation, agency licensing and accreditation, developing and updating policies and procedures, day-to-day HR stuff like paying insurance bills, and educating myself, I do a bit of everything HR. My assistant is also the receptionist which is a challenge!


  • Company/industry: RLB LLP
  • Years with current company: 8
  • Years in HR: 12
  • Degree/Certification: CHRP, CHRL
  • Average day: “I am laughing at “”average”” :) I meet with staff, work on implementing new and innovative people programs, meet with the executive, recruit, consult for clients, train and motivate my team, learn, and any thing else that needs to be done in a day. plunge a toilet? sure!”
  • HR wit/wisdom: Take risks, be authentic and have fun!


  • Company/industry: Higher Education
  • Years with current company: Four
  • Years in HR: Over 18
  • Degree/Certification: SPHR
  • Average day: I will spend my day interviewing exempt level employees, attending budget meetings, working out tow or three employee relations opportunities (these include an employee about to be terminated because they don’t show up to work, employee who believes they are under paid, and another who is having a difficult time adjusting to out culture and doesn’t know it). If I have any non-transactional time, I will work out the latest policy on “Pets in the workplace” and send it to our attorney, then complete the four performance reviews I have to complete before next week. But, I don’t have an average day…
  • HR wit/wisdom: As Steve Forbes used to say “in life, to get ahead, it’s not who you know, it’s whom you know that matters.”


  • Company/industry: Solid Waste Management and Recycling
  • Years with current company: 2
  • Years in HR: 15
  • Degree/Certification: Bachelor’s Degree in HR Administration
  • Average day: I spend 2 hours a day recruiting (placing ads, calls, interviews). Every other HR function except payroll falls to me (benefits, culture and recognition, workers comp, DOT compliance, OSHA, time sheets, research, W2s, data entry, reports, newsletter, Chamber of Commerce, etc.). I spend 3-5 hours a day with random visits of former employees, current employees and managers and issues that come up. There are 150 employees and turnover is high so I’m working with about 400 people in a year if you include the applicants/candidates, new hires and terms.Culture and recognition is my forte.


  • Company/industry: K-12 private school plus Day Care
  • Years with current company: 10
  • Years in HR: 14
  • Degree/Certification: BS
  • Average day: There is no average day! I’m an HR/Payroll department of one with about 140 employees, so my daily agenda is to stay flexible, keep smiling, and stay organized. Some days I’m at my desk for 8 hours, other days, I’m running to “put out fires”.
  • HR wit/wisdom: Be kind to everyone, even when they aren’t being kind to you (but don’t be a push over either.) Make friends with the maintenance and kitchen crews. There’s nothing like a great spreadsheet! You never know what a day is going to bring!

Coming up soon we’ll have other HR roles and responsibilities, but I appreciate the participants for sharing! Let me know in the comments below what you think about the series.

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing my friend Steve Browne speak this morning at SHRM. His session was intended to fire up the audience, and I’d say it was a smashing success. One of his comments was powerful, and I thought it deserved to be repeated here because I talk about certification quite a bit.

If your certification is purely about getting recertification hours, having letters after your name, and trying to use that as a way to get credits, then you’re wasting your time and your organization’s time. Go ahead and leave. Or let it lapse. There’s no real value in that sort of attitude.

However, if you pursued certification as a way to make yourself better at delivering HR services for your employees, then you’re on the right track.

If you prepared for months, studied endless hours to pass an incredibly difficult exam, and sat there with sweaty palms as you waited for the pass/fail notification at the end just so you could use something you learned to make your workplace better, you did it for the right reasons.

If your certification is less about making yourself look good and more about how you can make your organization look good for candidates and employees, then you understand the true value of the certification process.

Whether you’re carrying around a PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, HRBP, or some other type of credential, remember the end goal. The test is not the goal. Studying is not the objective. Using what you learn to make your organization better is.

How has your certification helped you? What additional impact did you have on your organization once you picked up those almighty letters behind your name? 

dr ben carson leadership wisdomLast week I had the chance to see Dr. Ben Carson speak at an event. For clarity, this was a faith-based event, not a political one. I have seen the movie Gifted Hands twice (highly recommended!), and I was excited to hear some of his story in his own words. I picked up four pieces of wisdom on leading people and wanted to share those insights here.

Defining Diversity

Diversity is not a unanimity of speech or thought. It’s a respect for the differences around us.

We don’t all have to believe and say the same things to be diverse. What we must do, though, is respect others. Everyone is different from you in some way, even if it’s in terms of what music they listen to, what foods they like, etc. Respect those differences and the larger ones that still can permeate workplace decisions (color, gender, etc.)

Leading Technical People

Sometimes when leading technical people you won’t understand 100% of what they do. What is important, however, is to make them realize you appreciate and support them anyway. Carson’s mother made him read books and write reports for her to critique. The kicker? She couldn’t read.

She knew the importance of reading for learning growth and knew the skill was important enough to emphasize. She would highlight the papers and ask questions to help them realize that she cared about the assignments.

Motivating Others

At one point early in his career Carson was appointed supervisor of a road cleanup crew. The problem, he said, was that the crew wasn’t interested in doing any work! They were paid by the hour with a goal of 100 bags per day, so he negotiated with the team to pick up 100 bags for eight hours of pay plus any time saved. For instance, if they picked up the 100 bags of trash in six hours, they were paid for eight hours of work and got to go home early.

He said that his crew quickly became the most productive and others couldn’t understand how his team was doing more work than the others in less time.

How to Be Successful

Mr. Carson finished his remarks with this powerful quote:

Success is using your God-given talents to elevate other people.

I firmly agree. We all have unique skills, abilities, and talents. We should look for opportunities where our greatest passion meets our greatest strength and make the world better. It wouldn’t make much sense for me to try to build homes for people–that’s not my skill set. But planning a charity race? I am all over it. What’s your talent and how can you use it to elevate others?

I learned this week that one of my former bosses nominated me for a Young Professional Award for the work I have done over the past few years, both with this site and within the community where I live. I was (and still am) humbled by that support. As far as I can tell, I’m the only HR guy in the running, and I have until July 1st to gather a few votes in the competition. Would you be willing to take 20 seconds to vote for me? Whether you’ve been reading this site for one day or six years, I would sincerely appreciate the support.

No registration is required, and you do not have to vote for anyone else in the other categories if you don’t wish to. Thanks!

Click here to vote

The most engaged… are first in line.

mailchimpRecently I read a blog post about email marketing and delivery, and that line struck me. Stick with me, because I think there’s an intriguing question it brings up.

People that run companies and blogs often use delivery services to communicate with customers and readers. I use a tool called MailChimp and have for several years. I have a little bit (okay, a lot!) of a geeky side, so I follow their blog to stay up to date on best practices for email marketing, product updates, etc. A short while back they posted an interesting piece describing how they send emails to large groups quickly. Here’s a snippet:

Our sending infrastructure is designed to turn large campaigns into smaller “payloads” to get them out the door much faster. When you click Send in the Campaign Builder, you’re actually telling MailChimp to start biting off parts of your campaign. As each payload is created, it’s immediately routed to our Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) and queued for delivery. We organize this based on subscriber member ratings, so the most engaged subscribers in your campaign are first in line.

In email marketing speak, engaged subscribers are those that open, read, and click through the emails. Over time they are ranked based on how often they complete those tasks from highly engaged to not-so-much.

That made me wonder–what would happen if we could tweak our HR service delivery to prioritize those who are most engaged? For instance, if two requests come in for support and both will take an hour to complete, we would determine which employee was most engaged and handle their request first.

What if…?

On one hand, it seems like that approach could have a detrimental effect on those already on the cusp of disengagement. But should we be focusing our efforts on those individuals? I mean, engaged staff are pretty valuable to the organization…

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”

Harter, who has co-authored over 1,000 articles on the topic as well as two bestsellers, also says engaged employees “continuously recreate jobs so that each person has a chance to do what they do best.” Engaged employees “listen to the opinions of people close to the action (close to actual safety issues and quality or defect issues), and help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization.” When engaged employee do this they create a virtuous circle where communication and collaboration nurture engagement and vice versa.

Considering the benefits, why do companies still struggle to foster engagement? Harter writes, “Many organizations measure either the wrong things, or too many things, or don’t make the data intuitively actionable. Many don’t make engagement a part of their overall strategy, or clarify why employee engagement is important, or provide quality education to help managers know what to do with the results, and in what order.” Source

On the other hand, just like we’ve learned over time that focusing on strengths can deliver more value than focusing on weaknesses, maybe we should be focusing on making sure those engaged employees get the best service that the HR team has to offer. If we consider it logically:

  1. It helps to maintain or improve engagement levels
  2. It helps to prevent a slide toward disengagement
  3. It might help to drive additional results from those individuals

Another similar example of this is handling support requests from free and paid users of a product. Often times when companies use the “freemium” model and have a free version of their tools, the paid users have priority when it comes to getting support/help from the provider.

What are your thoughts? Would it make sense to handle our requests from employees based on the individual’s engagement level? What would be potential benefits or pitfalls? 

It’s been a whirlwind this past week and I’m just catching my breath for a bit. The site was hacked for the first time in over six years. Lesson learned: choose a strong password and don’t ignore strange activity with your web host.

I was able to scramble and get it working again, but if you happen to run across something that doesn’t look right, please let me know and I’ll address it ASAP.

In the meantime, I’m pumped for a wide variety of reasons. Let’s cover a few seemingly random ones.

  1. I just finished reading a book on my flight today that was very enlightening and insightful. It shared many commonalities with another book I read recently, and I plan to tie them together in an upcoming post. Both were written by CEOs of large organizations, and some of the key pieces of advice that held them through the tough times were very similar, despite one of them being in manufacturing and the other in healthcare. I enjoy seeing similarities like those.
  2. In other non-HR news, the little guy is 7 months old now and is just trying to decide if he wants to crawl a bit. It’s so fun to watch him use his head to prop himself up. That laughter is priceless. My little girls are growing up, too, and it’s so crazy to think that I posted here when they were first born. I still remember my pal Mervyn being awake because although it was late here in the US it was morning time for him in the UK.
  3. I am spending a day in Delray Beach today with the Brandon Hall Group leadership team to talk about my role and what the future holds. I’m excited about the possibilities.
  4. I am talking with a local business leader in a few weeks about how he started his business with Christian principles. This is a passion of mine so it’s really neat to learn about how others are pursing a calling on their own terms. Should be a fun conversation and will share any insights I gather.
  5. I’m still volunteering with my NASHRM chapter. I love seeing the inner workings of a nonprofit serving its members, and as a longstanding introvert, having that natural “in” to start conversations is a great opportunity for me. Being on the board has really helped me to be more outgoing, despite it being against my natural tendency. Any other introverts out there?
  6. I ran two races a week ago on back to back days and am still paying for it. Plantar fascitis in my right foot/heel is AWFUL. In other news, I placed 8th in the 15k mountain race and ~3rd place in the 10 mile trail race, so at least it wasn’t all for naught.
  7. I mentioned last week that I was training a young man to run. It’s been fun to chat with him because high schoolers are often awkward and it reminds me that people who HIRE these workers have additional challenges. Kudos to those of you that do.
  8. Vacation Bible School is this week every night. I am relegated to the outdoors because I am loud and can’t stand still. I’ve led the games for at least five years running. I wonder why…
  9. I had my first Uber ride yesterday. Interesting. There isn’t any need for them where I live, so I won’t be able to try again for a while. Lots of regulation and push back on this industry, and I’m curious to see what happens over time. You can now even get food cooked for you–like Airbnb for your belly.
  10. I haven’t been this busy in a while. I have draft ideas to write about stacking up around my ears, but think I do this every summer. I get done with work and immediately jump into family time with Melanie and the kids at home. I may shift back to once a week until August.
  11. Another tradition Melanie and I have is watching a new TV series over the summer. We love the hero stuff, which includes Arrow and The Flash. I’m trying to decide if we will go for Gotham over the summer. She has been hooked on When Calls the Heart and I’d like to catch up on The 100, but time with the kids is at a premium for us.

Probably nothing enlightening or exciting, but wanted to share a few “tidbits and trivialities,” as my favorite fiction author F. Paul Wilson likes to say. Enjoy your week!