Tag Archives: GPHR

International HR Management: An Interview with Debbie McGee

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? 

Global HR Issues (Book Review)

Global HR Competencies by Dave Ulrich, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and Mike Ulrich

global hr issues competencies

Global HR issues? I’m like most HR pros, and I’ll freely admit it. When I hear the word “global” I tend to ignore the rest of what’s being said. Honestly, who has time to think about this whole “global” thing when I have an HR department to run right here and now?

But, like many instinctive thoughts, it’s short-sighted and a poor plan for the future. When the team representing the Global HR Competencies book reached out to me, I knew it was time for my attitude about the global HR issues, and marketplace, to change.

What I liked

  • The entire book is full of examples that will make you sit in awe of the amazing organizations across the world that are leveraging HR to accomplish revolutionary things. The global HR issues are being addressed every day by smart people in smart organizations.
  • One company (Tata) from India has line managers and HR executives work together to identify industry trends and opportunities for competitive advantage; they then turn those opportunities into cultural attributes and behaviors to hire against. That’s powerful on so many levels (tying management and HR together, developing a plan and actually implementing it, etc.).
  • At Tata, HR is seen as the custodian of organizational values. Kind of like the keeper of touchstones mentioned here. Goes along with my premise that while HR is there to keep a finger on the “pulse” and communicate culture as needed, they should not be the ones creating the values.
  • If you read nothing else, the six purposes of HR mentioned in the book are worth the time to check them out.
    • HR pros should be the best thinkers in the organization on people issues.
    • HR pros must be equal partners with executives to accomplish the org’s purposes.
    • HR needs to be responsible for the talent and organizational agendas.
    • HR should contribute substantially to revenue growth.
    • HR needs to create and sustain economic intangibles that are valued and rewarded by capital markets.
    • HR should see itself as a source of competitive advantage–and create practices that support that view.
  • Look for opportunities to outsource items that aren’t key functions, whether it’s finding a payroll services provider, looking at a benefits consultant, or hiring an accountancy recruitment agency.
  • There are dozens of great examples and topics in this book–more than I can cover here. But I want to close with this high-impact quote from this book that should make us all stop and think for a moment: What is my company’s plan for an integrated set of HR products and services that meet the needs of our key stakeholders? How do stakeholders really rate the quality of what we are providing? Do I listen to and act upon their feedback?  

The empasis there is mine, but it’s something that we all need to be called out on once in a while. Yeah, you’re doing that “HR thing,” but what do your people really think of it? Is it getting the job done, or are there some serious changes that need to be made?

One of my responsibilities is being involved in our Process Improvement Group at work. It has opened my eyes to the fact that we are each in control of our own area. Accounting isn’t going to come in and change the HR policies. Contracts isn’t going to swoop in and clean up that terrible onboarding process.

It’s up to you (and me) to make that happen. If your people can’t see the value of what you provide as an HR professional, then why the heck are they keeping you around?

Wrap up-Global HR issues matter!

Obviously if your organization has any intentions of working on a global scale, this book will help you get some insights into other regions of the world and how their HR processes differ from those in the US. Don’t lose sight of the fact that some of these companies are wildly successful in their piece of the world despite heavy competition–that challenge isn’t limited to the North American continent, these are global HR issues. I’m definitely going to be doubling back to read more about the HR competencies and how to fine tune those within my organization. Whatever the case, feel free to click here to get your copy of the book.

Click here for other book reviews.

How to pass the GPHR exam

Today we’re rocking a guest post by Nancy Slotnick. I saw recently that she was successful in passing the GPHR exam, and I knew that she’d be a great resource to pull in for a guest post. Plus, she doesn’t have her own blog, so any chance I can get her to do some writing is a win for everyone. :-)

If you like this post feel free to subscribe or check into the GPHR study guide. It’s GPHR specific, and the testing tips are definitely helpful for the GPHR certification exam. I also have dozens of free resources listed on the PHR/SPHR/GPHR page!

Why did you decide to get your GPHR certification?

I have thought about sitting for the GPHR since taking the SPHR approximately a year before retiring from the Army.  At that time, I was already considering several different options for employment in Human Resources following retirement from the Army, including the possibility of joining the consulting business that my husband had started several years before.  I had spent my 25 year military career in Human Resources and had already decided that I wanted to stay in the profession.

My decisions to pursue my MBA with a focus in Strategic Human Resources as well as to prepare and sit for the SPHR were intended to fill perceived gaps between military HR and civilian HR practice.  At the time, I decided not to sit for the GPHR for two primary reasons.  I did not anticipate doing international work and I did not believe that I had the necessary experience.  At the time, I completely (and incorrectly) discounted the international nature of much of my military service as being applicable to the GPHR. Continue reading

The GPHR exam

GPHR examIn all of the HR certification talk that I get into, I really don’t know much about the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) exam.

What’s on it? Who takes it? Is it worth the effort?

GPHR Tips and Advice

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Lori Goldsmith, SPHR/GPHR (LinkedIn, Twitter) about what her experience was like. If you’re wondering what the GPHR exam is all about, you’re going to learn from someone who’s been there and done that.

If you like this post feel free to subscribe or check into the study guide. It’s not GPHR specific, but the testing tips are definitely helpful for the HR certification exams and you have a money back guarantee. If you are looking for a GPHR specific study tool, here’s the one I would use.


Me: Why did you decide to get GPHR certified? Continue reading