They often ask the question when they are feeling underappreciated at work. Since they are not afraid to change, many global organizations are losing some of their best.
While Global Cosmopolitans represent a major resource for global corporations, organizations must develop the ability to recognize, manage and retain them. Reliance on existing systems and practices will prove less successful with this unique group.
The first challenge is to identify the Global Cosmopolitans already working in your organization. Conventional CV’s and Vitas may not reveal the depth of experience nor the “hidden assets” accrued in early mobility.
In order to identify and understand them, take the time to listen to the story of their global journey. Listen for the “hidden” skills and knowledge acquired in their global experiences. Encouraging the ability and willingness to tell their stories can also help Global Cosmopolitans identify some strengths of which they may be unaware.
Given their past success in adapting so seamlessly, some Global Cosmopolitans might need encouragement to explore the skills they have developed from their life experience. Many Global Cosmopolitans take for granted the courage, skills and motivation that comprise the basis of their unique strengths.
To adequately explore their strengths, the organization must understand more than the roles and locations captured in a conventional resume. This requires exploring the nature of the personal and professional experience in each of the stops along their journey. The fact of having worked in China tells only a part of the story. Insight arrives from understanding if the individual launched a business there, built a struggling initiative into a successful enterprise or simply spent time in the country with little contact to the culture and business networks.
Global Cosmopolitans have often had experience dealing with the tensions many organizations face as they expand globally. Their sensitivity to subtle forms of difference guides their ability to work on teams, both virtually and face-to-face, composed of people from multiple cultural backgrounds.
Similarly, the conflicts between headquarters and subsidiaries are the context of global expansion. Global Cosmopolitans are able to bridge these differences validating the local competence while understanding the demands of headquarters staff. When empowered to lead, their experience allows them to identify and articulate the cultural conflicts and misunderstandings that undermine success in these key relationships.
Global Cosmopolitans frequently describe organizational incidents of being misunderstood and poorly managed. Given clear understanding of the opportunities, they will find intelligent career steps within the organization. While they can be loyal, these unique individuals frequently have a low tolerance for boredom. If they do not see the possibility of on-going challenges and the ability to use their experience, they will seek other opportunities. Remember, their appetite for change can be a major asset to their organization or the exit route from it. If they cannot change the organization; they will change organizations!