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Susana Teles

Published on

June 7, 2018


agency life, HR

Has the thought of joining a global team ever crossed your mind? Are you worried you’ll be in over your head? You’re probably right… but don’t let that intimidate you. Read on for some tried and tested tips on making a smooth transition…

Six months ago, I made the decision to leave my HR role at a London agency to join LEWIS, a global agency spanning four continents. I went from working with 200 employees in one location, all of whom I knew by name and saw nearly every day, to working with 550 employees who were spread across the globe.

I’m hoping that by sharing my experience, you’ll be provided with some helpful insights on navigating your move into any global role.

The world is a big, big place…

While it may seem obvious (‘global agency’ and all…) the first thing that becomes quite apparent is that your stakeholders are literally based in different continents. While booking a quick ‘catch up’ meeting has never been an issue, you now have to navigate through different time zones, public holidays and working hours.

You’ll also need to get to grips with decision-making on a global scale. You have to involve more people when dealing with people matters than you would in a local agency. In addition, the repercussions of decisions and the implications of simple changes in one office or country, may have knock-on effects in another, so it is important to consult with all stakeholders affected.

With that said, the most interesting aspect of the role at LEWIS is the opportunity to work with different offices and cultures, but no doubt, it is also the most challenging part. It can be extremely frustrating when you’re trying to get to grips with different local laws, especially when they vary so much between countries.

…until you join a global team!

Regardless of the challenges, working in a global agency is as exciting as it sounds. The world which seemed so big before, suddenly becomes a lot smaller, and you gain access to different regions and cultures over night! Your social network suddenly goes from a handful of friends in and around London, to colleagues in every corner of the world, from San Francisco and Boston, to Sydney and Shanghai!

For the HR professional, access to a global network ultimately means the talent pool is huge. You can search far and wide to ensure you’re recruiting the right people for the right role. You’re no longer bound by borders, and the team at the visa office are like our extended family.

The HR role itself becomes more interesting. You have to learn, adapt and engage with different cultures, ensuring you tap into what employees really want in each region. This makes rolling out global ‘one size fits all’ policies virtually impossible, but it really means that you need to connect and understand each of the local teams.

Finally, here are my top tips if you’re thinking of taking the leap to a global HR role: 

  1. A universal truth: communication is key. Use the tools available to you and ensure you get face time with your key stakeholders. Don’t shy away from a quick video call instead of email!
  2. Learn the basics of employment law in each country: not only will this help you shape global policies, it makes advising employees and managers a lot easier.
  3. Understand the cultures: you won’t get anywhere unless you genuinely understand the differences between cultures. Do your research. It may be as simple as how you greet each other.
  4. Don’t assume anything! What is ordinary and conventional in one country or office may not be the case elsewhere.
  5. And finally, make good friends: this guarantees that you’ll have a place to stay wherever you travel!


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