Human Resources Going Global

A nurse at a rapid HIV testing center in Zimbabwe, where EGPAF provides support for over 1,300 prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) sites.

James Pursey/EGPAF

How do you manage human resources for an organization that employs more than 1,000 people around the world? Chrissie Shea, associate director of human resources for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, explains.

Navigating the realities of working in a centralized non-governmental organization (NGO) with a presence in 15 countries can prove to be quite challenging, and yet very rewarding. Out of the 15 countries where EGPAF operates, we have full-time staff in 12 offices around the world. Our 800-plus Africa-based staff speaks dozens of languages; however, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) recognizes only three official languages for business purposes – English, French, and Portuguese. Additionally, each of our 12 countries must adhere to its respective set of local labor laws and realities; making it sometimes seem like we are operating 12 different organizations. This is a common theme among all of our operational teams.

While many of our processes and policies must be standardized to ensure consistent messaging and/or compliance, we also want to be sensitive to the fact that all of our employees are not sitting in one office in one location. Therefore, we empower our human resources (HR) partners (our local HR representation in each country office) to modify certain documents and messaging to be culturally appropriate.

Every member of our international HR team, regardless of if they are based in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, or Nairobi, provides some level of global support. Working in a global environment forces you to rely heavily on technology – webinars, conference calls, email, etc. And while we do conduct the majority of our messaging via these methods, we also conduct monthly meetings via phone with each country HR partner individually to share, reinforce, and further explain any updates and walk through a standardized agenda to learn more about what is happening in their offices – challenges, accomplishments, etc.

For the last few years, we have been dedicated to ensuring different HR processes, such as performance management and global compensation, are aligned across all of EGPAF’s offices. This was a huge undertaking and required our team to manage different sets of data under our larger HR policy umbrella. The goal was ensure a smooth and efficient transition to new policies, while also recognizing that EGPAF’s HR programs aren’t necessarily common practice in all of the African countries in which we work. 

As part of EGPAF’s ongoing efforts to coordinate our policies worldwide, we recently completed a global HR conference (which was part of the larger corporate services conference) to give our HR partners the opportunity to come together, share knowledge, and learn about new programs. This was EGPAF’s fifth HR conference, and as I sat listening to the level of dialogue, I couldn’t help but smile and reflect on how far we have come in the last five years thanks to the dedication and commitment of our HR staff around the globe.