The trend for companies is expansion into new markets for growth, cost reduction, and flexibility.
Chinese companies are going global. Western companies, seeing revenues shift to emerging markets, are scrambling to find board directors from those regions. Businesses used to outsource processes to low-income countries, but today those countries are moving up the value chain.
Flexibility is enhanced by technology to access the best talent anywhere in the world. And some companies have sourced their entire staff from freelancers. The trend is for companies to be global, even at the small and startup size.
Globalization affects corporate policy and practices with a profound impact on our day-to-day work. From dual-career couples chasing work opportunities across continents to those infamous late-night conference calls. Will we be signed on as an ex-pat and get six-weeks’ paid holiday and nine-months’ maternity leave or signed on as a local with less generous policies?
I remember the shock my colleagues from the editorial department had at Financial Times. They found out I had an eight-week statutory maternity leave instead of the nine months our colleagues received in the UK. Now, just a decade later, Financial Times has standardized global maternity leave at twenty weeks. It made them a leader in the global trend toward better policies for families across a global workforce.
This is a world that most leaders couldn’t even imagine in the recent past. Some people would rather not deal with all of the complexity and just want to open a bookstore or a cupcake shop on the corner. Yet, the harsh reality is that even at the local level, commodity prices can have a huge effect on the purchase of wheat, fuel, paper, and any number of other business needs. It’s important not to take it for granted. It’s better to realize we have a great advantage if we can navigate these waters.
Speaking of bakeries, I spoke to a board member of a 300-strong South African bakery chain, which learned dramatically how interconnectedness impacts business regulation on a larger scale. All the bread in one of their neighborhood bakeries was priced the same as nearby shops. And what began as a bunch of local managers chatting about the price of bread turned into a price-fixing scandal.
The entire chain—all 300 stores—was handed a 10 percent fine on their profits. That’s a hard lesson and an ideal example illustrating that we’re not just a carefree owner of a neighborhood business. Everything is interconnected, and we need to be aware of that. So that we can run our work and personal lives in ways that take advantage of globalization, rather than become a victim of it.
What Does Globalization Mean for Us?
Globalization means we’re always on. Technology means we’re always on. The disruption of those industries means we’re always slightly paranoid. Former Intel CEO Andrew Grove set the stage for this era in his highly acclaimed book, Only the Paranoid Survive. Two decades on, it is truer than ever.
Technology has changed expectations in the workplace because employers always have access to their employees. And employees have fewer viable excuses for not being available for work. Globalization breaks the boundaries of time in good ways and bad. It’s great to be able to have a productive conference call at any time of the day. But we need to reconsider the value we bring to those calls.
Now, being a team player isn’t simply a next-door neighbor kind of trait, it means developing global, virtual traits that will help us succeed in this environment.
The following is adapted from Future Proof.
 Scott Cendrowski, “How 5 Chinese Companies Became Global Giants,” Fortune.com, June 24, 2016, accessed September 21, 2018, http://fortune.com/2016/06/24/chinese-global-xiaomi.
 Financial Times, “About Us,” FT.com, accessed September 21, 2018, https://aboutus.ft.com/en-gb/careers/culture-and-benefits.
 Andrew S. Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company (New York: Random House, 1999).