MolexMolex, a 70-year-old manufacturer of electronic components based in Chicago, is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of electronic components.
Assignment on the course International Business Management (IBM)Group -3Case -3 MolexMolex, a 70-year-old manufacturer of electronic components based in Chicago, is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of electronic components. The company established an international division to coordinate exporting in 1967, opened its first overseas plant in Japan in 1970 and a second in Ireland in 1971. From that base, Molex has evolved into a global business that generated about 61 percent of its $1.84 billion in revenues outside of the United States. The company operates some 50 manufacturing plants in 21 countries and employs more than 16,000 people worldwide, with only one-third of them located in the United States. Molex’s competitive advantage is based on a strategy that emphasizes a combination of low costs, excellent customer service, and the mass production of standardized products that are sold globally. Manufacturing sites are located in countries where cost conditions are favorable and major customers are close. Since the 1970s, a key goal of Molex has been to build a truly global company that is at home wherever in the world it operates and which proactively shares valuable knowledge across operations in different countries. The human resource management function of Molex has always played a central role in meeting this goal.As Molex grew rapidly overseas, the HRM function made sure that every new unit did the same basic things. Each new entity had to have an employee manual with policies and practices in writing, new employee orientation programs, salary administration with a consistent grading system, written job descriptions, written promotion and grievance procedures, standard performance appraisal systems that were written down, and so on. Beyond these things, however, Molex views HRM as the most localized of functions. Different legal systems, particularly with regard to employment law, different compensation norms, different cultural attitudes to work, different norms regarding vacation, and so on, all imply that policies and programs must be customized to the conditions prevailing in a country. To make sure this occurs, Molex’s policy is to hire experienced HRM professionals from other companies in the same country in which it has operations. The idea is to hire people who know the language, have credibility, know the law, and know how to recruit in that country.2Molex’s strategy for building a global company starts with its staffing policy for managers and engineers. The company frequently hires foreign nationals who are living in the United States, have just completed MBAs, and are willing to relocate if required. These individuals will typically work in the United States for a while, becoming familiar with the company’s culture. Some of them will then be sent back to their home country to work there. Molex also carefully screens its American applicants, favoring those who are fluent in at least one other language. Molex is unusual for a U.S. company in this regard. However, with more than 15 languages spoken at its headquarters by native speakers, Molex is committed to multilingual competency. There is also significant hiring of managers and engineers at the local level. Here, too, a willingness to relocate internationally and foreign language competency are important, although this time English is the preferred foreign language. In a sign of how multinational Molex’s management has become, it is not unusual to see foreign nationals holding senior positions at company headquarters. In addition to Americans, individuals of Greek, German, Austrian, Japanese, and British origin have all sat on the company’s executive committee, its top decision-making body.To help build a global company, Molex moves people around the world to give them experience in other countries and to help them learn from each other. It has five categories of expatriates: (1) regular expatriates who live in a country other than their home country for three- to five-year assignments (there are approximately 50 of these at any one time), (2) “inpats” who come to the company’s U.S. headquarters from other countries, (3) third-country nationals who move from one Molex entity to another (e.g., Singapore to Taiwan), (4) short-term transfers who go to another Molex entity for six to nine months to work on a specific project, and (5) medium terms who go to another entity for 12 to 24 months, again to work on a specific project.Having a high level of intra-company movement is costly. For an employee making $75,000 in base salary, the total cost of an expatriate assignment can run as high as $250,000 when additional employee benefits are added in, such as the provision of schooling and housing, adjustments for higher costs of living, adjustments for higher tax rates, and so on. Molex also insists on treating all expatriates the same, whatever their country of origin, so a Singapore expatriate living in Taiwan is likely to be living in the same apartment building and sending his child to the same school as an American expatriate in Taiwan. This boosts the overall costs, but Molex believes that its extensive use of expatriates pays dividends. It allows individuals to understand the challenges of doing business in different countries, it facilitates the sharing of useful knowledge across different business entities, and it helps to lay the foundation for a common company culture that is global in its outlook.3Molex also makes sure that expatriates know why they are being sent to a foreign country, both in terms of their own career development and Molex’s corporate goals. To prevent expatriates from becoming disconnected from their home office, the HRM department touches base with them on a regular basis through telephone, e-mail, and direct visits. The company also encourages expatriates to make home office visits so that they do not become totally disconnected from their base and feel like a stranger when they return. Upon return, they are debriefed and their knowledge gained abroad is put to use by, for example, placing the expatriates on special task forces.A final component of Molex’s strategy for building a cadre of globally minded managers is the company’s in-house management development programs. These are open to a wide range of managers who have worked at Molex for three years or more. Molex uses these programs not just to educate its managers in finance, operations, strategy, and the like, but also to bring together managers from different countries to build a network of individuals who know each other and can work together in a cooperative fashion to solve business problems that transcend borders.Case Discussion Questions1. What multinational strategy is Molex pursuing: localization, international, global standardization, or transnational?2. How would you characterize the approach to staffing used at Molex? Is this appropriate given its strategy?3. Molex is successful in its use of expatriate managers. Why do you think this is the case? What can be learned from Molex’s approach?4. How does the human resource management function at Molex contribute toward the attainment of its multinational strategy?
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