About our Blog Post Author:  Mellissa Boggs, SPHR, Director of HR Consulting @ MJ Insurance.  Melissa has over 20 years of management, operations and human resources experience. She received her B.A. from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Mellissa has served on various client retention committees, diversity groups and boards as the HR Business Partner. She is certified as a Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR). For the last twelve years she has been actively involved with the Indy Society of Human Resource Managers (IndySHRM) as a speaker at state conferences as well a member on various committees and an active member of national SHRM.


As HR professionals, we play key roles in shaping the business strategies of the organization’s we work in.  OD, effective communications, training & development, performance management, employee relations, and total compensation are just a few of the areas which have become paramount to the success of the organization.  These complex areas are made more so when you factor in multiple locations globally.  Les Gleaves, Senior Director of Employee Relations and Susan Elsey, SPHR, Director of Talent Management with Indianapolis’s own ExactTarget provided a fast paced and energetic presentation (matching their Company culture and business growth) while sharing with the Strategic Leaders Forum some of the lessons learned since joining their organization.

The question which triggered lessons learned for Les, Susan and the ExactTarget leadership were how can they maintain their culture and get the work done in a global organization while accounting for local customs, culture, and practices?

Lessons Learned 1:

Culture alignment is critical.  Selection of leadership is the “secret sauce” since culture is a direct reflection of the organization leadership when you are a relationship based organization like ExactTarget.  Culture alignment is tricky across continents and cultures so the organization works to align everyone before they start by looking for entrepreneurial, creative, relationship oriented individuals and provide them from day one with face to face support with the leadership.

Lessons Learned 2:

Dedicated resources for new ventures/locations are key to success out of the box.  The organization learned early on they needed to dedicate top talent to ensure top talent was attracted to the organization locally as well as across the country and across the globe.  To ensure key alignment ExactTarget implemented rotational assignments, resources for knowledge sharing and culture shaping which would not distract from the core business.  ExactTarget also learned how to leverage its local partners for maximum success.

Lessons Learned 3:

Think Globally, Act Locally.  ExactTarget learned fast they needed to embrace local cultures, tap into the local talent market, understand the local employment laws & management practices, design processes & practices with multiple time zones, languages and cultures in mind.  Lastly they learned any “weaknesses” in the home office was magnified with implementation abroad.  Leadership had to determine if tangerine was ok when they were trying to achieve orange with the culture.  This has become their litmus test in everything they do.

Lessons Learned 4:

Speed over perfection is a must to getting things done.  Susan shared a number of key components they realized were more important than perfection when expanding into a new market.  Paramount to getting a new location up and running quickly was identifying and establishing the talent in the market; communicating who had decision making rights in that market; implementing key business processes; and establishing roles and responsibilities, etc.  They also established and understood two key non – negotiables in the speed to expand the business such as the culture and the employee’s competency to do their job.

Lessons Learned 5:

Susan shared that she and the rest of the leadership team are in the business of building bridges because trust accelerates the speed of which they get things done.    Key ways to “build bridges” are through building relationships, cohesion, teamwork, cultural understanding, peer mentoring and knowledge sharing.

I think as HR professionals we can all take a page from the ExactTarget playbook to help support and accelerate the growth of our respective organizations whether it is on a local or global scale, the key premise is applicable to all of us.