Internationalizing human resources

July 30, 2016

Professor Samira Hussein brings global focus to business class

Samira Hussein, a professor of business administration at Johnson County Community College, has relatives spread around the world. Her sister lives in Australia, her brother in Saudi Arabia, her niece in England, her in-laws in Egypt, and the rest of family and friends are spread around in China, Canada, and Pakistan. The idea of globalization isn’t a new idea to her.

Hussein, a native of Pakistan, wanted to bring more of that multicultural view to her class, Human Resource Management (BUS 243). The curriculum needed “internationalizing,” she said.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if we weave the global theme into the human resources course?’” she said. So she used her sabbatical to do just that.

It’s a small world

Hussein’s research showed that in 2011, only 3.8 percent of the programs taught at community colleges were international in nature. By 2021, 19 percent may have an international component – a big increase but still less than one in five.

With a shrinking world made possible by Internet commerce and communication, Hussein said she knew it was imperative that existing courses take on a global approach.

It was author Theodore Levitt who introduced the idea of “global” corporations back in 1983, where companies not only do business in other countries but also “sell the same things in the same way everywhere.”

Now, more than 30 years later, human-resource managers are realizing that while products can be standardized somewhat when sold in the global markets, working with people still has a cultural component. In terms of global awareness, “one size does not fit all,” Hussein said.

She collaborated in person during her sabbatical with personnel at the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, a leading University in Karachi, Pakistan.   The former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, started the institution, which has campuses all over Pakistan and Dubai.   

Samira also  met Khalida Brohi, founder and executive director of the Sughar Empowerment Society, a non-profit in Pakistan dedicated to providing opportunities for women. This meeting was also important in terms of recognizing the importance of global human resource network when running a small business dedicated to social causes.

“You can find out more about Khalida Brohi by watching her on TED Talk,” she told a roomful of colleagues.

Yes, even here

Hussein said many four-year universities don’t have adequate coverage of internationalism in human resources classes; to talk about it at a community college level is not unheard of, but it’s rare.

She plans on “internationalizing” more of her classes to prepare students for the changing work world. “This is not going to be one-shot deal,” Hussein said. “This will be an ongoing dialogue.”

As a result of the internationalization of the HRM course, her students examined the the challenges human-resource managers face in acquiring international resources. The analyzed the following within a global market:

  • Staffing issues
  • Recruiting and placements
  • Compensation and performance appraisal issues
  • Global labor organizations.

Hussein researched textbooks, culled Internet resources and interviewed other faculty at two-year and four-year institutions to create curriculum that was woven into the class at appropriate times.

“Most international coverage in human resources seems to be relegated to the end of the textbook,” Hussein said.

Hussein has fostered academic relations with business programs in several countries. She taught students in China and Pakistan, received Leadership Training in Netherlands and England, and would like to continue to explore global teaching opportunities in all parts of the world.