Over the past few months I have been
travelling in and out of Asia frequently. A key topic of discussion with some of my clients has
been ‘the war for talent’, the term coined by McKinsey & Co in 1997. I think that
there is a war for talent in the developed countries; but this is not the case for the emerging
economies, such as Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and China.
How can there be a lack of talent
in these countries, when for example India has more than 65% of its population below the age of
35 and with a population greater than 1.2 billion no less? Indonesia is another example, where
nearly half of the total population is under the age of 30.
Now, I concur that talent
development in emerging market economies is a multi-layered and complex process; but surely these
well-populated countries should have an ample pool of potential talent? These markets require a
greater focus in terms of how talent is identified and how it is leveraged. Talent programs and
succession planning need to be more creative, innovative and holistic in these economies.
As emerging economies have
experienced rapid expansion they are now coming up against succession planning challenges that
are demanding the attention that they deserve. Organizations working in these markets need to
take stock and focus on the long-term goals and changing business models by investing in human
capital to ensure their competitive advantages.
It begins with questions, such as:
- What does talent look like?
- How is talent defined in the first place?
- Are the talent strategies culturally appropriate?
- How does one ‘prime’ the talent pipelines?
- How are global leaders developed?
Some of the areas for consideration are:
- Leadership in India has different characteristics to
leadership in China or Malaysia. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Talent
development programs need to include culture specific components.
- Human Resources need to be placed as a higher priority
than they have been in the past. For example, values, biases and motivations vary across
cultures; therefore directly impacting engagement, incentives, interpretations of competency
- Executive Coaching, mentoring and shadowing alongside board
members and senior executives is critical. On-the-job training and opportunities in terms of
observation and immediate feedback are invaluable.
- Career development plans need to promote a sense of loyalty
and connectedness. This is especially important in countries that have high staff turnover
and are high context and highly relationship based.
- As the growth of potential female leaders in emerging
economies is expected to continue, strategies that support their advancement need to be in
- Progression and succession planning need to be culturally
appropriate and clearly disseminated to the up-coming talent.