3 Ways to Revamp Talent Management in Asia

3 min read · 7 years ago


I’ve now been in Asia for close to 18 years. On one hand it looks like things have changed so much in that short time frame that it feels like I’ve been through a time warp. Just look how Dubai, Shanghai or Xian have developed in just 20 years, its mind boggling.

However, at the same time it feels that in many aspects of HR time has stood still. I remember in 1997 we talked about the skill gap in Asia, how to replace expats with local talent and how to accelerate the development of Asia leaders into CEO positions. And in 2015 we’re still doing the same. Gallup has published research on Bridging the Leadership Gap in Asia and the Cegos group published a white paper on the Asian Talent Crunch.

The question of course is why is this is the case?

You might say that Asia has grown so fast that it was impossible to keep the talent and leadership pipeline filled. I’m sure there is a lot of truth in that answer but it can’t be the whole answer. I’m convinced that as leaders we have not done enough and/or not done the right things to get this monkey of our shoulder. So here are 3 thoughts on how I think we should revamp our talent management strategies in Asia.

1. Take the Plunge

Western multinational in Asia are still very traditional in wanting to have some person from the head office on the helm of the ship.

They all preach the need for developing Asian talent but when it comes to appointing the next CEO there’s always a good reason to fall back on the ‘tested and trusted’ western expat.

As Reg Bull says “It’s easy to talk about diversity, but more difficult to swallow it when it manifests itself daily.” Asian multinational companies should really push their leadership talent out. Give them a three year challenging appointment, if necessary buddy them up with a local executive coach and make it clear what role the person will return to if he / she is successful.

2. Utilize the Availability of Global Talent While Growing Asian Talent

The continued rise of Asia and the tempered growth in the developed world means that a lot of great talent from the West is coming East. Companies in Asia (think Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong) have build great economies on the mix of local and global talent. According to a report by McKinsey, future growth will primarily rise from mid-sized cities in emerging markets. With western expats taking advantage of this, Asian companies should use the opportunity by employing global talent.

They should however learn from the ‘expat trap’ that companies all over Asia got stuck in over the past decades:

The illusion that an expat comes into a leadership position, delivers results, transfers knowledge, develops a local successor and then moves out.

For all kinds of reason the one thing that never materialized was the development of a local successor. So while Asian companies should utilize the availability of global talent they should make his reward and development dependent on the delivery of results and the development of Asian successors.

3. Engage Asian Young Talent Differently

Survey after survey shows that Asian talent is less engaged then their counterparts in other parts of the world and it’s pretty easy to see why:

Asian traditional values still mostly dominate the managerial style of many Asian line managers.

While the traditional values of loyalty, authority, seniority and harmony which drive the behavior of the older Asian line managers are to be respected they’re not always what younger Asian talent is looking for or motivated by. There’s clearly a clash in the making between the different Asian generations, leading to young Asian talent being not engaged by their more traditional bosses.

A great example of a company that has been able to engage its talent in Asia is Telenor, a Norwegian telecom, media and financial services group. On first glance you would think that it would be difficult to transplant the Scandinavian values of egalitarianism to Asian. However the way Telenor has implemented it, through smart communication, policies and role modelling of Norwegian expats, they’ve created a highly engaged workforce that has earned them many ‘Best Place to Work’ accolades.

As always I’m interested in your views and experience in what talent management approach has worked in your company. Comment below.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: 3 Ways to Revamp Talent Management in Asia

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