Chasing Talent Across the Globe

News Updates

As talent demands and searches become increasingly global, organizations face growing pressure to deploy talent strategies that can scale for size and efficiency and focus on regional markets, according to recently released research from Deloitte Consulting.

That, along with business leaders’ focus on improving the bottom line during the uneven recovery, “has had some extraordinary implications,” Alice Kwan, U.S. talent services leader and principal at Deloitte Consulting, told attendees Feb. 9, 2012, at a talent management strategies conference presented here by The Conference Board.

“As companies become more global, they’re still very concerned about how they’re going to implement that growth regionally and to take advantage of the talent that’s sitting in different regions,” Kwan said.

Deloitte’s longitudinal survey series, conducted in collaboration with Forbes Insights, includes responses from an October 2011 poll of 376 senior business leaders and human resource executives across major industries in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Executives in the Asia Pacific region are “feeling the most pain” and face the most urgent talent needs, according to Deloitte’s January 2012 report titled Talent Edge 2020: Redrafting Talent Strategies for the Uneven Recovery. The region is facing significant talent shortages in research and development (68 percent), operations (64 percent) and strategy and planning (62 percent), said Kwan.

Meanwhile, executives in the Americas see executive leadership and operations as the main areas affected by talent gaps (56 percent for both), followed by information technology (50 percent).

Business leaders in the EMEA region are far less concerned about talent shortfalls, Kwan said. For example, they reported that they expect an average talent shortage across 12 functional areas of only 31 percent.

The study found that the top three strategic issues capturing management attention are improving top- and bottom-line performance (38 percent), expanding into global and new markets (33 percent) and cutting and managing costs (32 percent).

Developing leaders and succession planning, recruiting hard-to-find skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and sustaining employee engagement, “are the top talent issues that executives are seeing today,” Kwan said. Those issues were cited by 30 percent, 29 percent and 25 percent of respondents, respectively.

Employment Branding in India

Recruiting and retaining qualified talent to meet the demand in emerging markets, particularly India, requires an understanding of the region’s “unique and dynamic challenges,” said Santosh Karagada, Wipro Technologies’ vice president of talent engagement and development for the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, during another conference session. The Bangalore-based IT company has 135,000 employees, about 80 percent of whom are in India.

“When you look at the IT industry specifically, we really are struggling for talent,” Karagada said. India is highly fragmented with many states and various languages, “so you need to cater to different segments of the market.”

Aside from the cream-of-the-crop talent everyone is vying for, one challenge is getting talent from the country’s schools, colleges and institutes by grooming students to transition from “campus to corporate ready,” Karagada noted.

India graduates about 4 million students annually, but the fraction of graduates with engineering degrees, interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate “are really not … strong,” he said.

In addition, Karagada said, in many cases, the country’s academic curriculum “has also not kept pace,” so often retraining is needed.

Mission10X,” a Wipro nonprofit established to help the country increase the employable pool of engineering graduates 10-fold, is one initiative that has helped to build the Wipro brand in India. Among other things, program personnel work with faculty across the country to help improve the curriculum, he said.

Karagada said the initiative has had “massive impact on both our visibility in the market in terms of employee brand as well as our ability to attract better talent. The whole industry is benefiting, so it’s also about our corporate social responsibility.”

Total Compensation, Not Contracting, Valued Most

Karagada noted some other challenges in India. For example, society generally frowns at contract staffing and moving from job to job.

“It’s culturally viewed as taboo” to be on a contracting assignment, Karagada said. “The family doesn’t understand what contracting is,” and “children often take care of parents in old age, so there is a huge need to be employed on a full-time basis.”

Job offers should spell out the total value of the package, not just a base salary. In India and other emerging markets, applicants want to know “what you are investing in me” or “the total spend for the company.” Wipro spells out the total cost, including salary, benefits and retirement, plus any add-on programs such as wellness and housing expenses.

India has a young, dynamic and highly mobile workforce. “They’re willing to pack their bags and move from city to city or work anywhere else globally,” Karagada said. “It’s a workforce that’s willing to explore, willing to take challenges and willing to take risks.”

There’s also “huge peer pressure” culturally and socially, starting in childhood, that has implications for employers, said Karagada.

“There is a high need for growth—faster promotions, faster career growth,” Karagada explained. “In about six years, they want to be in a [management] position.”

The upshot? “You grow more breadth than depth,” he said. “They’re not really experts in any one area, but they will have worked on wonderful technology and wonderful domains.”

Because of the keen demand for talent, many companies don’t hesitate to offer to pay for buyouts, Karagada said. If a company wants someone to start working immediately, it will reimburse the employee the cost to buy out their previous contract with another employer.

Resume fraud is still rampant in India and many other emerging markets. Companies need stringent quality norms to discover fake companies and falsified resumes, Karagada said.

“Evolving markets are driving enterprises and the business of talent [acquisition] to newer frontiers,” G. Ravindran, senior vice president of Asia Pacific business development and CEO of SHRM India, told SHRM Online in an e-mail interview. “It’s creating new bodies of knowledge, practices, tools ... quite simply, newer ways of doing things, constantly,” all of which leave companies to grapple with “different levels of engagement, creativity, risk taking and performance by all stakeholders of the workforce and enterprise.”
Ravindran added: “Tracking these changes to pick best practices is less relevant; the need is for proactive anticipation and ‘next’ solutions.”

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.