‘Managing Talent’ is Key HR challenge All Round the World
The competition for critical talent continues to intensify and many companies are re-evaluating their
global talent management practices. As business objectives continue to focus on growth in emerging and
other non-traditional markets and companies search globally for new workforces, the global mobility
function has become a critical tool to develop and deploy key talent. The organizations that master global
talent mobility will dominate markets in the 21st century. In response to this imperative, the global
mobility function must redefine itself from a transaction-based employee service provider to a strategic
and innovative business partner.
FINDING and nurturing the right people is the most critical HR challenge both for fast-growing
companies in rapidly developing countries and market leaders in established economies, according to a
new survey to be unveiled at the World HR Congress in London this month. Conducted by the Boston
Consulting Group (BCG) in co-operation with the World Federation of Personnel Management
Associations, the study of more than 4,700 executives in 83 countries shows that ‘managing talent’ is at
or near the top of the agenda in every region and every industry.
This issue ranked as the most important HR topic in nine of 17 countries analysed in depth – generally the
largest economies in seven different regions around the world, including the United States, Australia,
Singapore, Japan and the United Kingdom, and was one of the top three topics in 14 of these countries.
Executives from Latin America and the emerging markets in Asia claimed they expect their companies to
move businesses to new locations to find talent, which, say BCG, is a reflection of more globalisation and
The survey follows on from a Europe-only study of 27 countries conducted last year in association
with the European Association for Personnel Management (see article by Michael Leicht
et al in WorldLink, July 2007). The final report, ‘Creating people advantage: how to address HR challenges worldwide through 2015’, incorporates the findings from an additional 56 countries and
provides detailed analysis of the most important HR issues in the 17 ‘focus’ countries and a quick
overview of HR conditions in 29 other nations. It also develops profiles of key HR priorities for seven
regions. The survey was complemented by over 200 interviews with senior executives.
The three most important HR challenges to emerge from the survey were managing talent, improving
leadership development and managing work-life balance. Interviews with executives uncovered a strong
connection between these three topics, which the report categorises as ‘developing and retaining the best
employees’. Executives in Argentina and Chile, Brazil, Canada, India and Japan all said that managing
work-life balance would be one of their key future HR challenges. About three quarters of Canadian
executives said that they expect their companies to offer both flexible and part-time working by 2015,
while India, which has a young workforce, is focused on managing work-life balance for its young
professionals, who have many career options. Many executives expected their companies to respond
by offering sabbaticals and teleworking options. Another key strategic category, defined as
‘Anticipating change’, encompasses ‘managing demographics’ – the fourth most important HR challenge, plus ‘managing change and cultural transformation’ and ‘managing globalisation’. In
North America, and many European countries, say BCG, companies are trying to prepare for the loss
of productivity, capacity and knowledge as employees age and retire. In North America and the Pacific
region executives expect semi-retired and retired employees to close the capacity gap.
One of the surprising findings of the survey, according to BCG, is that executives in Japan and China do
not recognise that their countries will face a major challenge in replacing retiring employees. Japan is
already feeling the effects of an aging workforce, while China’s day of reckoning, a direct consequence of
the one-child policy implemented in 1979, is still in the future.
Other key findings include the following:
- Improving leadership development is critical in China and India, where companies often lack skilled
and experienced leaders to match their ambitious growth plans;
- Corporate social responsibility ranks as a top issue in Russia, where companies acquiring assets in Western Europe are using it to reduce skepticism about their motives and create goodwill;
- Becoming a learning organisation is one of the top four issues in Germany, Japan, South Korea and Spain, all countries facing competition from challengers in rapidly developing economies that are
moving into their key markets;
- Managing globalisation is the most critical future HR challenge in South Korea, where the country’s
economy is increasingly buoyed by export-led growth.
As with the earlier European study, one of the key findings of the survey is that non-HR executives are
much more likely to approve of the performance of their HR department if they are able to demonstrate
mastery of basic, traditional HR processes and activities, restructuring the organisation and not least
recruiting and staffing.
The report identifies ways of enhancing capabilities in each of the highlighted areas of challenge. For
access to the report, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org