Getting talent moving: APAC-centric strategies

Alongside new surveys spotlighting Asia Pacific’s talent trends, March’s Worldwide ERC Shanghai summit offered a wealth of interesting insights into Asia Pacific-oriented talent mobility strategies.

Young talent
Ruth Holmes reports from the conference, and examines the data to see how forward-thinking employers are innovating and using mobility to make a difference.Asia Pacific’s next generation of business leaders are looking for more from their working life. Satisfaction and a positive work environment rank highly on the list of most desirable factors for employers, according to the latest Universum talent survey for the Asia Pacific region.The study of 113,000 business, IT and engineering students in ten countries found that, when it comes to career aspirations, a friendly workplace now takes precedence over “large remuneration packages and working for employers with the strongest market position”.Commenting at the study’s launch in July 2015, Mike Parsons, Universum’s marketing director for APAC, said, “With Asia booming like it is, we’re seeing increased competition between non-Asian MNCs and large Asian corporations for the very best talent.”With employers reportedly finding recruitment in the Asia Pacific region twice as difficult as elsewhere, according to a survey by recruiter Harvey Nash, they are being advised to “think far more creatively” about how they attract talent and their employee proposition.Universum also found APAC’s Millennials looking for creativity and dynamism. With the current agenda for greater innovation in mobility, there are further opportunities here for talent management and mobility to deliver in terms of employer attractiveness.Understanding and responding to employees’ needs and expectations in local markets – for instance, in the cultural aspects of a move and family considerations – as well as their appetite for mobility and international experience, could be a key for businesses looking to secure the edge.

Mobility and talent management

Companies in highly competitive and fast-moving sectors, such as data analytics, are seeing the benefits of incorporating mobility into their talent management programmes, and are doing this on a regional as well as an international basis, as the increasing numbers of regional and international assignments testify.Vashist Kommunuri, Asia HR director at worldwide payroll service provider Automatic Data Processing (ADP), described to delegates at March’s Worldwide ERC Shanghai conference his company’s successful approach to engaging and developing people with key skills.Regional, as well as international, mobility has a key role in talent development and retention in a tiered approach that is sensitive to the needs of the business as well as individuals.“Not everyone can be offered international expatriate assignments, and not every organisation is in a position to offer those high-potential talents extended assignments,” Vashist Kommunuri noted.“But apart from expatriate international assignments, there are other ways to really engage the talent through short-term assignments or rotational assignments within the organisation.“For example, we have operations in India, the Philippines and Japan. When it comes to mobilising the talent, it becomes much more feasible to move talents on short-term and rotational assignments within the region, rather than looking for expatriate assignments.”

Making ambitions known

Within the realm of mobility as an attraction, development and retention tool, there was support from Worldwide ERC’s Global Thought Leaders Senior Strategists' panel for encouraging employees to make their career ambitions known. The panel advised individuals with global aspirations to communicate this with their line managers and talent development teams.Supporting this trend, some employers are now offering self-initiated, often self-managed and lump-sum, moves, as well as greater localisation of packages, for certain employee populations keen to build their careers on an international stage, as well as, perhaps, to contain costs in the wider business.

Support for senior management assignees

Yet for other members of the talent pool, especially at senior levels, mobility can be a less attractive prospect. Dual-career relationships, career anxieties, and family and cultural issues are among the challenges well-thought-out and targeted mobility practices can address.BASF has a programme in place to support assignees and their partners with cultural, career and social integration. The global chemical manufacturer, as elsewhere, increasingly faces the issue of how best to encourage and support partners on assignments, given the rise of dual-income families.International exposure for individuals on the senior leader career track is considered vital in the business, which employs around 110,000 people and has a large expatriate population. For BASF, the issue is particularly important for helping high leadership potential employees stay in the business and develop their knowledge of regional business units before taking up more senior roles, rather than opting out for family reasons.“We really see the international experience as part of our success,” explained Bianca Burke, head of the regional transfer centre for the Asia Pacific region and based in Hong Kong.At BASF, while executives at junior level tend to go on assignment unaccompanied, a majority of senior executives who relocate for international assignments are accompanied by their families.To reduce the likelihood of key talent opting out of senior leadership career tracks, and to increase employees’ exposure to, and to support, talent development across BASF’s business units in the process, the company supports assignees’ partners with a programme designed to smooth integration into the host country.“We offer eligible partners 120 hours of language and intercultural training, as well as a social integration budget, all with the intention of making the transition smoother,” explained Bianca Burke.“In terms of career support for partners, we also offer consultations with an external provider, so people can be realistic about how they can maintain their skills if they can’t work in the host country. The conversation might be an opportunity for discussion about studying for an MBA or opening a business. It brings up other options.”Acknowledging the possible challenges to this approach, including the difficulties compensating for the loss of a second income, Bianca Burke said, “The concept of dual careers is not going to go away. There is no magic answer, but in sharing this we hope to stimulate discussion on how to have successful assignments.”


These snapshots of current practice show how, as part of agile and adaptable talent management initiatives, mobility can be much more than a straightforward move from A to B.Managed with business, local and individual needs in mind, it can be an important engagement tool that enriches not only the individuals on assignments, but also businesses, supporting families and local communities.


APAC global mobility magazine
Read more about the Asia-Pacific region in our APAC Summer 2016 digital magazine.

For more Relocate Global news and features about the Asia Pacific region, see our Asia and China sections.

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