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Global Talent War 2.0: From “Attraction” to “Utilization”

Global Talent War 2.0: From “Attraction” to “Utilization”

JU Se-Young

Oct. 31, 2012


Welcome to our video program. I'm Se-Young Ju from the Human Resources & Organization Research Department.

Recently, companies around the world are eager to import workers as they try to develop new technologies and launch new businesses amid the global economic downturn and rapidly changing business environment. These companies are urgently seeking talented employees from outside their national labor market to fill skills gap in their workforce. However, fully utilizing their expertise and retaining them are matters that require more attention.

One Indian technology worker from a US-based IT firm said in an interview, “It is too late for me to learn Korean, and my Korean coworkers even avoid eye contact during meetings conducted in English. I feel as if I am isolated.” He also added, “As I have too many meetings during the day, I usually handle my given tasks in the evening. Furthermore, it is hard to get accustomed to Korean food.” This shows that many foreign workers in Korea find it difficult to develop sustainable competence with a long-term vision due to Korean business culture and practices. Many Korean companies are clearly falling short in their preparations for retaining and utilizing foreign workers.

Global Talent War 2.0 refers to the shift from competing to “obtain” talent to competing to effectively “use” talent. To realize the benefits that foreign talent offers, companies need to provide new employees enough time to adapt to a different culture and an environment. This will promote mutual learning and cultivate adaptability. Then, the overall company environment must be upgraded to ease difficulties for the foreign workforce. In addition, support measures must be devised to stimulate the continuous growth of foreign workers by drawing on the opinions of experts who can measure intercultural adaptation. Then, what are the measures to successfully foster foreign talent?

First, companies need to adopt a “rice transplanting” model for talent fostering. In rice farming, three to five seedlings are placed together to support each other as they grow. Many companies simply hire foreign talent and expect that it will grow naturally. Some hope that a single crop of new employees from abroad can make their companies global. However, this assumption is problematic in non-English speaking nations, where linguistic and cultural gaps are wide. More than a year is normally needed for foreign workers to adjust to a different culture. During this period, foreign employees can relyon each other for support, resolve language barriers and acclimate to the company culture, making them far more effective when dispatched to the field. A case in point is Chinese software firm Neusoft which forms project teams consisting of two newly hired foreign workers as mentees and one existing foreign worker as a mentor to ensure a “soft landing” for its foreign workforce.

Second, companies should build a global environment. Even if foreign workers adapt well, they cannot flourish if their new company does not make adjustments itself. Here, the CEO must drive needed changes. In fact, alterations to the corporate culture need to be entrenched before foreign personnel are recruited. This may involve communication policies, human resources management and infrastructure. For example, chairman Tadashi Yanai of Uniqlo, a Japanese casual clothes maker, made English the official workplace language and installed a policy that blocks non-English speakers from job opportunities in June 2010. Furthermore, in employing 1,300 people, Yanai hired 300 Japanese and 1,000 non-Japanese, and has each employee work overseas in rotation.

The final step is to manage talented foreign employees through a scientific and systematic approach by experts who diagnose and study the degree of intercultural adaptation, devise plans to manage diversity and implement adaptation programs. Prudential Financial, a US-based global insurance firm, has a talent management arm called the Intercultural Group. With “Overseas Assignment Inventory,” a cultural assessment tool, foreign skilled workers are constantly reviewed and offered customized training programs. With an extensive global training network in over 100 locations, the company is efficiently managing its human resources worldwide.

The “Global War for Talent 2.0” refers to moving beyond attracting talent to raising these workers’ competence to increase corporate performance. In this context, the key is not the number of foreign employees a company has hired. Rather, it is whether they have stayed and contributed to the success of the company. For effective utilization of global talent, companies need to set up an environment where foreign talent can work in harmony with coworkers, develop a sense of loyalty to the company and even grow into chief officers on a level playing field.

Thank you for watching. I'm Se-Young Ju.

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