How to develop international talent

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 11 Nov 2015

Experts from Fujitsu and Asian Development Bank share the tactics that work for the Asian market

HR practitioners in international organisations need to ensure that the right skills are available in multiple territories to achieve business goals. And as delegates heard at the CIPD annual conference in the UK, this is particularly true of today’s Asian market.
“Asia’s growth is attracting talent from both inside and outside Asia,” said Ann Rennie, deputy director general responsible for human resources at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “HR plays a key role in solving structural, cultural and practical, people-based complexities between west and east, and sometimes this means borrowing and learning from other markets.”
Joining Rennie on stage, Ian Parkes, vice president of global talent and leadership development at Fujitsu, said the biggest challenge was defining and judging potential across different cultures.
But what can HR professionals learn from both Fujitsu and ADB’s approach to spotting and managing talent across the globe?
Two key words: simplicity and consistency
Consistency is important, in both tools and terminology, said Parkes, who explained that Fujitsu’s leadership capabilities are always displayed in two languages. But finding a “constant” and “like-for-like” definition across both Eastern and Western cultures was often difficult, he said.
“Global approaches have to be simple to work in different regions,” Parkes added. For example, when Fujitsu’s talent management process was first rolled out, “there were challenges in the regions with strong heritage and ingrained processes,” he said.
The key is to keep communicating the importance of the policy. “Fortunately, we found that line manager confidence in talent development increases over time,” Parkes said.
Combine a local focus with global expertise
Rennie explained that increasing global mobility and advances in technology was making the traditional ‘hub and spoke’ method redundant. “People move around more between offices not always out and back to the headquarters,” she said. “Remote working also enables a more mobile expat”
“International mobility is expensive and difficult to manage,” said Parkes. “And seldom done for developmental reasons.”
He said Japan’s traditional approach to globalisation “was to send Japanese workers to different markets and report back.” Now, his company follows a leadership development framework for consistency, but individual regions are given “a lot of autonomy” to define their own talent needs.
At ADB, Rennie said employees were defined in three groups: international, native and administrative. “International staff have knowledge and experience in one or more developing countries and are a mobile workforce,” she said. “National staff have knowledge of a specific country and context.”
Both employee groups come together in the overall business model. “Country directors are always international staff to meet anti-corruption regulations and avoid conflict of interest, then the second level are national staff with local expertise and knowledge,” Rennie added.
Development programs have to be future-fit
For both organisations, managing international talent in a rapidly changing market has meant throwing out some of the traditional approaches to development.
“The challenge for the future is getting different cultures to move away from a hierarchical structure to a ‘performance, fit, potential’ model,” said Rennie.
“ADB has a global talent management program which differentiates by ‘performance’ and ‘potential’. Our definition of potential is based on learning agility and ambition. But often, being too finite in detail ignores intuitive and innovative talent,” she added.
The ADB deputy general said that seniority, hierarchy and tenure has always been important in Asian culture: “You have to be sympathetic to that when designing policies.”