International locals and megacycle hiring

International locals and megacycle hiring – SE Asia Talent Trends 2016

Being based in the UK, travelling to meet MNC HQs in EMEA and the US, and working with clients on projects in Asia, I feel there are some knowledge gaps that need bridging on the topic of talent acquisition!

Bringing together what I know about talent, and what I see on the ground, I’d like to explain some uniquely SE Asian phenomena that global talent functions need to know about.

  1. Rise of the international local: The international local, ‘diasporic talent’, is a profile that is increasingly in demand. It’s a tall order to find them but at the Board – 1 and Board -2 level, organisations in Asia derive great value from someone who knows the local culture, market and way of working but who also has a global outlook gained from time overseas. How people define ‘local’ differs from country to country but executives who have the appearance of being from Asia, but with an international experience are real influencers. Organisations looking to expand operations in Asia will find this niche talent pool rich in skills and behaviours.
  1. Global diversity: Is a great goal to have but it is extremely difficult to apply your global diversity policy from the US or Europe in South East Asia. In some markets like Hong Kong or China there are targets for diversity (largely driven by ethnic diversity) that will need to take precedence over global diversity policies in order for your business to operate there. It’s not about changing your corporate culture, but being aware of culture in your markets. Whilst the dream is a globally diverse workforce, MNCs will have to face the reality that diversity will be skewed towards different elements in different markets. Building your brand with the right talent pools and being targeted about it will allow you more exclusive access to the diverse thinking you need in SE Asia.
  1. Megacycle hiring: An Asian growth market phenomenon, but driven from global HQ so not strictly something that’s not known about outside Asia, but something other organisations might be looking to do. We are working with one organisation that wants to find 5,000 hires through one programme in order to launch in China. This is new market entry with a big bang. In markets like China it works well; securing instant presence through local employees. To prepare well in advance, organisations should look to gather talent insight, not just commercial or consumer insight, before they embark on the globalisation journey.
  1. Commercial rather than connected: At the Board level in SE Asia, we urge our clients to build relationships well ahead of any hiring need. There’s a lot more than meets the eye in terms of career history and trajectory, and organisations need to get to know senior people before they enter the business rather than hiring based on standard metrics like CV and education. Whilst being respectful of the importance and value of connections in Asia, your senior hires need to add significant commercial value. Use talent pipelining to cultivate relationships with senior people to fully evaluate their fit.
  1. Soft capital packages: Cash may no longer be king in SE Asian markets where there is an ageing population. Consider building packages for specific markets. For example, for one client we have conducted research into desired remuneration packages and found within their target talent pool, a move away from case towards supporting the family. This may take the form of medical care for the whole family – including older members of the family – not only children, and care for the elderly. We see the beginnings of shift towards a desire for security over cash as people decide to stay in the workforce for longer.

I have plenty more observations that I hope will be helpful to companies entering markets such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam for the first time. I will follow up with additional thoughts but if you are currently working in TA or HR in SE Asia please contribute below and share your experiences. I read a lot of ‘big four’ type reports on Asian talent but I am keen to share real experiences that scratch below the surface of the general ‘talent shortage’ message that prevails.


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