It would seem counterintuitive that finding top talent would grow more difficult as organizations gain access to more hires than ever before due to economic globalization. Yet, that seems to be exactly what’s happening.
New research from business process outsourcing consultancy EquaTerra validates that many organizational leaders — not just those in learning and HR — see this as the primary concern for their enterprises during the next three years.
Out of more than 200 respondents to the “EquaTerra Globalization Study,” 44 percent view finding and retaining high-quality talent as the top challenge. Not surprisingly, HR professionals were more likely to view this as the main problem for their organizations. Still, a robust 42 percent of non-HR participants considered this to be the most critical issue, compared to 64 percent of HR pros.
“Normally, if you look at studies, talent is usually in the top five or even top three of CEOs’ or CFOs’ agendas, but for that many to put it as their top concern was surprising,” EquaTerra Chairman Mark Hodges said. “The other aspect of that revelation was that statistic was spread across all geographic regions. It wasn’t just a U.S. or the U.K or European issue. And it was all participants, regardless of company size and level of respondent. So it seems ubiquitous.”
The survey also found that globalization is overwhelming viewed as an inevitable trend, with 90 percent of executives reporting it’s here to stay and increasing substantially, threatened only by politically motivated trade protectionism or a major economic downturn. However, only 26 percent of non-HR participants saw access to skilled labor as the main advantage to be derived from globalization, versus 56 percent of HR respondents.
According to Hodges, the implications of these findings for learning professionals are:
1. Developing talent internally is a viable alternative to a recruiting-intensive strategy.
2. Being “global” increasingly will be seen as a competency, in addition to a business condition.
Hodges said most learning organizations don’t realize they’re in a competition of sorts with external executive search firms. “Organizational leaders are not relying on their internal organization to produce that talent, except maybe in a handful of companies,” he explained. “When learning professionals look at how to make themselves relevant, they have to realize that they are competing with executive search firms. How can they convince the CFO that they’ll produce the next five or 10 great executives?”
He used an example from the world of sports to illustrate this point: “If you follow a professional sports franchise in any country, whether it’s football, soccer or American baseball, you know there are certain sports franchises that invest in minor-league talent, and there are those that just buy the best talent and put a team together. You see examples of the ones that just buy the best talent who win — that might be the Yankees in the U.S. or Chelsea [Football Club] in the U.K. — but you also see ones that invest in their own internal talent that are successful, and always at a lower price. A good globalization mindset for learning professionals is, to use a baseball analogy, to take minor leaguers and turn them into big leaguers.”
On the second argument, Hodges said as globalization grows in importance to business operations and profitability, organizations will have a greater need for leaders who possess a global mental framework. Learning functions can help develop this quality in employees, he added.
“Finding executives who are multicultural and have experience working and living in different geographies is mandatory for globalizing the enterprise. If they don’t have any type of development programs that focus on globalization, being multicultural and accessing or expanding into new markets, then they need to look into that. They also should work with the rest of the HR organization to make sure talent is rotated through different geographies.”
To find out more about how to cultivate these competencies in the workforce, be sure to read the June issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine, which will address learning in the global age.