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How to Use Technology to Overcome International Talent Management Challenges

By Tal Rotbart, CTO, PageUp


Tal Rotbart, CTO, PageUp

Business opportunities abound for organisations looking to enter into the market or expand their existing business in the Asia Pacific region. After all, according to global consulting firm McKinsey, 63 percent of the world’s 440 fastest emerging cities are in Asia, adding a billion new consumers and a total purchasing power of more than $10 trillion into the global economy. By 2050, Asia will boast one of the youngest and largest labor markets – almost 3 billion individuals in an estimate from Deloitte – which will represent more than half of the global workforce. The business possibilities in this region are abundant, if not endless.

With such a vibrant workforce and prosperous projections for the future, how can multinational corporations (MNCs) possibly go wrong? Well, despite its rich diversity and resilient financial growth in the face of recent global financial crises, the Asia Pacific region still suffers from a severe talent shortage and a dearth of leadership capabilities. These talent management challenges threaten to derail even the most opportunistic of MNCs.

In Southeast Asia, in particular, finding and retaining high performers in the face of a growing skills shortage is especially concerning. Some researchers estimate that the talent shortfall is as high as 61 percent on average in the APAC region, compared to 45 percent in the Americas and 31 percent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Developing future leaders is a particular challenge for companies in this region, as one of the traditional avenues to such development requires an existing pool from which to mentor and grow the next generation. Due to the very young age of the workforce in these markets – almost half of Southeast Asia’s population will be below 30 by 2020, according to Accenture – a robust pipeline of quality leaders simply does not exist to meet the demand.

Ensuring that organisations can take advantage of the current and future opportunities available to them in this emerging market requires that the talent management practices of old be set aside. As employees become more used to a world with 24/7 Internet access, always-on telecommunications and an uber-connected workplace, it behooves MNCs to rethink, reframe and reinvigorate talent management in order to successfully implement organizational business plans and maintain a competitive place in the market.

When managing large and geographically dispersed workforces, integrating talent management processes and systems is particularly beneficial because it provides a holistic view of a global workforce. In fact, in a PageUp study of Southeast Asian organizations, 76 percent of respondents agreed that integrated talent management processes were business critical, although only 8 percent felt that they had done an adequate job of integrating their processes and using technology to manage their workforces globally.

By uniting many of the disparate processes that can create costly fragmentation and inefficiencies, integrated talent management can enhance all stages of the employee lifecycle – from recruitment to retention and from on boarding to succession. For instance, learning and development data can form part of an integrated feedback cycle for improved performance management, which can then feed into a healthy succession plan. Coupled with human resources best practices, organisations that implement unified talent management technology can expect to experience higher levels of employee engagement, better quality talent, improved retention and an overall increase in business performance.

Even in light of these competitive advantages, many companies in the APAC region are reluctant to take the leap to full automation of their talent management processes. The FUD factor – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – continues to inhibit HR moving forward with advanced technologies that can provide the workforce insights necessary to make meaningful, business-driven HR decisions. The daunting change management process involved in integrating disparate sources of talent management data also stops many organisations in their tracks. To assist with overcoming the natural resistance to change, HR and technology leaders need to gain buy-in in advance from the organization’s leadership.

Regardless of the FUD factor, the reality is that in today’s economy, MNCs cannot afford to ignore technology’s many benefits. To make the most of an integrated talent management solution, MNCs should consider the following components:

  • A cloud-based SaaS solution, which enables scalability, flexibility and cost efficiencies.
  • Mobile device optimization and mobile apps that facilitate real-time talent management across borders and in remote locations.
  • Integrated social media applications to harness the power of the world’s social networking sites for finding and attracting new talent.
  • Integrated HR analytics and Big Data applications for predictive workforce planning.
  • A solution that is reflective of regional needs to ensure localized compliance, adequate flexibility and cultural adaptation.
  • A simple and engaging platform that supports speed and reliability with cultural characteristics built into the user experience.
  • A support model that provides both high- and low-touch assistance through direct and partner channels, as well as regional support that caters to local languages and time zones.

Even with the most sophisticated of talent management technology solutions, however, the bottom line is that technology cannot help an organization overcome poor people practices. The first step in effective talent management, then, is to ensure that the human element of human resources is not ignored. The foundational elements of strong leadership, engaging managers and robust communications will go further than any functional improvements that advanced technology could bring.

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