Think Global, Act Local is a common mantra used as the philosophical foundation of running a successful global brand. However globalization and local traditions don’t always fit well together.
In Asia, successful organisations that are looking to retain the best talent will need to understand the context they’re operating, gain insight about how their employees think and feel about working there, and use specific strategies that reflect these local insights.
In other words, successful organizations must ensure they have an inclusive, global culture that is flexible enough to reflect a local mindset. This means relying purely on a reputation built elsewhere is not going to work.
Social change across Asia has been tremendous. Companies in the region must increasingly sell their company purpose to employees — why and how business is being done in Asia.
To ensure talent retention, organisations must answer the following questions:
What is the company’s purpose in doing business in Asia?
What specific role does the company have to play that no one else can play in the region?
What will be the effects of this purpose on the broader community?
How will the company contribute positively to the process of development?
Why should employees feel proud to be involved in this?
Retention also requires companies to communicate and deliver a kind of inclusivity in a nation-building cause. The importance of community and family is a source of significant competitive advantage if companies understand how to operate within that context. A key motivator and loyalty-building hook for talent in the Asian region is being made to feel something big that is happening, to feel a part of a change and see their contribution to it.
The most inspiring example of turning a company’s vision into a retention tool is of Narayana Hrudayalana health city in India, which has built scale and specialization into medicine to dramatically reduce costs.
“We decided, given the shortage of surgeons in India, to hire expat Indians from overseas. To attract them we sold a vision. Come back and be part of building a new India. … Work for us and you’ll be able to help and cure so many more people in a week than you can in Europe or America. And because of the vision doctors come back to India- to work far longer hours and for much less money than they did before… We were brave enough to think bigger than anyone else and passionate enough to get others to back our vision.”
To be successful retention strategies must simultaneously keep people working for an organization for longer, and make the most of the people that are retained. Company culture and country culture need to form a cohesive, local story and value proposition to employees.
What is equally important for talent retention is employee happiness and how employees feel about the work they’re actually doing. While making employees excited about making a contribution, employee happiness is also dependent upon feedback and recognition.
Good relationship with managers always turns up in research and surveys into what makes talent satisfied in their jobs. For business operating in the Asia Pacific region, there does seem to be a specific element to management-related retention. A 2011 Kelly survey reveals that more employees here than anywhere else in the world are likely to cite ‘management issues’ as the main reason they are looking elsewhere for work. This indicates that employees in the region are more sensitive to management relationships and managers are grappling more with the demands of high growth.
Research also shows that employees in the region are also looking for a different kind of relationship with their managers. They want and expect an openness, honesty and authenticity that isn’t as critical elsewhere. Above all, they want and need managers who live and deliver upon the core values of the organization, to demonstrate a responsibility to them, their community and society at large. For managers who are used to focusing only on the bottom line, this will require a significant cultural change. Being open, and concentrating on harmonious interactions is far more important to both making profits and talent retention.
Retention will continue to be a major issue for business across the region. The right approaches to attract and retain the right people - a strong locally relevant culture and purpose and the right kind of leadership – will be the difference between thriving or just surviving in this highly competitive talent market.
Anthony Raja Devadoss
Anthony leads the team that brings KellyOCG’s client solutions into Asia-Pacific countries, including Executive Search, HR Consulting, Career Transition and Global Managed Services. With 12 years of experience with the Kelly Group, my role is to provide thought leadership, brand/strategy ownership and industry connection for KellyOCG business practices to infuse organizations with that indispensable competitive edge.