Local Talent in Asia: Where we are. And Why.

In the War for Talent across Asia developing local talent pipelines will be crucial.

I was at a professional networking dinner the other night and several CEOs and senior executives were discussing issues that were top of their mind. The talk inevitably turned to the ‘war for talent’.

It is a burning issue. Senior executives in any multinational, local or foreign, in the Asia-Pacific appear worried about issues of talent acquisition, retention, and succession planning. Leadership pipelines are anaemic, and the outlook is grim, was the consensus around the dinner table. All present agreed that the single largest limiting factor for the future of their companies will be finding the right leaders to drive their vision.

The startling statement made by one of the CEOs stood out for me: “By my estimate, there are just about 500 leaders in the world who can claim experience and effectiveness in leading businesses across Asia.” That is one per Fortune 500 company!

Last week, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower came down hard on companies hiring foreign talent over local in the Country. The point made was – when local talent is not given a fair shot at learning and developing on the job, Singapore cannot expect a critical mass of qualified local leadership in the future. It is a compelling argument.

I’ll be keenly observing the implementation. It will be a tightrope walk. As long as the balance between local manpower preparedness and foreign talent needed to maintain Singapore’s technical superiority in the Region is kept – all should go on plan.

The larger question here is whether Asia is doing enough to educate and nurture a strong talent pool – for management or technical leadership positions. In my experience, there are 3 areas we need to revisit:

The undue focus on western style management and technical education, and leadership models
The legacy mindset that looks West for solutions
Lack of research on Asian leadership styles

Throughout my career, I have been preoccupied with the idea of developing local solutions to global leadership issues. Over the next two decades, how well we, in Asia, do in the above three areas could well dictate the extent of our success. And how the “Asian Century” gets written about in history books.

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© 2016 MasihWhite Pte Ltd

© 2016 MasihWhite Pte Ltd