Racing Against Time: How Asia Can Stay Ahead Of The War For Talent

As the world continues to struggle in the aftermath of a global financial tsunami, tough times are ahead with the onslaught of an imminent global recession. It is with so much uncertainty that talent has become an even more valuable asset to companies to drive economic growth. Companies in Asia know that the right talent is extremely scarce in these regions, yet the world expects Asia to shoulder the economic burden and help lift the world out of this uncertainty.

Today, as Western economies struggle, Asia races against time to stay ahead of the war for talent. The continuous rapid growth of local companies and rising expansion of multinational companies, including foreign joint ventures, in Asia, make the war for talent a much more protracted one. It is indeed ironic that the home of the world’s largest factory, the world’s largest offices and the world’s largest population is somehow helpless in trying to fight for its survival.

Asian employers need to ensure that there is sufficient and consistent supply of the right talent for the ever-increasing demand for top-level talent. Only time will tell who will survive this war. No country or company in Asia can adopt the wait-and-see attitude. To address the talent crunch, employers in Asia need to shed their old ways and old thinking. They must have the courage to embark on out-of-the-box thinking and to adopt creative, radical ideas in their talent management plans. Their only one key to their survival in today’s Asian talent wars: innovation.

With the task at hand to address the acute shortage of talent in Asia, leaders can find the compelling need to start thinking about innovation to help them in their never-ending quest to attract the right talent, motivate the right talent, and retain the right talent in their organizations. As the same talent pool is shrinking in Asia, leaders need to depend on innovative ideas to help them steer away from the clutter and stay ahead of their nearest competitors.

Innovation alone does not bring the desired positive results unless leaders openly embrace innovation and manage this radical change effectively. Strong leadership remains key for organizations to set the stage to embrace innovation with deep conviction, sincerity, and dedication to make it happen. It is undeniable that leaders can find this a daunting task; they must first accept this radical change before they can lead others as change agents.

Amidst this Asian war for talent, one huge influence and factor which leaders cannot afford to ignore or to brush aside is the Asian culture – which is traditionally entrenched, and permeates in the management and leadership styles of companies in Asia today. The deep consequence of ignoring this cultural element of local talent and local leadership, who have for generations been bred and raised in such a strong cultural and traditional environment, would be grave, impacted both from the aspects of talent development and talent retention. With Asia now mired with economic challenges where good talent is scarce, companies in Asia must be more open to adopt innovative management ideas to stand up and be counted.
The challenge facing these companies seems to lie in their ability to make use of cultural practices and beliefs in the business world and turn them into positives to reap maximum value and
benefits. The huge part of this challenge is the quality of the local talent and local leadership, who have now been forced to assume much larger roles and responsibilities in these companies. The cascading effect of this problem has resulted in an acute shortage of the right talent in Asia.

At the end of the day, the Asian dilemma can be overcome by capitalizing on the strengths and wisdom of the Asian traditional culture and applying them to complement the Western way of doing business. Companies need to turn cultural differences into benefits and help rather than be bogged down by such obstacles and roadblocks. When these obstacles and roadblocks are turned into positives, the opportunities that present themselves can be extremely enterprising.

Therefore, the next generation of talent for Asia needs to be thinkers and innovators, not followers. Coupled with Asian cultural elements such as guanxi (personal relationship), mianzi (keeping "face" or not to lose "face") and strong entrepreneurship attributes, leaders need to have the drive and passion to lead through innovation, influence, and collaboration. They should become interdependent in today’s globally integrated economies. Leaders need to continue to leverage the extensive and vast networks of relationship and multidisciplinary expertise across boundaries. The talent can build alliances in globally integrated enterprises and nurture business partnerships within these enterprises. These are the kind of next generation leaders who have the thought process and execution insight in integrating relationship and expertise for generations to come.

To the surviving companies in Asia, given the right commitment, conviction, and attitude, good talent who are well nurtured and cultivated can grow to become good leaders who will bring these companies to the next level. Simply put, embracing innovation seems to be the way forward for companies to survive the Asian talent war. It is innovation that matters, which can set these companies apart in their tenacious pursuit to find the right talent, grow the right talent, and keep the right talent. Frankly, there is no secret sauce in this recommended recipe-- but indeed, this is how innovation can help.