Emerging market workforce in evolution
Wolrd talent pool now becomes local marketplace
By Lee Bo-young
Every morning for the past several months I’ve started each day by watching news coverage of the revolution in the Middle East. Transformation in the cradle of civilization enabled by the most modern of technology — Twitter, Facebook, and Instant Messaging (IM).
As I witness something that few scholars or intelligence agencies could have predicted even three months ago, I know I’m not just watching isolated events. Seeing these young men (and some women) take to the streets reminds me that the world as we know is no more there.
Sometime in April of this year the world’s population will hit seven billion. To view the revolution in the Middle East without considering the seven billion milestone would be to look at one star in Van Gogh’s Starry Nights but disregard the full canvas. The Middle East has one of the highest birth rates, and thus lowest median population ages, in the world. Young people starting revolution. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Besides revolution; what are some of the other consequences of the impending April population milestone?
Over the next 40 years nearly 97 percent of the global population growth will be in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean, according to the 2009 World Population Date Sheet.
Consider the consequences of this type of disproportionate population growth to the workforce that is available. Competition for skilled talent in developed economies in North American and Europe will increase exponentially.
This may be difficult to conceive in this post-recession period but many employers already report feeling the strain of a tightening talent pool. Though the workforce in emerging markets will be larger, finding the right talent may be equally daunting.
The infrastructure to educate, train and then find talent is vastly different between countries like Canada and Turkey. A highly skilled manager with years of team management experience is worth their weight in gold in China or maybe more.
Availability is not the only outcome of changing demographics. Everything a company may “understand” about its workforce will be challenged. Concepts of hierarchy, respect, trust, fairness, community, rewards, value, and teaming will be shifted depending on the country and culture of your workforce.
How do you build a global rewards strategy when your workforce in one country values increased flexibility while your workforce in another seeks recognition and advancement? Matters become more complex as teams become more virtual, blended, and global. The “open door policy” of management — popularized and desired in many western organizations — may be seen as intimidating, disrespectful, and confusing in many eastern culture.
There is a saying in the U.S.: “Go west, young man. Go west.” This saying originated at a time when Americans sought their fortune and opportunity in California. A modern update of this saying might go a little something like this. “Go west, cross the Pacific Ocean, and don’t stop until you land in China or India.”
With business becoming ever more global and the proliferation of technology and media pulling down the physical and mental barriers once posed by geography, few members of the new generation feel tethered to their home country when seeking their next career opportunity.
We’re seeing lawyers trained in the EU moving to Hong Kong to help Chinese companies expand their operations. Indian and Chinese engineers are jumping to the U.S. to spend a few years, or maybe a lifetime, helping to discover the next ground breaking technology. Accountants from India are moving to Singapore, nurses from the Philippines relocating to Canada. American entrepreneurs relocating to Brazil to gain a first mover advantage in that country’s rapidly growing economy.
This rapidly increasing mobility not only poses a great opportunity, but also adds layer of complexity, to how organizations recruit talent. Companies are no longer limited to finding talent in just their home city or state.
The world talent pool is now their “local marketplace.” However, how many companies can say they have the recruiting capabilities to truly take advantage of this mobility.” It’s not just a matter of finding the talent, it’s also about assessing the merits of wildly different educational systems and workplace structure, titles and roles.
Multiple studies have shown that one of the greatest predictors of a country’s economic sustainability, growth, and stability is the level of participation of women in the workforce. When women are given access to education and have the opportunity to own businesses, pursue careers, and contribute to the economy, prosperity soon follows.
We’re seeing just this phenomena taking place all over the world. The percentage of women attaining university degrees and entering in the workforce has been climbing across Asia and Latin America. In developed countries such as Great Britain and the U.S., the number of female university graduates has been at parity for the past two decades.
These highly educated, intelligent women are like no generation of women before them. They have seen women hold leadership positions in government and business. They have been told they can achieve anything men are able to achieve. And they no longer believe a glass ceiling will limit their career progression. What are companies doing to not only recruit these women but also retain and promote them? What will the consequences be for companies that choose to ignore 50 percent of the available labor force?
These are a small handful of the emerging trends that will shape the next workforce companies hire. Companies must begin to prepare themselves now — through greater flexibility, communication, and cross-cultural capabilities — to ensure they are able to take advantage of these trends rather than become victim to them.
Lee Bo-young is the lead diversity and inclusion consultant in Aon Hewitt’s Emerging Workforce Solutions Practice based in New York.