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Go for growth

Published on Friday, 26 Apr 2013
Gaurav Garg
Photo: Mercer

HR consultant Mercer is gearing up to meet rising demand for talent-management strategies

At a time when executing effective talent-management strategies is a pressing concern for many companies, human resources consultant Mercer is ramping up its presence in Asia in a move that it says will put it in a stronger position to help clients manage their staffing challenges.

Under Mercer's realigned organisational framework, the focus has been stepped up in geographical locations the company has identified as growth markets. These include China, India and Indonesia, which Mercer terms "tier one" markets.

"We believe the growth markets we have identified will continue to outperform more mature markets for the foreseeable future," says Gaurav Garg, Mercer's regional president for growth markets. Including Asia, Mercer has identified more than 20 growth-market countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Companies are facing some of the toughest employment challenges in these growth markets, Garg says. "While Asia and its fast-growing markets enjoy demographic advantages, these can turn to disadvantages if the workforce is not handled in a way that allows business to thrive," he says.

Garg points out that business development, coupled with client-base expansion, has left employers little space to deal with talent-management issues. Often, the complexity of dealing with a range of business issues means that companies recruit for growth and neglect other critical long-term employment objectives.

To help employers address talent-management challenges, Mercer is leveraging across its global network of experts to provide specific solutions in growth markets. Locally, Mercer managers have been given additional areas of responsibility. The company has also set up a senior-management support market leadership team, designed to provide another layer of collaboration for Mercer staff in growth markets.

Garg says that from Mercer's perspective, it is important to ensure that the company's strategies and structure is optimally aligned with the unique circumstances and opportunities that exist in these growth markets. "We now have greater scope for leveraging our experience and knowledge within our own organisation to focus on growth markets," he says.

To help employers see the bigger picture, Mercer's research has looked at comparisons between recruiting and retention trends in mature markets, and future talent needs in growth markets. "In Asia, there are similarities and lessons that can be applied between tier-one and other Asian growth markets," Garg says.

Garg says that while companies operating in growth markets expect talent shortages to persist, they need to start looking for different ways to attract and retain talent. "CEOs tell us that talent management is one of their main concerns, but only about 50 per cent have a comprehensive manpower plan," he says. In most cases, he adds, few plans extend more than one or two years.

With competition for key talent a constant pressure, Mercer works with clients to help them embrace new talent-management thinking and innovative approaches to building a sustainable workforce, says Garg. Important areas for talent-management effectiveness can include putting a strategic succession plan in place, evaluating future employment needs matched to business growth, and implementing tailor-made programmes for high-potential employees.

Where companies struggle to hire the people that tick all the skill boxes, Garg suggests employers consider training people through private-public partnerships with universities and vocational institutes. Also, while hiring the right people from the outset is considered by experts to be one of the best ways to cut staff turnover, Garg says that hiring and offering intensive training to people who fit well with the company culture, but who perhaps lack experience or other skills, offers an alternative solution.

"Sooner or later, as a matter of survival, companies will be forced to manage their talent in a way that encourages high-performers to stay and attracts high-potential talent to the company," Garg says.

He says companies that use salaries as a way to differentiate themselves from rivals may also find it hard to sustain a workforce where a younger generation is looking for more than remuneration.

"Our Mercer talent barometer, which looks at the whole employee proposition, clearly indicates that salary is only part of the workforce-management equation," he says. Career-development opportunities, benefits and work-life balance should also be considered.

"Employers usually find it easier to compete on salary and benefits, but it is career development and work-life-balance initiatives where they can really differentiate themselves," Garg says. "Companies that embrace a longer-term view, and shape their talent-management strategies, will likely gain a major competitive advantage over their rivals in the long run."


HIGH ATTRITION Common among the 25-29 years age group with three years’ experience, particularly in high-tech. “Companies are wrestling with the challenge of high talent demand and a scarcity of candidates driving pay packages upwards.”
THE FOUR QUADRANTS “Employers are not making the best use of the four quadrants of talent management – remuneration, benefits, career development opportunities and work-life balance. But this is not a one-stop-fits-all plan, as they mean different things to employees at different stages of their careers.”
UNDER PRESSURE “Pressure is on HR departments in companies with double-digit growth to find new talent... Companies should consider having part of the HR function where the only deliverable is managing talent for the long-term.”
TRAIN OR BUY? “Should a company train talent for the future or buy-in talent? Or both? Companies need to hang on to its top talent, which might become easier if they offer participation in the company as part of the employment package.”
TRAINING DEFICIT “A lack of talent-building infrastructure is forcing companies to consider whether to develop their own talent or commit to building a talent pipeline with other companies or schools. This is very challenging when poaching is rife.”

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