When companies want to reposition themselves in the marketplace or cultivate new markets, they often discover that large, transformational changes are necessary for their organizations. They may have to revise their business strategy, modify their company structure or initiate changes to their management practices. This is particularly true when they decide to expand into global markets. Factors such as language and cultural differences, attitudes toward employment and differing processes, and regulations governing hiring come into play – all of which have the potential to make or break growth efforts.
We recently spoke with Sandy Ng, an APAC talent acquisition consultant, who was a presenter at our MRINetwork Regional Meeting in Bangkok. She provided a wealth of insight on how companies can best succeed when they plan to initiate or expand their transformation globally.
MRINetwork: What challenges do U.S. companies face in terms of hiring locals to staff their overseas operations?
Sandy Ng: That varies significantly from country to country, and the same methods that work in the U.S. often fail in the Asia Pacific region. In Japan, for example, candidates are far more reserved and less mobile. They stay in an existing role longer, most for ten years or more. This cultural difference makes luring them away difficult, especially among the executive ranks. In countries such as China, Singapore and India, on the other hand, candidates are more opportunistic, but that brings other concerns. They come to an interview with multiple offers and are less committed and quick to move on if things don’t happen rapidly.
MRINetwork: In the U.S., companies are dealing with low unemployment, resulting in a candidate-driven market. Is this true in AMEA and APAC?
Sandy: Unemployment rates in Asia Pacific are also low and the market is candidate-driven. Candidates have many choices and companies have to move fast. In the Middle East & Africa this is less true, and the pace of hiring is slower. I am not as familiar with trends in Europe, but my feeling is that companies in this region are struggling more with retention as talent moves away, because businesses there are not in growth mode, as they are in East Africa and Asia Pacific.
MRINetwork: Companies in the U.S. are increasingly looking to contract staffing options to help them execute on mission-critical strategies. Do you see this happening in other countries as well?
Sandy: This approach has not taken off in Asia Pacific and it is hard to keep contractors to their contractual period. You often find contractors in IT, telecommunications and consulting, but it’s not as common in other industries. China enforces a two- or three-year limit on contractors, which creates a continuity problem with long-range projects. The contractors are often on the look-out for permanent positions while under contract.
MRINetwork: Are companies focusing on employer branding?
Sandy: That has a lot to do with the sector. In the hospitality industry, for example, there’s been a big push to attract candidates by presenting a strong employer value proposition. An example of this is a company I used to work for. They are appealing to candidates to bring their personal passion to work. Their marketing includes presenting employees featured in their hobbies such as tennis or golf attire, encouraging employees to bring their passion to the job. For many companies, however, executing and carrying out an effective employee value proposition is difficult because they have grown through acquisitions and have lost track of developing one culture. More companies, especially start-ups, are now offering the option to work from home, driving work-life integration which has significant appeal.
MRINetwork: What’s the most important piece of advice you would offer a company about to embark on major global expansion?
Sandy: The best counsel I can offer is to see the region personally. Don’t rely on what you read or hear to formulate your plans. Take the opportunity to meet and interview candidates â it’s a great way to gain valuable insights. Most importantly, appreciate the differences between your world and theirs. Respect those differences and embrace them because your success depends on it.