How multinationals can attract the talent they need

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McKinsey Quarterly

Martin Dewhurst, Matthew Pettigrew, Ramesh Srinivasan

Competition for talent in emerging markets is heating up. Global companies should groom local highfliers—and actively encourage more managers to leave home.

Global organizations appear to be well armed in the war for talent. They can tap sources of suitably qualified people around the world and attract them with stimulating jobs in different countries, the promise of powerful positions early on, and a share of the rewards earned by deploying world-class people to build global businesses.

However, these traditional sources of strength are coming under pressure from intensifying competition for talent in emerging markets.

  • Talent in emerging economies is scarce, expensive, and hard to retain. In China, for example, barely two million local managers have the managerial and English-language skills multinationals need. One leading bank reports paying top people in Brazil, China, and India almost double what it pays their peers in the United Kingdom. And a recent McKinsey survey in China found that senior managers in global organizations switch companies at a rate of 30 to 40 percent a year—five times the global average.
  • Fast-moving, ambitious local companies are competing more strongly: in 2006, the top-ten ideal employers in China included only two locals—China Mobile and Bank of China (BOC)—among the well-known global names. By 2010, seven of the top ten were Chinese companies. As one executive told us, “local competitors’ brands are now stronger, and they can offer more senior roles.”
  • Executives from developed markets, by no means eagerly seizing plum jobs abroad, appear disinclined to move: a recent Manpower report suggests that in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the proportion of staff ready to relocate for a job has declined substantially, perhaps partly because people prefer to stay close to home in uncertain times. (...)