Developing and retaining global talent

– by Kevan Hawley: Managing Director of Expatriate Preparation.

Written for the South African executive and team

NOW IS THE TIME to ensure that we have the right people for our expansions into Africa and the rest of the world. So many organisations are engaged in what we call “reactive global talent management” and we really need to be engaging in a process of “proactive global talent management”. The two processes differ greatly.

If we are not proactive we are going to be scraping the bottom of the talent barrel for expatriate/global talent as well as for future global leadership which is needed to lead our multi-domestic and multi-national organisations forward effectively. 

Jack Reichert, retired CEO of Brunswick Corporation, captured the importance of developing future Global Leaders:

“Financial resources are not the problem. We have the money, products, and are position to be a dominant global player. What we lack are the human resources. We just don’t have enough people with the needed global experience and global leadership capabilities”.

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, also put it quite well:

“The Jack Welch of the future cannot be like me. I spent my entire career in the U.S. The next head of General Electric will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, in Hong Kong, in Buenos Aires. We have to send our best and brightest overseas and make sure they have the training that will allow them to be the global leaders who will make GE flourish in the future”.

Should we not be embarking on serious initiatives/strategies to ensure that we are not going to come up short when the time arrives?  Is it perhaps already too late?

One of my observations, having been in this global talent development game for the past 20 years, is that there has been very little serious commitment from the top ranks to ensure that there is a proper global talent development process in place. 

I believe that this is, to a large extent, as a result of South Africa’s past isolation and its relatively slow global expansion rate. Many of our top executives attempting to expand their companies into global markets have not had the opportunity to acquire global experience and therefore don’t truly understand what living and operating in foreign environments requires or means. This is through no fault of their own but merely an evolutionary process they have landed up in.

Let’s add impetus to our expansion into Africa, corporate South Africa. Let’s institute well grounded global talent management and development practices that we can be proud of and that will boost the quality and speed and success of our offshore forays.