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According to a recent IMD study, all Asian economies, including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, China and India, lost ground in 2016 when it came to talent investment, appeal and readiness. Singapore slipped five places to 15th, while Hong Kong was Asia's only representative among the top 10-ranked world economies in terms of how well they develop, attract and retain talent for the businesses operating in them. Other Asian countries tumbled in the overall ranking because they fell behind in investing in and developing homegrown talent, said the report.

With this as a starting point, what can Asia-based companies do to identify, develop and harness talents to improve retention and engagement in their businesses?

Align Employee Capabilities with Business Goals

Talent retention is essentially about harnessing people’s capabilities and keeping them engaged, according to Mark Chan, Cornerstone OnDemand’s regional sales director of ASEAN and HK. He views talent management as an opportunity to align those capabilities with the needs of the business. In Mark’s view, these are the five key components that need to be considered for e­ffective talent management:

  1. Recruiting: Identifying and recruiting talent, followed by successful onboarding of that talent.
  2. Learning and development: Building and developing the knowledge and competencies of employees.
  3. Performance: Defining goals and measuring performance against those goals; building a performance-driven culture.
  4. Succession: Identifying talent and then preparing that talent for key areas of need within the organization and ensuring that employees know about the career paths available to them within the organization.
  5. Compensation and benefits: Ensuring both compensation and benefits are market competitive, fair, and transparently communicated.

Place Learning at the Core of Your Strategy

While Chan says the five elements are “disparate but interlinked,” there’s one area he believes lies at the heart of e­ffective talent management: learning and development. “Employees care about how they develop themselves,” he says. “And, as employers, we must show employees that we have a strategy and program in place to develop them—as professionals, as leaders—to keep them engaged.”

L&D also plays a critical role in succession planning and creating career paths for employees, although with much flatter organizational structures today, this can be a challenge. “There are still career paths within a traditional stream, whether we call that a ‘career ladder’ or not,” Chan says. “However, with these flatter structures, we might see as much sideways movement as upwards movement.”

This is particularly important for millennials, who have the dubious honor of being branded as ‘job hoppers’ – something that Chan does not believe is true. “We actually see that young people will stay with the same employer but they will change roles within the organization. They’re looking for new challenges, for different types of fulfillment within their careers. That’s why sideways movement is very important.”

Enable Career Mobility

How can employers enable that sideways movement and career mobility?

First, Chan suggests there needs to be recognition within the organization that job movement is a key part of talent management, and that’s got to come from the very top.

Second, there must be a culture of transparency and visibility between departments, and between companies in larger organizations.

Once these goals are achieved, more e­ffective talent mapping can take place. “Where organizations are truly adding value is when they create not just career paths but more dynamic career progression and career development,” says Chan. “They do this by looking at the skills relating to each type of job, and the development activities associated with those roles. This comes back to empowering and engaging your employees through learning and development.”

Photo: Creative Commons