Talent Trends - the Imperative for Global Mobility & Cultural Fit


At an international conference of leading Executive Search professionals from 5 continents hosted by Signium Ireland in Dublin recently; among a much broader range of topics delegates discussed in some detail the benefits of international mobility, experience and cultural fit for current and future business leaders.

Iain Witherington, SVP Group HR, Kerry Group presenting to Signium’s Global Conference in Dublin.  One of the conference presentations was by Kerry Group, a Global leader in innovative food & beverage flavours and ingredients, with a 2014 turnover of US$6.5Bn and trading profit of $720m. Kerry’s Iain Witherington, SVP Group HR along with Frances Leavy, Vice President of Reward & HR Shared Services and Carol Hunt, EMEA Head of Recruitment underlined that ‘relevant international experience in most cases is a very important component in the development of Kerry’s future leadership talent’. Witherington and the team outlined how each year the Kerry organisation orchestrates a large number of international moves for senior and leadership talent. This mobility is delivered to both established and key emerging markets within its global business and ‘the numbers of Kerry executives involved in relocating to take up leadership and development roles are significantly increasing over recent years’. This mobility allied to cultural fit are becoming increasingly critical factors in Kerry’s continued growth.

Martin McEvoy, Managing Partner – Signium Ireland observed that challenging trends in accessing global talent are becoming more pronounced. Referencing Vaiman & Collings (2013); noting that 49% of US organisations report difficulties in filling key positions and 55% of this 49% cite unavailability of talent as the main reason for not filling critical positions. Employers in some emerging economies like Brazil (71%) and India (48%) are equally having problems filling key roles. To make matters worse 42% of German and 81% of Japanese organisations reported similar problems and the overall aggregate that find it difficult to fill positions across the globe is 43%.

Demographic trends are also significant; in OECD countries workers aged 40+ are just about exceeding those below 40 for the first time. US employees aged 55+ will be 20% of the entire labour market over the next couple of years compared to just 13% in 2006 and 40%+ of Canada’s employees will likely be between 45 and 64 by 2021.

The EU has similar challenges, with the working age population already having peaked at 308 million in 2012 and looking likely to decrease to 265 million by 2060. In 2013 The Economist suggested that even though emerging & developing markets will have an increase in the employee pool, it still may not help organisations looking for talent as most of these young people do not possess enough knowledge, skills and abilities to fulfil requirements of the modern, sophisticated, fast-paced and increasingly globalised business environment.   

“So based on the above trends, Kerry’s approach to the international mobility of its talent seems very wise; however organisations with genuine international scaling ambitions should have a range of robust, professional processes to identify, approach, accurately evaluate and commit leadership and specialist executives. Whether they are provided internally or externally, the success of these processes will also hinge on the ability to understand the cultural requirements of both the location(s) that the executive talent will be operating in, along with the unique culture of the organisation they are relocating with or joining.”

Glenn Anderson, Regional Speaker – Signium Americas “Once again the US market is beginning to experience a demand & supply challenge, i.e., finding enough talented candidates to fill leadership and specialist roles. As over 65% of the US work force is employed by companies with under $250 million in sales; this shortage of talent is not just hitting the larger global businesses, but the privately held and private equity owned companies as well. In addition, it has become an expensive time for both large and small companies to grow in the US through acquisition, as valuation multiples remain relatively high. This trend has prompted growth-oriented US companies to explore more international investment; so even more than ever there are many organizations looking for candidates with multi-lingual capability and cross cultural awareness along with international experience.”

While at the Signium Dublin conference, Kong To, Managing Partner – Signium China also remarked that “in a Chinese context each region and sector has its own unique leadership and cultural challenges. In the volume manufacturing sectors traditionally associated with China, leadership has become very heavily localised. With the slow-down in growth and added pressures of increased materials & labour costs, it now requires a very different leadership style to succeed in China. Kong To also points to the need for innovation in fields of technology, robotics, big data, cloud and the ‘internet of everything’. This movement up the value chain is driving a very different range of leadership requirements on behalf of the multinational clients that Signium’s four Chinese offices serve. There is further pressure on the talent pool, with both local and repatriating talent regularly opting for leadership and specialist roles with high growth indigenous enterprises – often migrating away from the default multinational organisations.”



Conference Context

With offices on 5 Continents, in celebration of its Dublin office’s 20th anniversary; Signium hosted a 3 day global conference; analysing key trends in global Executive Search. Over 60 leading international search executives attended from Australia, Belgium, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Myanmar, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Article originally published at LinkedIn