Perspective—The Operative Word

It’s not uncommon for talent on the ground to consider whether a company is (North) American, European, Asian, local or other when assessing a particular opportunity. There are stigmatisms for each type of organization. Take for example, American companies. They are stereotyped as short-term focused, fast paced, having a culture of low employee loyalty, and not providing enough time-off. Contrast that to European companies who are known to be more long-term focused, have cultures that are more employee centric, yet are slow to introduce change and sometimes less productive.

But on the flip side of this is the organization’s perspective. Global HR leaders sitting in headquarters must consider the differences in cost of employment: where to place a role, the availability of talent in a lower-cost location versus a higher-cost one, English (or HQ language) ability, organizational culture versus local customs, as well as the dynamics of how all the countries interact with one another.

Asian countries with a relatively high population of English language skills are quite attractive to western headquartered companies. It could explain why places like Singapore and Hong Kong are considered APAC hubs as opposed to places like Japan, where very few western organizations place their Asian hubs, despite having the world’s third largest economy, a much easier location to access from North America, and is known for its high service standards.

Asia’s Glass Ceiling

In Singapore, Hong Kong, and more often now in China, we hear top talent concerned with their own version of a “glass ceiling”. They report that it's hard to progress from an APAC HR role to a global (and in some cases another regional) role. For smaller countries in Asia, it’s even more of a challenge as they find themselves stuck in a local Head of HR role, often overlooked for advancement as those regional and global roles are reserved for employees from headquartered countries.

But, working in headquarters isn’t without its own share of career challenges. For example, a highly-valued HR leader working at a tech company in Silicon Valley can, relatively speaking, find a comparable role with ease in the same industry. But, should they wish to explore other industries, more than likely they'll have to relocate. Unfortunately, when you factor in personal situations like family, housing, schooling, etc. a lot of leaders also remain stuck in their own “bubble”.

The good news for HR leaders, regardless of their locations, is that organizations are locked in a tight battle for talent, and so HR leaders who are providing key value will find that their companies (as well as other companies) are becoming more flexible about helping them obtain the career progression they seek—be it in Jakarta, Tokyo or New York.