To Be or Not to Be…… Mobile
Mobility seems to be the latest buzz word in Asia for HR talent. On a daily basis we are discussing the best and the brightest HR leaders — in the region with CHROs and many common questions arise. Have they worked outside of their home market? Have they completed assignments in Europe or the U.S? Were they educated outside of Asia? Are they mobile in the future?
A Fresh Perspective
The logic makes sense – those with time outside of the Asian market have been exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking. They have seen the bigger picture and can come back with a perspective that would never have been gained working in one market. Those who are happy to relocate keep the flow of talent moving while gaining valuable international understanding. Excellent – obviously we just need all of the HR leaders in the region to relocate en masse. Once you have ticked off your global experience you are set….however there is a catch.
Staying Close to Home
Mobility with people moving out of Asia is low – it is creeping up within the region but it’s still very low. This is partly for family reasons, personal preference and schooling, but there is another underlying reason for this lack of interest in relocation from Asia. Frankly, why would anyone here want to move to Europe or the U.S? The quality of life for many in Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai is as good if not better than anywhere else in the world. Until recently China was tracking double digit growth, and although it has slowed down lately, 7.5% growth indicates that there is still momentum in the country. In addition, there are so many emerging markets in this region and from an HR perspective this can be both challenging and exciting. Myanmar has only just opened up to the world, and both Vietnam and Indonesia are large markets with significant potential — the party seems to be here.
So what is going to change this? As far as we can tell, one solution for companies is to bring the role to Asia, if possible. Matthew Chapman our CEO commented, “We have seen a jump in international HR roles in the region over the last 18 months.” He also indicated “There is a shortage of talent in Asia with true global experience, which means there are great development roles for the top Asia HR leaders who are not mobile and might never have that chance unless they moved.”
Secondly, support for inter-Asia movement helps. Someone with experience in China who has also lived in Singapore or Hong Kong sets themselves apart. It’s still in the region but the ‘lived and worked’ experience is noticeable. We recently heard of a short term ‘commuting assignment’ for someone who spent the week in Singapore and weekends in Vietnam. It was expensive for the company but it got the desired result and embedded that individual in the Singapore market while they balanced their family life. Companies need to be open to innovative solutions to help employees gain the broader perspective.
We do have a number of clients in Asia who are encouraging and delivering on international movement and they are reaping the benefits of this investment. Stefanie Cross Wilson, International President based in LA feels this will be the future. “The next generation of CHROs will have to understand Asia and especially emerging markets ‘hands on.’ Business leaders will be focused on this — simply relying on developed regions will not give them the results they want,”
This is great news for those who want to keep Asia as their home and plot a course to be a CHRO one day. Unfortunately, unless it’s with a company headquartered in Asia, it will likely require mobility in the future. There is an argument to say that a big component of HR is leading change management, and relocating is one of the biggest changes a person can make…..maybe it’s best to do it sooner rather than later!
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