Western Decision-Making Moving East?

Asia Pacific HR Leaders from the likes of GroupM, Fitch Ratings, Cisco, Baxter Healthcare, Lend Lease, Banyan Tree, F5 Networks and various other companies joined Matthew Chapman, Managing Director of The Chapman Consulting Group and Alison Eyring, CEO of Organisation Solutions, for a lunch time presentation on the topic of “Is Western Decision Making Moving to the East”. The discussion, on Friday 18 March 2011 in Singapore, looked at whether global positions are in fact moving to Asia and what the trend is for the future.

HR Leaders made the following points:

  1. More global and international roles are appearing in Asia, both in the business and in HR. However, the Asian time-zones make such roles more complex to undertake out of Asia versus Europe and the Asia Pacific, unless a critical number of the business leadership team also sit in Asia Pacific.
  2. Global roles are appearing for two reasons. The first is where the business strategy demands a globally focused role out of Asia (e.g to be nearer to a key market). The second is where an individual needs to be retained, and often the global element is ‘bolted on’ to an Asia Pacific role.
  3. Multinational companies with a significant amount of business (perhaps 50 or 60%) in the Asia Pacific region are more likely to think about having global roles here.
  4. Western multinationals who have long tried to indoctrinate their Asian affiliates with the ‘home market’ way of thinking are seeking to reverse the trend. Some are now seeing Asian cultures influencing thinking at a global headquarter level. Again, this depends on the company’s exposure and footprint in Asia, but we do see this as a trend for the future.
  5. In Asia Pacific, the key locations likely to see global roles are Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Availability of appropriately qualified talent to fill these global roles means that many of these are still filled by expatriates.

The group of Asia Pacific HR Leaders proceeded to widen the discussing and shared more observations about their current Asia Pacific HR structures. Some of the points raised were as follows:

  1. China and India are both often being broken off from the ‘Asia Pacific’ region, once the size of the business reaches a critical level. Conversely, Japan is now more frequently being moved under the ‘Asia Pacific’ umbrella. These geographical changes have implications for the type of person needed to run these countries, especially where the person has a direct report into, say, the global HR Head.
  2. The HR structure in Asia Pacific isn’t always tracking to the business structure at global headquarters, due to the frequent changes in business needs on the ground in the region.
  3. More companies are decentralising the regional HR structure and are basing positions in multiple countries. Companies that have the flexibility to do this face decreased costs in moving talent across locations to perform their jobs.
  4. HR transformation, especially in terms of aligning the HR delivery model to keep up with the high growth in Asia Pacific, was a topic featuring on every HR Leader’s agenda at the gathering.
  5. Many HR team members continue to where double or triple hats, to reduce the need for extra headcount and to create job role diversity for high potential talent.


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