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Korea HR Leaders Meet to Discuss How to Build a Talent-Centric HR Function

Hosted by: RB

Twenty Korea HR Leaders met today at the RB Korea office to discuss recent trends in Human Resources leadership. Among the attendees were the Country representatives from companies such as Merck, Dell, Philips, UPS and Maersk. The focus of the discussion was in Talent Management and in how to maximise the talent bench strength of multinational organisations in Korea.

The group listened to three short presentations by a selection of the group in attendance, after which opinions and case studies were shared. A number of interesting observations and best practices came from the discussion. These are summarised in this short article below:

  1. In general, Korea is following a similar trend that we see in other countries in the region, namely that roles are getting bigger and more complex but the talent pool is not keeping up with this growth in requirements. So it is often the task of the HR Leader to come up with a solution to bridge the gap between existing workforce skills and current/future expectations.
  2. Competencies are one key factor to take into consideration, and companies tend to have quite robust strategies about training these, through conventional methods education, coaching, and on-the-job training. The harder things to work on are the softer soft skills, including broader themes such as agility, sustained performance, adaptability and coping skills. And tied in with these more value-based themes is the affinity to corporate culture.
  3. In some examples given, it was decided that the best way to try to engender these skills and values was to give talented individuals in Korea the opportunity to work overseas. In companies where corporate culture is strong and uniform across international markets, this can happen very smoothly. But in other companies where the Korea set-up may differ in many respects to how the company works elsewhere, more sensitivity is needed.
  4. Where there is doubt, the best idea appeared to be to first give the Korean talent a 3-month project assignment in another country. If they cope well, and the results of this project are tangible, then this talent can be earmarked for a more long-term assignment elsewhere. However it’s important to aggressively assess them while they are on this project, so that the most value can be squeezed out of this relatively short 3-month period.
  5. Another successful method was to avoid sending Koreans straight away to global headquarter roles in Europe or the US directly from Korea. These environments can sometimes (but of course, not always) be comparatively far more aggressive than in Korea, and the failure rate of these assignees can be high. So it’s more successful to select an appropriate assignment in Asia, where perhaps cultural differences may not be quite so wide. Once the Korean talent has proven themselves as a success here, then they can be considered for larger and more far-flung future assignments.
  6. Another key point raised was in the importance of building in a career path back to Korea, in order to full take advantage of the skills improvements which come from these assignments. In some cases, this was a difficult challenge since appropriate senior positions in Korea would not always be open, and the Korean assignee would ‘fall through the cracks’ in terms of the timing of their move back to Korea. This problem is made worse by the fact that these assignees often are seen as very strong targets for other companies to poach into roles that are immediately available in Korea. However in companies where there was the luxury of scale, this problem could be overcome by assigning the returnee a 6 to 12 month project. This benefit of this arrangement is that the Korean talent could be put in a ‘holding pattern’ for a short while, which would allow for more time for an appropriate role to materialise within the organisation.
  7. In general it was agreed that it is very difficult to assess people on their corporate cultural affinity directly at the interview stage. So most companies at the meeting still need to play the ‘numbers game’ in their entry level hiring, where new employees are hired on the basis of their competencies, and are only later judged on their managerial and leadership potentials.
  8. The only ‘extra’ offering that the company can provide in helping this process was in setting up official mentoring programmes beyond the usual line manager training/coaching relationship. This kind of programme can help to give employees a much-needed ‘booster’ when it comes to their onward career trajectory within the company, and indeed towards to successes that they can offer the organisation. It was a highly interactive and enjoyable session, with a broad mix of industries represented.

The group agreed to reconvene at the next opportunity in early 2013.


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