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Netherlands Based Global HR Heads Examine Why Asian HR Talent are Not Moving to HQ Roles

Hosted by: ING Group

ING was the host for The Chapman Consulting Group’s Amsterdam leg of the Global HR Briefing Series today. Chaired by Matthew Chapman and sponsored by Tim Bilton and Eric Rivard of ING Group, the session drew together Global HR Leaders from France, Belgium and Amsterdam, from organisations including DSM, Mars, Philips, Sodexo, Molnlycke Health Care, ABB, BNP Paribas, Heineken, Unilever, Hill-Rom, Rabobank and many more.

One of the key issues we discussed at this session was the diminishing attractiveness of global assignments for Asian HR talent. This was a surprise to some in the room, but can be seen for the following reasons:

  1. High growth and abundant, well-paying opportunities are available for HR talent in Asia Pacific and other growth markets. The opportunity/cost of exiting these markets for an assignment in the ‘developed’ world, is currently quite high.
  2. Asian HR talent are reluctant to sit in global headquarter environments where the thinking might be quite removed from what they are experiencing ‘at home’. Organisations with a very international headquarter group or even decentralised headquarters (where functions/positions are split across multiple regions) are more likely to be attractive to Asian talent, as are those that have a good track-record of successfully integrating (and then repatriating) Asian talent to/from their headquarters.
  3. The issue of leaving low tax environments (such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai, most commonly) can be a big consideration for Asian HR talent not to leave ‘home’, if the headquarter assignment does not involve some of make-even for an erosion in earning power or increased living costs. This is especially the case if Asian HR talent are being ‘pulled’ into the headquarter setting versus choosing voluntarily to make the move.
  4. The extended family and domestic help, plus interruption in schooling, are also included as reasons Asian HR talent are reluctant to move to headquarters in North America and Europe.

So what implications do the above hold for companies thinking about moving their high potential HR talent internationally from Asia to developed markets?

  1. Think about using short-term assignments as a vehicle to make the talent transfer work. The individual may not need to move their family, for instance, if it is a three month assignment. Such a window still presents a chance for critical headquarter relationships to be built, and a ‘headquarter’ perspective to be returned with the individual to their home market.
  2. Think about giving elite HR talent global responsibilities in Asia. These could be in addition to their current role, so a ‘double hat’, but could also be short term, in the form of projects. Be careful to ensure that the HR practitioner actually wants this extra responsibility, as we’ve seen it backfire when late night calls and 24/7 responsibilities make the person wish they had stuck to their normal job!
  3. Hire a certain proportion of HR talent that is actually mobile from the outset. These individuals may already be on their second or third international move and could already be open-minded to further moves. This HR talent will know, when being hired, that they are expected to be internationally mobile. Start talking to them about future moves early, and have them work on their succession strategy fast.


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Key Contributors:

Matthew Chapman
Matthew Chapman


Global Management
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Matthew Chapman
Global Management

Matthew Chapman


Matthew (Matt) Chapman is the Founder of ChapmanCG.

He has also created the Thrive HR Exchange, a global community platform for people leaders and HR professionals to find and exchange inspiration, ideas and insights. Discover some of his interviews with HR leaders here.

Matt has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Business Law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a Singapore Citizen and divides his time between Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA.

Matt is a wellness, self-improvement and fitness addict. He has completed six desert, 250km ultra-marathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

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