Talent Dynamics in Thailand and Southeast Asia

Hosted by: DKSH

Thailand has had to deal with its fair share of economic challenges in recent years, talent scarcity and bearish domestic business sentiment. Despite this, foreign businesses continue to be attracted by Thailand’s strategic position between China and India and at ChapmanCG’s latest HR Leaders roundtable, we discussed the talent dynamics that are unique to this region and shared thoughts on how best to tackle talent management in Thailand.

The event was kindly hosted by Arindam Mukherjee, Global Head of People & Organisation at DKSH, with presentations provided by Chris Schultz from DKSH and Pakorn Pituvong, Head of HR, Chubb.

DKSH has a rich history and wealth of knowledge when it comes to this region, having been operating in Asia for 150 years and Thailand for 110 years. As a distributor with an extensive network, they do sourcing, market analytics, research and after sales services. The company now helps many well-known brands to grow in APAC across consumer goods, healthcare, performance materials and technology.

Chris outlined the DKSH dream ‘to be the company everyone wants to work for with a high-performance culture’ and outlined that they are working hard to make this dream a reality. He reiterated that they still face some key talent challenges including the need to firstly find people with the right capabilities and mindset, and secondly to retain them. He then offered up five ‘lessons’ on developing a dynamic talent approach, based on his experience:

  • Each company and business unit is unique, so it’s crucial to establish what you really need. It’s important to focus not on Gen Y or Gen Z, but on how the world is changing and how to help the organisation keep up with this pace of change.
  • Define, identify and prioritise talent at all levels. Some people are talent and others are just employees, so it’s critical to prioritise high potential using a straightforward, pragmatic approach.
  • Upskill managers and build culture by aligning incentives with desired behaviours. Managers need people-related objectives and to understand the difference between training and development; training meets a short-term performance or skill gap, whereas development is long-term with multiple steps.
  • Implement both formal and informal development strategies. These could include local and regional monitoring and collaboration, annual talent panel discussions, pre-hiring assessment centres for middle level, short term assignments, after-action reviews and a strong feedback culture.
  • Measure objective-led performance using catalogues to allow more consistency and determine who the high performers are and further accelerate development and leadership talent by putting in stretch assignments where appropriate.

Talent Management and feedback in Thailand
A number of attendees then shared their experiences and thoughts on the how they are trying to overcome the unique talent management challenges presented by Thailand.

At PMI, they’ve simplified the TM process by moving from a level by level approach to a simplified four-box grid system that focuses only on talent for development. Reducing the number of boxes means the organisation needs maturity and courage to make bold decisions on whether to exit someone or to redeploy or develop them.

Pakorn shared some valuable insight on Chubb’s experience and their top talent challenges and priorities. He explained the need for change following the integration with a Thai company. Previously, Managers had not wanted to succession plan below senior level, but there were key positions that needed to be planned for and needed more visibility on what the next role could be.

As part of this culture shift, the organisation has pushed self-ownership, by making make employees aware of training available, but not calling people to attend, with talent KPI’s at Chubb also now measure the ‘what’ (70%) and the ‘how’ (30%).

Feedback is an interesting area in Thailand and at DKSH, colleagues must follow certain rules when providing and receiving feedback, with the senior most person in the room always asking for feedback first. Feedback given must always be connected to an incident that has been directly observed and when received, feedback should be treated like a gift, with the appropriate reply to any feedback being ‘thank you’.

At Schneider, they begin by first giving positive feedback to build willingness to share, before moving on to areas of improvement. Again, it is important to make feedback real-time, rather than waiting for a number of months.


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Key Contributors:

Andrea Merrigan


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Andrea Merrigan


Andrea Merrigan is a Director with ChapmanCG based in the United Kingdom.

Andrea works as part of our EMEA team to deliver regional and UK based global searches for ChapmanCG’s major clients across a range of industries and HR specialisations. Prior to her current role, Andrea worked for ChapmanCG in Singapore.

Before joining ChapmanCG, Andrea was an HR recruitment specialist with Profile Search & Selection in Singapore and a Talent & OD Professional, working both in consulting and in-house.

Andrea is originally from the Republic of Ireland and has spent over seven years living and studying in New York, Hawai’i, China, Japan, and Singapore. Outside of work Andrea loves to travel, dance and spend time with family.

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