How talent intelligence gives global employers a competitive advantage

For international companies, recruitment and hiring can be challenging. Data-driven global talent intelligence is necessary to navigate those challenges.

How talent intelligence gives global employers a competitive advantage

Recruitment and hiring are challenging enough for companies operating in a single domestic market. For companies that build their workforces from a global talent pool, though, recruitment and hiring take on exponential levels of difficulty. Global talent management means navigating country-level regulations, cross-cultural differences, language barriers, and a variety of approaches to data management.

This is where talent-management technology comes in. The right talent intelligence platform can help such companies establish data-driven hiring practices, streamlining much of the work that goes into building a global workforce.

As a result, those companies give themselves a competitive advantage because they can find the best people for a role — wherever that person is — and give their employees long-term paths for career growth.

Strategic talent management in a global marketplace

Data-driven talent management is more than a tactic or a way to create operational efficiencies. Rather, it has become a key driver in a global company’s success.

In 2018, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey, and Ram Charan wrote for McKinsey about the “talent-first CEO,” who works closely with their CFO and CHRO to act as their organization’s “central brain trust.” This allows organizations to align financial and human capital so that they can be deployed together during a major initiative (e.g. new market entry, an acquisition).

From there, the CFO and CHRO can create models for how they manage their respective assets. For the CHRO, this means understanding how employees and contractors can be organized so that everyone can do their best work vis-à-vis the financial resources available.

Talent-management technology can facilitate this modeling, BCG’s Rainer Strack and co-authors write: “New AI-based technologies make it possible to assess workforce scenarios down to the individual skill level and can inform such focused HR action steps as the greater use of contractors, gig workers, flexible hours, or addressing upskilling requirements.”

Therefore, companies working with a global talent pool need to understand each person in the organization at a granular level — what skills that person has, what roles best align with those skills, what paths to career progression are available. This is what we are talking about when we say Enterprise Enlightenment.

With that granular data, organizations can ensure they attract the right candidates, hire the best person for each role, and promote the right people. This is the engine that powers a global talent-management strategy that aligns with financial capital resources and organizational goals.

So, let’s explore what data-driven recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion all look like for companies that embrace global talent.

developer in a busy office; global talent intelligence concept

Building an international pipeline of candidates

International recruitment must reflect the local contexts of each candidate. Tailoring the candidate experience so personally helps ensure that great candidates recognize themselves in the roles your company advertises.

McKinsey researchers Carla Arellano and Neel Gandhi note how international consumer-goods brand Unilever has embraced this principle for years. The company advertises entry-level roles and internships on social media and creates personalized career-advice sites for applicants, they write. Both the advertisements and the career sites are informed by data collected about those end-user applicants.

The next stage of the process filters applicants for specific skills, and Unilever facilitates this through online games that test a candidate’s skills. If the candidate demonstrates the right skills, they move on to the interview stages.

Modeling the candidate experience

There are numerous other ways to personalize the candidate experience and to build those pipelines for mid-career and senior candidates, as well. Just beware that your candidate experience journey will not parallel your customer experiences, tempting as it may be to consider those as analogous.

Deloitte’s Erica Volini and co-authors stress that candidate experiences differ from customer experiences in three key ways:

  • Employees have relationships with their employers that cannot be broken as quickly or as easily as a customer’s relationship with that same business.
  • Employee relationships comprise deep social networks, whereas the customer experience focuses on serving the individual needs of that customer.
  • Employees “want a career, purpose, and meaning from their work,” which is more profound than the transactive nature of a customer relationship.

In other words, remember the deep connection candidates and employees can have with your organization. That empathy will be important as you begin organizing your workforce and aligning your people with the goals of your CFO and CEO.

Removing bias from the candidate experience

International recruitment has the potential to reveal all kinds of biases.

Ruchika Tulshyan, founder of the inclusion strategy firm Candour, writes about this at HBR. “One team I work with had hiring managers who would often flippantly say phrases like: ‘We should hire this person. I could easily see myself having beers with them after work.’ Or ‘This candidate is qualified, but really isn’t a cultural fit,’” Tulshyan writes.

The best way to preempt any such biases is to ensure your recruitment processes focus on a candidate’s skills and ignore irrelevant information.

One such example of this in action: In 2019, the Swedish municipality Upplands-Bro introduced a robot it will use for conducting unbiased job interviews. The robot is programmed to stick to a strict script that focuses only on a candidate’s skills and how those relate to the job they’re interviewing for.

“All we want to know is what skills the candidate has,” Havva Ilhan, the municipality’s deputy head of staff, tells World Economic Forum. “We are not interested in hobbies, family relationships, age, or anything else that is immaterial and can create a preconceived image of the person.”

Most organizations won’t require an interview bot, however. A talent intelligence platform that reveals a candidate’s capabilities alone, and no other identifying information, could be enough to eliminate bias from your hiring process.

two businesswomen meet while walking through a light-filled hallway; global talent intelligence concept

Managing and developing an international workforce

The granular insights you have into your team members can then help you fill talent gaps, focus any upskilling and training efforts, and help ensure you promote the right people to the right positions.

Identifying skills needs and delivering training

Within a large organization, there will likely be skill gaps, and people will need to be hired, trained, or moved around to fill those gaps.

Again, data should inform decision making here. AI can sift through both employee and candidate data to create profiles and reveal where teams need updated skills.

This approach to talent management will “fundamentally shift and then constantly recalibrate ways of working,” Allison Bailey, Vikram Bhalla, Rainer Strack, Diana Dosik, and Judy Oh write for BCG.

“Success in a world where traditional operations are more human-designed than human-run requires a fundamental redesign of how work gets done. It also requires room for constant change as the boundary between humans and technology shifts. This will require a willingness to regularly rethink the organization structure and an acceleration of workforce planning cycles to keep pace with evolving work, skill, and technology needs.”

This also means ongoing reskilling as well the creation of decentralized, cross-functional teams to lead decision making. Most likely, your global workforce will operate with a flatter hierarchy in which small groups are empowered — systemically and through continuous learning — to lead.

Creating career paths for employees around the world

This model of empowered workforces should find cross-cultural purchase. The desire for agency in one’s career isn’t culturally dependent, but rather appears to be a universal trait.

Bain has done some interesting work in this area. For example, Bain’s data shows that younger Chinese tech workers appear increasingly willing to take roles in domestic companies, rather than multinationals, because they seek opportunities to lead. In the Chinese tech sector, company leaders skew younger, and their skills are specialized.

This trend “is upending traditional career trajectories,” Bain’s James Allen writes. “Many Chinese nationals are choosing faster and more rewarding career paths with local firms over formal talent development programs and overseas assignments in multinationals. These local organizations seem to be stripping away onerous reporting structures, giving young leaders more influence over the company’s decisions and the chance to leave a legacy.”

Bain’s data dovetails with research from BCG that shows traditional management structures around the world are giving way to flatter hierarchies in which experts and specialists lead, BCG partners Vinciane Beauchene and Molly Cunningham write.

BCG surveyed more than 5,000 employees (about 1,500 of whom were managers) across the US, China, France, the UK, and Germany for this data. In the four Western countries, only 9 percent of non-manager respondents said they aspired to managerial roles.

“To thrive today, companies need to access diversity of thought and experience,” Beauchene and Cunningham write. “And to harness this collective intelligence, organizations need to bring together multi-disciplinary teams that are free to pursue different approaches. They need to create dozens or even hundreds of teams, each with a startup mentality.

“At the same time, companies need to frame and manage team autonomy so that it is purposeful. In an agile organization, leaders do this by setting a clear vision, objectives, and guardrails for teams. And then they step back and let the teams do their work.”

For global employers, then, the key will be understanding how to identify and promote leaders within this context.

Promoting leaders

In February 2020, McKinsey researchers Tom Clauwaert, Kevin Van Ingelgem, and Gemma D’Auria outlined what they described as a “golden thread” that runs through all aspects of talent management.

This thread is woven from the behavioral expectations that organizations set for their employees, they write. By explicitly defining and communicating these expectations, organizations can create internal rubrics for success and career progression.

Clauwaert, Van Ingelgem, and D’Auria offer a three-step model for defining and communicating those behavioral expectations:

  1. Start by defining six to eight behavioral themes that support the organization’s overall strategy.
  2. Define three to five behaviors within each theme.
  3. Define what it means to perform each of those behaviors well, and what it means to fall short.

When your organization knows what skills each person has, what skills are needed in senior roles, and how each person adheres to the behaviors the organization values, then you have a framework for internal promotion.

“Organizations that do this right are much more likely to have a thriving pipeline of future leaders, where all elements of the talent ecosystem perfectly interlink and mutually reinforce each other, and where each individual in the organization has a clear understanding of what is expected of them in order to do well in their current role and advance to roles with greater responsibility,” the BCG researchers write.

Images by: ThisisEngineering RAEng, LinkedIn Sales Navigator

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