Managing talent in Asia-Pacific: planning for the future

Many of the talent issues we are beginning to solve in the UK are still evolving rapidly in Asia-Pacific markets. Paul Daley, Asia-Pacific director at the recruitment process outsourcing provider Ochre House, examines the challenges.

In an increasingly fast-paced and competitive world, organisations are recognising the need to rethink their approach when it comes to securing and retaining the best talent. In the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, this issue is particularly problematic, with business leaders in the area rating talent and skills shortages as a high priority. However, strategic talent acquisition – though widely discussed – is yet to take off in APAC. So what are the challenges preventing it, and how can they be resolved?

At Ochre House, we recently hosted a think-tank on this issue, whereby leading HR professionals from major hirers in APAC – such as BP, Coca-Cola and Panasonic – came together to discuss the problems and solutions associated with talent acquisition. They made it clear that, if you think about the current market situation, it is easy to see why the issue of strategic talent acquisition is a complex one and still prevails.

The APAC region covers a vast landscape, embracing a broad spectrum of languages and cultures, and this high diversity of the market creates a problem. HR professionals are effectively working with a group of different economies that are developing at different speeds. This can be an extremely challenging barrier to managing talent, and there is a great need to fully understand cultural differences in order for any talent acquisition strategy to be successful.

Unpredictable growth

There is also the issue that while there is fast growth, it can be very unpredictable. This is a challenge when it comes to understanding how the business will respond, for instance, whether or not it will need to diversify in order to remain competitive, and how this will affect the skills needed from employees.

Additionally, it was recognised at the think-tank that time pressures mean companies are very short-term focused, with business leaders and human resources directors under pressure to support rapid growth. Their priority lies with immediate needs, forcing them to ignore future requirements. As such, it can be difficult to have an agreement on a budget implementing a plan that perhaps will not see concrete results until the mid to long term.

Keeping hold of talent

Finally, while the regional economy is growing, the demand for talent outstrips the supply, leaving organisations fighting for the right people. The shortage of top talent can lead to a blasé approach to work by those individuals who do have the right skills. Employees often recognise their value and know that they can leave an organisation at any time and be hired somewhere else relatively easily. As such, they tend to switch roles relatively quickly to achieve greater responsibility and a higher salary, and this can be hugely problematic in terms of managing talent.

So how can these challenges be overcome in order for talent acquisition to be more strategic in APAC? Well it is clear that organisations have few benchmarks to work from. However, perhaps the first step is to recognise whether the focus should be on training and developing existing talent or hiring externally. To do this, it is important to look internally at the workforce in the first instance to identify the critical roles. Yes, it is important to build talent communities outside of your organisation to reach a much wider talent pool, but at the same time, internal hiring can provide several advantages as employees already know the business.

At the think-tank, Brindha Bal – APAC talent acquisition director at Hitachi Data Systems – outlined some of the key indicators of what strategic talent acquisition looks like. Following her tips could put you in a good position in terms of sourcing the best talent:


  • Business measurement – KPIs should be in place that meet the business needs on both a long-and short-term basis.
  • Limited agency involvement – Truly strategic talent acquisition will only require agency engagement for hard-to-fill, crucial roles.
  • Connected across the business – Whilst talent acquisition lies with HR, the connection with the business should not be lost. It is important that there is involvement across all levels so that business leaders can input into the process to align this with their skills requirements.
  • Business growth – Scalable, streamlined enterprise system processes need to be implemented that allow the organisation to follow global growth and processes.
  • Consistency – Although this is difficult in an ever-changing world, it is an important factor. Consistent employee branding principles and methodologies in selection and assessment will put organisations in a better position to attract talent in the first instance. Candidates will be left with a much more positive view of your company if there is consistency across all channels.


There is no doubt that, when it comes to making talent acquisition a more strategic capability for a business, the APAC region is particularly complex. There is still a way to go in addressing the challenges, and it will not happen overnight. However, organisations are recognising the value of bringing the issue to the forefront of business priorities, and having the right approach to talent management can be extremely beneficial in the long term.

Paul Daley, Asia-Pacific director at the recruitment process outsourcing provider Ochre House

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