Asia’s evolving landscape of business growth is altering the region’s executive-development needs significantly. Asian companies are seeking to expand beyond their home markets more than ever before, and in this high-growth environment, many businesses are placing executives in senior leadership roles before they’re ready, which, in turn, is spotlighting the critical nature of talent development.
The twin challenges of talent development and competition for talent are being intensified by the growing number of non-Asian companies now entering the Pacific Rim’s emerging markets. With Asia competently weathering the storm of global financial uncertainty, these circumstances aren’t likely to change soon.
The East Asia and Pacific region, for example, continues to be an engine of global growth, with the World Bank suggesting that the region’s economy will expand by 7.9 percent in 2013. How, then, can Asian-based businesses ensure that their senior leaders are adequately prepared to lead and take full advantage of the area’s unrivaled trade and investment opportunities?
Preparing for Rapid Growth and Expansion
Both individuals and companies need to focus on strategies that prepare for rapid regional and international growth. For individuals, this includes acquiring broader general management skills, which are crucial in senior leadership roles.
For companies, it means moving high-potential executives through the leadership curve rapidly and effectively and equipping them with the right skills to succeed. This strategy will help fill the talent pipeline and help businesses retain their best people.
However, ensuring that functional experts have the skills they need to lead and innovate across political, social and cultural boundaries can be challenging, as can adequately developing high-potential middle managers.
Businesses looking to expand into the Asian markets must make sure their executives understand how to handle the many cultural nuances of the region. Customized executive education programs that focus on cross-cultural management are one way of providing a strong and immediate foundation. Training program faculty who have firsthand experience with a wide cross section of businesses and executives in Asia and other places throughout the world can offer deep local understanding within a global context. This knowledge can help them encourage globally attuned thinking and communication among course participants, which can bridge cultural gaps and facilitate meaningful engagement in business settings.
Combining cultural awareness with the contemporary foundations of international leadership and strategy—along with the specific needs of an industry—allows companies to nurture executives who will succeed in Asian leadership roles.
Innovating Against Competition
Although better customer engagement, operational efficiency and continual improvement are key strategic goals, businesses must develop more sustainable, long-term strategies that build innovative leadership teams. Companies should protect themselves from the volatility of Asia’s highly competitive business environment and strive to stay ahead of the curve to achieve these goals.
Managers must drive innovation and make it an inherent component of their organization’s strategic thinking and planning. However, that is unlikely to happen unless this mindset has been embedded from an early stage. Companies, therefore, need to invest in promoting innovative, out-of-the-box thinking among their employees, either through training or simple measures that encourage a more blue-sky way of thinking. These efforts will help foster a culture of innovation from senior management down.
Although talent management activities tend to be aimed at attracting and retaining high-potential employees and senior managers, many Asian businesses could focus more on developing talent at every level. Investment in ongoing executive learning allows companies to simultaneously address an individual’s career development and the needs of the business.
On-the-job experience and current project case examples can provide context to tailored courses, offering a way for participants to think specifically about applying new skills to relevant situations. With this approach, learning and development can play an effective role in overcoming current challenges and taking advantage of opportunities.
Talent development should be a key consideration for organizations and individuals who hope to increase their prospects for growth in Asia. Planning for this will help companies thrive for three reasons:
- Effective leadership and strategy training equips managers and senior executives with the skills to lead growth and change with certainty.
- Building a culture of innovation supports sustainable business growth independent of the economic situation and competition.
- Addressing the needs of staff with ongoing education will support both personal and organizational growth.
Mark Roberts is assistant dean of Executive Development Programs for INSEAD. One of the world’s leading graduate business schools, INSEAD offers executive education programs that address the changing business landscape in Asia.
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