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Welcome to the Era of the Activist CEO

Why Learning Requires a Design State of Mind

Leadership Pipelines Going Global



Digital capabilities are continuing to disrupt the way in which work will get done and organizations must continuously reinvent their recruiting approaches. Talent leaders who overcome today’s recruiting challenges will be those who use the combined power of humans and machines to connect with and engage the right workforce. Will you lead or be led?



’ve been thinking a lot about how we measure work recently. Chalk it up to an especially busy spring, the anticipation of summer and all the nonwork-related activity it typically brings, or my inherent curiosity, but it’s been something I’ve can’t quite get out of my mind. Time spent working has traditionally been the method we use to measure how much we work. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Time, as a standard, is an easily quantifiable way to measure productivity in any activity, whether it’s doing things we typically associated as “work” or things we associate as “leisure.” Time, put simply, makes sense. It’s a standard we all follow: “Oh, I spent three hours in traffic the other day; it was awful.” “I worked an incredibly stressful 12-hour day.” We all know what three hours in traffic might feel like compared to just one hour, just as most people get that 12 hours spent working in a row is a long time and two hours spend working isn’t.


For many occupations, time is essential to measuring productivity. In manufacturing, for instance, we need to know how many cars were built in an hour, in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year. The more cars a company is able to make in a given period of time, the thinking goes, the more cars they’re able to ship and sell to consumers in a given period of time. Time, when it comes to how we conduct work, is important. But in many of today’s emerging and growing occupations, time is less important as a measure. For many workers in the knowledge economy, productivity and time may not be as closely connected. For instance, if we’re measuring my productivity as a writer of this column, and it takes me an hour to write the same quality column as it takes another writer 30 minutes, who’s the more productive employee? As another example, if a financial analyst is assigned to create a model for buying and selling shares of a company’s stock and is able to complete that assignment to a high degree of quality in 20 minutes, not necessarily the four hours it might take someone else, is time as a measure of productivity still important? It’s a fair question, one that I’m not sure I know the answer to. But as we at Talent Economy have continued to study the evolving nature of work, talent and the global labor force,

T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017

As more people blend work and life, time spent working should be less of a focus for managers monitoring their employees. Instead, they should focus on the results that employee produced when they did work. And, as technologies continues to advance in a way that allows many work tasks to be completed in a shorter amount of time, people are likely to spend fewer hours completing those tasks — and, as a result, less time working. As you read our Summer 2017 issue on globalization, keep this idea in mind. Companies these days aren’t just vying to change the composition of their organizations and products across geographies anymore. They’re vying to change — both internally in how their employees work and externally in how consumers interact with their products and services — the time element as well. Frank Kalman, Managing Editor


Editor’s Note

it’s become increasingly apparent that, at least in some jobs, time and productivity may not be as strictly linked as they once were. Yes, we are likely always going to measure our individual productivity by how much we were able to accomplish in a given period of time. But at what point does saying, “I worked 10 hours on that project” mean less and less if it was time spent not completing the project to the desired results? If the same project can be completed in half the time at a higher quality, did that person work less? Technically, as a factor of time, yes — but, as a factor of results, not necessarily.


INVEST IN THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE AND BECOME A LEADER IN THE HR FIELD. Your team can work alongside the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group to develop custom research content, tailored to your brand or co-branded with either Talent Tracker or one of our partner magazines. Be a part of thought leadership backed by qualitative and quantitative data analysis.

Questions? Visit


is an associate editor at Human Capital Media and a 2014 graduate of University of Missouri, Columbia. She writes, edits and reports for Talent Economy and HCM’s other publications, Chief Learning Officer and Workforce.


is the vice president of applied learning for Ken Blanchard Cos. She is also an associate professor at the University of San Diego, where she teaches courses in learning and development.

ZOË van DIJK is a tall human and illustrator based out of New York City, where she lives with her partner and 86-pound chocolate bar of a dog. Her work spans from editorial to publishing and has been honored by the Society of Illustrators.

Volume 2, Issue 3

Summer 2017


MICHELLE V. RAFTER writes about employment, workplace issues, transportation and how tech is transforming them all. She’s a contributing editor at Workforce and a regular contributor to national business publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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22 28





The globalists vs. nationalists tension comes with significant implications for talent.


Exuding influence is a significant leadership skill in the modern workplace.


For some business leaders, the less experience a candidate has, the better.


properly equip their talent for 28 Totoday’s business challenges, leaders

Today’s offices are littered with a confluence of different workplace personalities.


the current business climate, 42 Given firms must develop a leadership

Education is essential. Does the U.S. get a good return on its investment?


These emerging technology platforms are taking over the world of recruiting.

The continuing globalization of business comes with multifaceted implications for how firms manage their talent.

FEATURES political polarization has 22 Today’s sparked a renewed sense of activism among business leaders.

have to rethink learning experiences.

pipeline with global experience.




T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017



Measuring time spent working needs to take on new meaning.



Data and insight on the talent economy from Talent Tracker.



Fast Company cofounder Bill Taylor on building the future.

BOTTOM LINE most interesting 50 The and revealing quotes

from the Summer issue.

Is your organization on track to outperform your competition? Do your leaders sprint past disruptions to embrace uncertainty, seize opportunities, and build competitive advantage? We call this Accelerating Performance. Learn more about how to accelerate your performance and Heidrick & Struggles’ leadership advisory services by visiting




Central Europe & Europe and Central Asia the Baltics $22,112 $12,403

United States $56,116 North America $54,831

GDP Per Capita*: Current US Dollars

Middle East & North Africa

South Asia $1,542


Latin America & Caribbean $8,364

East Asia & Pacific $9,512

Pacific Island small states $3,644

Sub-Saharan Africa $1,588

*2015 Data (WB)

Top 10 Countries: Percentage of Population with Associates Degree or Better (2011 ISCED Level 5 or Higher)

No. 1: Israel


2 43% Luxembourg

7 37% Estonia

3 42% Singapore

8 36% Norway

4 42% United States of America

9 36% Switzerland

5 41% Cayman Islands

10 35% Cyprus

6 39% United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

*2014 Data (UN)

Countries with Highest and Lowest Central Government Debt: Percentage of GDP 120%


23% 23%








25% 25%

120% 100%






73 % 71%












110% 102% 97%















*2014 (WB)


40% 20% 0%

Talent Tracker is a proprietary tool developed by Human Capital Media that integrates U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Science Foundation data. 10

T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017


felt better prepared to address their business challenges.

Bring your business challenge. At Columbia Business School Executive Education, your return on investment will have an immediate and long-term impact. Start now.

Sourced from the 2016 Columbia Business School Executive Education Global Past Participant Survey.

Going Global The globalists vs. nationalists tension consuming the world comes with significant implications for talent. by Frank Kalman


n May 8, 2017, Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker and political outsider, was elected France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon. His victory over Marine Le Pen, a farright economic nationalist, represented not only the start of a more centrist policy agenda for France, but a sigh of relief for many throughout the globe. On the heels of Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union and Donald J. Trump’s surprising presidential election victory in the United States, Macron’s win signified a respite from the nationalist and protectionist sentiments that swept the globe last year. Not only is Macron pro-EU — unlike his opponent, who vowed to exit France from the currency bloc — but he is a staunch advocate of economic globalism, a concept that has come under intense scrutiny in recent years as pro-nationalist political leaders rose to power. In the U.S., President Trump’s early efforts in office to renegotiate international trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and curtail immigration visa programs in certain sectors are viewed as fundamental moves needed to implement his economic nationalist agenda, one


that calls for a “Buy American, Hire American” approach. As Trump tells it, American workers have long been undermined by the promises of globalization, a claim not entirely untrue; his agenda calls for limiting immigrant talent in the country and potentially putting import tariffs on foreign goods. Similarly, in Britain, exiting the EU is an effort to control the flow of immigration into the country and promote a more nationalist approach to its economic and business agenda. As a result of the leave vote, London, long considered the financial capital of Europe, is at risk of losing such an honor as firms consider moving their headquarters elsewhere. Had Le Pen defeated Macron, it’s likely she would have led France with a similar nationalist outlook. As our cover story shows, beneath the political nature of the economic globalist vs. nationalist debate are significant implications for the global business of talent. Limits to the flow of immigration across the globe, especially in the EU, have profound implications for multinational corporations. Moreover, with a rapidly expanding technological landscape and unemployment in the U.S. nearing historic lows, executives are struggling to source talent, particularly in burgeoning sectors like technology. Restricting the flow of immigrant talent throughout the world only makes this struggle more difficult. The debate over immigration is sufficient enough to advocate for a more welcoming approach to globalization — all while ensuring that its downsides are limited — but there are other

T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017

ways executives should consider a more global mindset when it comes to how they manage talent. For instance, as profiled in our cover section, many countries have developed unique labor market identities thanks to their cultural norms and geography. Our brief profiles of these regions represent an effort to showcase their fundamental economic strengths and weaknesses as well as an overview of the talent their institutions and industries are able to produce. Having a more intimate window into these areas will provide executives with potentially new sources of talent across the globe. Furthermore, these countries’ unique economic challenges provide executives with insights into how their firms might tackle some of their own roadblocks when it comes to sourcing and developing talent strategies. Finally, in our cover spread’s final section, we examine the cultural norms other countries bring to business and how executives based in the U.S. might apply them to their own corporate cultures. Even as the complexity that globalization brings to business and economics is likely to persist indefinitely, the phenomenon itself isn’t going away. Executives intent on maintaining a competitive advantage in such an environment should deeply consider the effect to which today’s political forces regarding globalization will influence their talent strategies — while at the same time embracing markets whose unique but underrepresented labor force might be a powerful source of talent for decades to come.

8 Ways to Be More Influential by Marc Dellaert and Sergey Davydov

1. Make people share goals. Every leader wants to achieve certain outcomes. Effective influencing generates voluntary support from people. Commitment is strongest when people share goals and believe that what they do is best for the organization. 2. Avoid the trap of compliance or resistance. When people aren’t persuaded, they become compliant. Worse, they might resist. In the short term, compliance can increase productivity but it doesn’t unleash the full potential of the team. The key to effective influencing is to spend enough time to understand and align with others’ ideas and concerns when setting goals or facing change.

ed by offering advice. Consider the preference of the person or group that leaders seek to influence, remembering to combine different tactics (the Head, the Heart and the Hands). 5. Apply the devil’s advocate technique. One powerful way to build influence is by playing devil’s advocate. For example, in a discussion about proposing an idea for a new change, leaders can challenge a perspective by looking through the eyes of someone who views it differently. This method requires that a leader convince others that they fully understand their position, that they have another perspective on the issue and that together they can reconcile contradictory perspectives into a more advantageous position. 6. Be authentic, build trust. Where there is trust, there is confidence in the integrity and abilities of people. Leaders who openly and authentically admit their mistakes and praise others are more likely to effectively influence.

3. Influencing is selling ideas. Good influencing is like selling. Leaders don’t push the client to buy. Rather, selling is about convincing the client that they’ll benefit from the proposition by persuading them with a leader’s ideas or inspiring them to change behavior.

7. Become a collaborative role model. When leaders offer help to others, they’ll feel grateful. Cooperating with others is a strong way for leaders to influence. Good leaders demonstrate the cooperative behaviors that they would like to see imitated by others.

4. Flex influencing tactics: the Head, the Heart and the Hands. Each of us is persuaded by different approaches. Some rely on rational or intellectual arguments, or facts (the Head). Others want to feel that they belong to something bigger (the Heart). Others are touched when they’re support-

8. Leverage the power of relationships across cultures. Leaders can leverage different bases of power to influence. The power to influence doesn’t come only from a leader’s job title or the possibility to reward and to punish. Great leaders draw from strong relationships when influencing others.

With Some Hires, Less Experience is More by Kate Rockwood If David Williams is impressed by someone — anyone — he’ll extend a job offer. That’s how the CEO of Fishbowl, an inventory software maker in Orem, Utah, wound up working alongside both his electrician and a guy who sold him a snowboard.

“I’ve hired carpenters and instrument makers,” Williams said. “I never look at a résumé; I never care about what they’ve done before. It’s how I feel about them at the time of our engagement.” This process works: Twelve years after accepting an entry-level position, Williams’ electrician is now the company’s vice president of development. Fishbowl has become one of the fast-growing software companies in Utah, according to Inc. magazine; it has won awards from Deloitte, MountainWest Capital and Red Herring Global. More broadly, S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


an employee leaves the 130-person Fishbowl for performance–related reasons only once every two or three years.

tional services — that talent pinch is felt far and wide. As a result, businesses must take matters into their own hands.

Williams attributes the company’s meteoric success to his hiring strategy, which favors fit and enthusiasm over experience. Taking a risk and hiring someone without the usual established industry chops engenders a stronger sense of loyalty, Williams said. That’s a precious trait around Utah’s so-called “Silicon Slopes,” where competition for tech workers is as fierce as Silicon Valley.

That’s exactly what’s happening in a converted theater in downtown Detroit, where mobile developer Detroit Labs runs a 12-week apprenticeship that teaches iPhone and Android development, Javascript and quality engineering. “Mobile developers are hard to find — we couldn’t hire enough people,” said Erika Carlson, Detroit Labs’ director of training. “So we decided to bring in terrific people who have no software experience and teach them the fundamentals.”

Inexperienced employees know to ask questions and seek clarifications.

Fishbowl is hardly alone in filling its ranks with industry newbies and developing that talent internally. Human resources professionals and hiring managers are beginning to find that less may be more when it comes to a potential employee’s specific industry experience. That’s because skill sets today must be updated more than ever, thanks to an ever-changing economy riding the waves of always advancing technology. “The rapid, continuous change of products and services means that lifelong learning is a critical element of the workforce,” said Wendy Chase, founder of Uncharted Group, a talent management consulting firm in Carmel, Indiana. “It’s something all of us have come to expect.” That includes business leaders tasked with filling their talent pipelines. If the newest marketing innovation or technology tool just over the horizon will require learning and development for all employees, it means an industry veteran and a relative newcomer could easily find themselves on equal footing. To this end, prior work experience starts to matter less for certain companies than an eagerness to learn, adapt and embrace the cutting edge.

Help Wanted — Fast

The emerging open-mindedness around experience is also a response to the very real talent gap many hiring managers face nowadays. Consider the technology industry: In just three years, the United States will have 1.4 million open programming jobs, but only 400,000 computer science grads, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a 2016 survey of more than 1,000 HR managers and recruiters found that 86 percent found it challenging to hire technical talent and 75 percent think the time-to-fill for roles has increased in the past three years. As tech increasingly blurs into all industries — from automobile manufacturing to educa14

T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017

Over three years, Detroit Labs has hired about 80 percent of the program’s four dozen graduates; the majority are still with the company as developers. Carlson is quick to point out that although the program doesn’t look for experience, that doesn’t mean hiring managers aren’t selective about who comes onboard. Instead of focusing on technical skills, interviewers double down on ferreting out great communicators and problem-solvers that are collegial, too. “I can teach someone to be a developer, but I can’t teach them to be someone I want to sit with for 40 hours a week,” Carlson said.

The Downside of Unlearning

Skipping the conventional candidate with loads of industry experience also saves managers the potential headache of “untraining” someone who has spent years following a different company’s protocol. Jerri Lee George, a 30-year Denver-area catering veteran and author of the book “CaterSavvy,” said she goes out of her way to hire people who are newbies to the catering field rather than seasoned professionals. That means a little more work upfront, she said, but it’s well worth it. Inexperienced employees know to ask questions and seek clarifications, whereas veterans are more likely to assume this gig wants it done the same as their last. Starting from scratch, George said, “ensures the dishes will be prepared to my specifications — not to those of their last job.” Of course, if business leaders are going to benefit from an inexperienced hire’s enthusiasm and loyalty, they’ve got to invest heavily in training. Anna Stout, owner of marketing agency Astute Communications in Nashville, Tennessee,

hired a woman with no SEO experience to help out parttime. A few months later, she became a full-time employee and today oversees the agency’s entire SEO business. “The most important factor for us was going into it with a robust training plan, providing learning resources and outlining expectations,” Stout said. Feedback also needs to be fast and furious during the training. At Beautiful Destinations, a creative agency based in New York and London, one in four employees doesn’t have any past agency experience. That hasn’t stopped the agency from locking in clients like Airbnb, Marriott and Mastercard — or from racking up more than 13 million followers for its social-first photos and videos. “From the start, it’s given us a really distinct advantage,” said co-founder Jeremy Jauncey. “Instead of sitting in focus groups wondering what young millennials care about, we’ve put our content creation in the hands of these millennials.” The videographers and photographers have an insatiable appetite for travel — most book back-to-back client en-

gagements and stop over in the U.S. for a week or less each month. But all that enthusiasm and energy for the work also comes with a sharp learning curve. “When someone hasn’t had experience in a professional working environment, you can’t assume anything and have to be ready to give that training: Here’s how you stick to a brief, here’s how you engage with a client, here’s what’s appropriate or expected,” Chauncey said. Recently, an inexperienced photographer hadn’t secured the necessary permits the agency needed to shoot a historical landmark. That didn’t affect them on social media, but when the client liked the images enough to want them for print and TV campaigns, Chauncey had to explain that the rookie’s oversight would mean a monthslong delay. “So then the question is: How do we prevent this? How do we tweak the training or create the right process?” Chauncey said. “Raw talent can get better and better under guidance. But if your instinct is to yell, ‘What were you thinking?!” or start looking for someone with 20 years of experience instead, you’ll never get there.”

How to Manage Different Workplace Personalities by Lauren Dixon For as many people that work at a given company, there are just as many different personalities. Managing them all can be tough. “That’s why managers get paid the big bucks,” said Benjamin Schneider, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Maryland and affiliate research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. The first step is to pick a personality typology test to follow so there’s a baseline understanding of personality at the organization, according to Melissa Moore, senior vice president and chief people officer at Mattersight Corp., a customer experience and behavior analytics company based in Chicago.

According to Mattersight, the following are the six most common workplace personalities, along with the keys to communicating with workers in each category: Organizer — This worker is logical, organized and responsible. To manage this type of employee, leaders should be specific, detailed and data oriented in their communication. Also, they should be mindful of their time, show responsibility and work in a linear fashion. Connector — This person is compassionate, sensitive and warm. Leaders should be understanding, caring and personal with this worker personality type. Take time with them and demonstrate sympathy to how they’re feeling. Adviser — Advisers are dedicated, observant and conscientious. Managers should show these workers respect by using formal and professional language. Listen carefully to what they’re saying, and acknowledge the importance of their work. S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


Original — They are spontaneous, creative and playful. Leaders should be expressive, relaxed and playful with them. Make these workers comfortable by speaking casually, and react to their sense of humor. Doer — A doer is adaptable, persuasive and charming. Managers should keep discussion points short and focus on action.

Start with the bottom line, and give interactions an edge to keep the conversation interesting. Dreamer — Dreamers are workers that are imaginative and reflective. Managers should remain calm with dreamers and give clear direction to them. Steer clear of a touchy-feely approach, and present simple and unadorned bullet points.

Does the U.S. get a Good Return on Education? by Grey Litaker I come from a family with a tradition of military service. One of the phrases I grew up hearing so often that it became slightly annoying was, “You have to have the right tools and talent.” Tools and talent was always said in such a way that you could really hear the emphasis on those two words more than the others, so when I was pulling the data for this issue’s Dashboard, I was most interested in data that dealt with the United States’ investment in talent, primarily its investment in education. Education spending is a hot topic politically, with some arguing we should spend less and others saying we should spend more. Let’s examine what we actually spend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. spent $620 billion on primary and secondary education in the 2012-13 academic year. In the 2013-14 academic year, post-secondary schools spent $517 billion. And according to World Bank estimates from 2011, the most recent year from which figures are available, U.S. spending on education accounted for roughly 13 percent of government expenditures. Finding out how much public support there is for post-secondary educational institutions is a difficult question to answer — since the waters are muddied by the federal student financial aid program and the division 16

T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017

between state and federal responsibilities for post-secondary educational funding. That seems like a staggering amount of money. What does it buy? For one thing, the U.S. has an exceptionally educated labor force. About 67 percent of adults 25 years or older have at least some college education; roughly 73 percent and 74 percent of bachelor’s degree and advanced degree holders, respectively, above that age are employed. For comparison, only 57.5 percent of those in the 25 years or older age group are employed with only a high school diploma. Great labor force participation isn’t the only thing that the country’s substantial investment in education buys. According to a report published by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., there is a probable link between educational attainment and productivity. After analyzing Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the time period 1979–2012, EPI found that states with increasing educational attainment also experience increased workforce productivity. Comparing the United States’ performance in education against international competitors is more complicated, because the international community measures educational attainment differently. According to United Nations data from 2014, the most recent year for which there is a substantive pool of participants, the U.S. had the fourth highest population percentage aged 25 or older having completed the International Standard Classification of Education level 5 or higher. ISCED level 5 roughly correlates to a U.S. associate degree.

It’s also difficult to compare domestic to international educational spending. As previously mentioned, in 2011 about 13 percent of U.S. government spending went toward education. Compare this to the international median of roughly 13 percent. The United States currently ranks 62nd of 110 countries for which the World Bank has data from 2011. While the U.S. may not prioritize educational spending at the same rate as other countries, it accomplishes a great deal with that money. Does this translate into productivity metrics or monetary measures? There is currently no way to say that the U.S.

educational system is the reason that the U.S. performs so competitively internationally. Though the U.S. ranked as the seventh highest GDP per capita in 2015, according to the World Bank, it’s impossible to say that this is due exclusively to education investment — although there are indicators that education is an essential part of U.S. economic strategy. I hesitate to suggest that all is perfect in the U.S. educational system. There are many complicated structural issues that deserve critical examination. But, in the quest to ensure an abundant supply of tools and talent, the U.S. has at least half of that equation covered.

3 Emerging Platforms Infiltrating Recruiting by Lauren Dixon Companies are getting creative with their recruiting efforts. For instance, fast food giant McDonald’s recently announced it is requesting applications to their Australian restaurants via the disappearing photo and video sharing platform Snapchat. In today’s war for talent, this is yet another instance of companies taking unconventional recruiting approaches to stand out.

best fit for a role based on their résumés, Orler said. Limitations abound, though, including access to data and integrating the search tool into legacy data systems and recruiters’ daily work.

Elaine Orler, CEO & co-founder of Talent Function, a talent acquisition consulting service based in San Diego, said it’s not necessary to be first when trying out a nascent platform but to get it right.

Virtual Reality. One German firm, Deutsche Bahn, uses VR to showcase jobs that are hard to fill, giving viewers a taste of some roles before they apply. The British Army also uses this technology, providing a VR obstacle course, parachute jump and more.

Here are three emerging recruiting technologies: Snapchat. Orler said Snapchat advertisements are becoming popular, as long as they aren’t too lengthy. And filters — a combination of images and virtual masks — are effective methods for reaching attendees. Especially at an event, this can help an organization compete with other companies for candidate attention. Artificial Intelligence. Search and matching is one area in which AI excels, aiding in identifying the candidates

This technology is expected to grow in the future. Orler said AI could soon include social listening tools, in which software can follow potential candidates on social media and alert recruiters when candidate sentiment seems to change. If they’re expressing frustration about their job, it might be a good time for the recruiter to reach out with a job opportunity.

As VR becomes more accessible, it could also be a standard part of skills testing for some roles, said James Hawley, executive vice president of Veredus, a specialized recruitment and staffing agency in Tampa, Florida. What’s the C-suite’s role in all of this? Hawley said senior leaders shouldn’t be involved in choosing recruitment technology. However, “they should encourage their teams to be creative and open-minded when assessing new technology,” he said. S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


“If you want to as a business leader do something distinctive and truly original in the marketplace, you’ve also got to do something distinctive and truly original in the workplace,” said Taylor, co-founder of the business magazine and author of “Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways.”

Talent Economy spoke with Taylor about modern talent strategies and what makes companies successful and innovative. Edited excerpts follow.

•••••••••• TALENT ECONOMY:

As a co-founder of Fast Company, how have you seen talent strategies transform since the magazine’s first issue in 1995?

INSIDER • • • • • • • • • •

Fast Company’s Bill Taylor by Lauren Dixon Bill Taylor co-founded Fast Company in 1995 on the idea that a management revolution was needed in business. And in the more than 20 years since the


magazine launched, it has helped spark new ideas in how products are built and how the workplace should continue to evolve to spur innovation.

1981: Graduated from Princeton University 1987: Graduated from MIT Sloan School of Management

T a l e n t E c o n o m y • S u m m e r 2017

1987 - 1992: Associate Editor at Harvard Business Review

I’d say the transformation of talent strategies and thinking about the role of talent and building great organizations has changed more in degree than in kind, meaning that smaller and smaller groups of people can do bigger and bigger things. Because of computing, connectivity and software platforms, if you’re a young, talented, passionate person, it wasn’t like it was 30 or 40 years ago, where you had to spend a long time being a kind of faceless member of a gigantic corporate army to make a real difference in the world. The impact of renegade teams inside big companies meant that earlier in your career than ever, with fewer hard resources than ever, individuals or small groups of individuals could have a really big impact on their company and the world.

1995-2003: Co-founded Fast Company



2006-2007: His column, “Under New Management,” ran in The New York Times

To me, that’s the big slip that started with the first internet economy 20 years ago. The sense of impact and sense of leverage and sense of being a difference maker in the world has shifted. It went from if you want to play on the world stage, you’ve got to be part of some gigantic, global organization. You have to show us that you’re worthy of our allowing you in. Now, all the actions at the level of the individual and the small teams are incumbent upon big, global organizations to make sure they are inviting, appealing, compelling to those sorts of people. That flip in the power relationship began 20 years ago. I think it’s only gotten more kind of feverish and intense. And to be honest, to the point now where it’s got me kind of worried. Every liberating, exciting, wondrous breakthrough in the new world of business has its dark side; its downside; its worrisome elements when taken to excess. Part of what we do in business in America is take all good ideas to excess. I feel like we’re at that moment now, where as a business culture and I think as young people working their way through the world, we have developed such a culture of reverence around the Silicon Valley genius, where two or three people become overnight billionaires. It’s kind of the selfie generation taken to an extreme in terms of the talent economy. I worry that in terms of individual talented people, particularly younger ones, they’ve begun to devalue tremendous impact of being part of something bigger than them-

2006: Published “Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win”

selves; not just starting your own little company, but maybe having a chance to be part of a big, important, relevant cause.

ucts, but how to do business in today’s environment. Where does talent — the people who make up the business — fit into that?

I hope that we’re going to be on the verge of people recognizing that there is still a tremendously important place for bigger, more established organizations. For them to make themselves more ap-


There’s always a dance between companies having a really clear sense of identity about who they are, how they compete, why they expect to win, and then what

I THINK WE’VE LOST A SENSE OF THE POWER OF PEER-TO-PEER RELATIONSHIPS TO ELEVATE, ENERGIZE AND REALLY TRANSFORM OUR WORKPLACES AND OUR APPROACH TO TALENT. pealing, more relevant, more alluring to the most talented young people in the economy, to say, “You can come here and do your best work, be surrounded by people who bring out the best in you, feel a sense of ownership and freedom over your own life, but really have an opportunity to contribute to something really, really important.” And for young people, I hope more and more of them recognize the value and promise of devoting themselves to an enterprise bigger than they could establish sitting around their kitchen table. TE :

“Simply Brilliant” describes for leaders not only how to innovate prod-

2011: Published “Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself”

that means for the kinds of people, the kinds of talent that thrive in that environment and around those ideas. There’s always this question of if you want to be a great company, does that automatically mean you have to be a great place to work? Do you have to be a great magnet for talent? The answer is, “Well, yeah, but not for everybody.” In other words, if you’re really clear as a company about the kinds of products and services you’re offering that nobody else can offer, the kinds of promises you’re making

2016: Published his latest book “Simply Brilliant”


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to your customers that nobody else can make, that means you have to be equally clear about the kinds of people who are capable of developing those products and services and delivering on those promises. They may be wonderfully smart, wonderfully talented, wonderfully gifted

In some sense, I genuinely believe it should be the most dynamic, creative and disciplined because you can’t do great things in the marketplace unless you first build something great in the workplace. TE :

In the book you talk about how the


people, but their sense of how they want to operate in the world, their personal values, their work styles, their attitudes, simply don’t sync up to what you’re trying to achieve. To me, the most important question companies who are serious about the talent factor have to answer are not “How do we make ourselves attractive to great people?” but before that, “How do we know a great person when we see one? What are the kinds of mindsets, skillsets, attributes that we think people need to demonstrate such that they could become superstars in our organization because what makes them tick is so in sync with what makes our organization tick?” This remains the great and the greatest missed opportunity in organizational life today. So many companies I visit simply don’t treat the talent function in business with the level of seriousness or commitment with which they treat R&D, finance [or] marketing. In far too many organizations, it remains in many respects the least dynamic, the least creative and, strangely enough, the least disciplined of all the different business functions. 20

word innovation is overused. What have you seen makes a company truly innovative, and what can business leaders learn from their talent strategies? TAYLOR:

I spend most of my life as a researcher, as a writer and as a Fast Company founder, inside some of the most creative, dynamic, transformational, “innovative” organizations in the world, and what strikes me is none of them actually use this word, innovation, very much. For them, capital-I Innovation is not a department. It’s not a special team. It’s not a six-month program to develop new spin offs to existing products. It is just an ongoing way of life, where people understand that the work of leadership is in some fundamental way every single day the work of change. What you’re trying to do is to create at every level an organization, a culture, a sense of excitement about

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and commitment to the future where people are constantly tinkering, experimenting, asking, “What if?,” looking for all kinds of ways to build on the company’s past successes even as they build out new products, new services, new offerings, a new point of view about the future. The idea of being in a state of constant renewal for the future is just the natural state of being inside those organizations. Now, to put a little more meat on that bone, to me, what it really comes down to is the most healthy, successful and — dare I say “innovative” — cultures I’ve found, are the cultures which give the most people the most freedom to fail. There is no innovation without failure. Innovation is about learning. Innovation is about experimenting. Innovation is about personal and intellectual growth, seeing things you didn’t see six months or a year ago, but what’s possible with your market, new ways to reach a segment of customers, new ways to shift some offerings to present something fresh to the marketplace. The healthiest cultures I know, leaders exude in all kinds of ways — large

and small — that it’s OK here to try things that don’t work out because that’s how you get to the things that do work and the big innovations that everybody recognizes. I’ll wrap it up as follows: The most innovative cultures I’ve gotten to know are cultures and leaders that somehow figure out how to communicate to people that innovation begins to happen when people deep in their bones begin to feel that the risk of trying something new is less than the cost of clinging to the status quo. That is a big shift in culture and mindset for most established organizations today, but I genuinely believe it’s the shift in culture and mindset in talent management that creates the opportunity for growth and innovation going forward. TE :

What talent strategies do you think will be most important for companies to best compete in the talent economy in the future? TAYLOR:


I’m not sure if this is a strategy as much as it is a sensibility. I have come to believe that in a world which in so many ways — and certainly inside the workplace — is being reshaped every day by disruptive technology, what people are so hungry for today is a greater, more authentic sense of humanity. So many leaders and organizations look to the workplace and their approach to talent, and they say, “How can we make everything we do more efficient, more professional, more functional, more crisp?” I believe the real magic happens today when leaders ask themselves, “How do we make everything we do more memorable for our colleagues to encounter and engage in? What is the emotional and psychological contract we’re establishing between the organization, the people who work here and the peer-to-peer commitments that

people are making to one another about the sense of identity and personal engagement they bring to the workplace?” We’ve become so obsessed as a business culture with outsourcing, automation, apps, artificial intelligence, algorithms. These are all tremendously effective tools. But I think we’ve lost a sense of the power of peer-to-peer relationships to elevate, energize and really transform our workplaces and our approach to talent. I fear in the age of the smart machine, if you will, we’ve kind of turned our eye away from the f lesh

and blood power of human-to-human connection. I do hope that in this age being so reshaped by technology, a next piece of the agenda for leadership and organizations in terms of talent is rediscovering our shared humanity and making our workplaces and our commitments to one another more authentic, more meaningful, more emotional and psychological than they’ve ever been. I think that gives you a kind of a human platform to do remarkable things in the marketplace. Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email

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Today’s political polarization has sparked a renewed sense of activism among business leaders. But such activism should also come with a strong dose of caution.


n Jan. 27, President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order closing U.S. borders to people from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending acceptance of Syrian refugees indefinitely. The news sparked protests en mass around major U.S.

airports, blocking traffic as protestors chanted “No hate, no fear. Refugees are welcome here.” Drivers of local taxis and ride-hailing firm Lyft Inc. joined in the protests at JFK International Airport; both went on strike in support of the city’s largely immigrant workforce. According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, only 6 percent of drivers in 2014 were from the U.S. The ride-hailing service’s co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, denounced the order, writing in an email to customers that “Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft and our nation’s core values.” They went on to say that they “will not be silent on issues that threaten the value of our community.”

At least 153 other large and midsize companies made similar public statements regarding the ban, according to Weber Shandwick Inc., a communications firm, and 84 percent of the statements came directly from those companies’ chief executive officers. Furthermore, 48 percent of firms took an action in response to the ban, which was later revised after legal scrutiny. Lyft donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Meanwhile, Lyft’s rival, Uber Technologies Inc., didn’t halt service during the protests, a move that sparked criticism of its then-CEO, Travis Kalanick, who was also under fire for joining Trump’s economic advisory council. These actions — including a Twitter campaign of #DeleteUber — resulted in a 7 percent larger customer base for Lyft between late January and mid-March, according to the

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Los Angeles Times. Under pressure from employees, Kalanick quit the council six days after the travel ban’s announcement. “There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration, but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that,” Kalanick wrote in an email to employees, according to The New York Times. The corporate reaction to Trump’s travel ban comes amid a wave of renewed political and social activism from the business community, particularly from those in the C-suite. Even before Trump’s surprise November 2016 election — an event that showed how divided Americans are on a number of issues — corporate chiefs had shown a penchant for speaking out on social issues, even those with seemingly little direct inf luence on their companies’ business interests. Still, CEOs who take a public stand on hot-button issues face a delicate balancing act, experts say. On the

one hand, CEOs should be able to express themselves freely when they feel passionate about an issue. On the other hand, they need to convey those messages in a way that doesn’t alienate employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders. “It’s complicated,” said Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, a performance marketing firm headquartered in Boston. If a CEO were to announce that they support a political candidate, and many of their employees do not agree, workers could feel that their values don’t align with their boss’ values. Instead, business leaders should make statements around how social issues and behavior of political candidates align to their values. The best time to make a statement is when there’s clear alignment with or away from a company’s culture and values. “Then I’d actually expect a CEO to either comment on things that are congruous or incongruous with those values, without making a political point out of it, per se,” Glazer said. Employees should hear or read a CEO’s statement and think, “Politics aside, that totally supports why I work here and why I believe in this company,” Glazer said. Technology industry workers, for instance, joined in protests against the travel ban in droves. They felt particularly compelled to protest because the industry’s talent pool is f lush with immigrants. According to the “2016 Silicon Valley Index” from Joint Venture Silicon Valley, the tech hub’s population is 37.4 percent foreign-born residents, compared to the national average of 13.3 percent. Furthermore, the National Foundation for American Policy has researched startups in the U.S. valued at $1 billion or more in its study, “Immigrants and Billion Dollar Startups,” and found that at least one immigrant founder contributed to the success of 51 percent of these companies. “This illustrates the increasing importance and contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy,” the report stated. If skilled talent is in short supply, employees could potentially go so far as to demand that their leadership act on behalf of the workers. Grassroots organizations like Tech Workers Coalition and Tech Solidarity provide ways for those in the industry to connect with their communities, as well as join together to influence CEO behavior. “Our goal is collective action by employees,” Tech Solidarity founder Maciej Ceglowski stated, according to a March article in Quartz. Ceglowski went on to say that these highly skilled workers threatening to leave their employers act as a leverage tool to prevent companies from agreeing to government policies that don’t act in their best interests.


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Starbucks Corp. is another company that’s known for its socially conscious CEO, so much so that when Kevin Johnson took over for Howard Schultz on April 3, he knew speaking about issues would be part of his role. With this transition, if employees felt that their leadership no longer supported the causes they care about, how would they react? Johnson acknowledged that part of the company’s talent strategy is to be vocal about issues that affect his workers and align to their principles. “It helps us attract great talent, but it also shows that we care about helping create opportunities for people,” Johnson said in an April interview with The Wall Street Journal. “One of the reasons people come to work at Starbucks is because we stand for something. It’s about human connection and having a sense of humanity.” However, this approach may not work for leaders of companies in other industries, nor is it applicable to all geographic areas of the country. “Culture underlies all of this,” Acceleration Partners’ Glazer said. In Silicon Valley near San Francisco, politics mixes with many areas of life, whereas people in sleepy, rural towns might not react as positively to discussing societal issues in the office, Glazer said. For example, companies in Silicon Valley that rely on immigrants to fill open roles will likely see more job applications when a CEO sticks their neck out on this issue. Meanwhile, a CEO leading a company located in a more rural, homogeneous part of the country might not be met with similar enthusiasm, since many workers in those areas have a less favorable view of immigration’s inf luence on the workforce, Glazer said.

Why now?

The stakes related to CEO activism these days are higher thanks to today’s robust digital ecosystem. Whether it’s product details, company earnings, employee sentiments or a CEO’s background, information today is easily accessible via a quick online search or scroll through social media. This democratization of information means customers and prospective employees can gather many pieces of information when they decide to support a business, according to Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global practice leader at research and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson. “We also increasingly are asking the question of is this a good company?” Beyond what they sell, companies that contribute to the betterment of society are becoming more popular. “All of those things sort of come together to form a composite view of the organization in my mind,” Jesuthasan said. These trends put an impetus on organizations to be open and honest about their beliefs. “In the past, you could maybe

CEOs should be able to express themselves when they feel passionate about an issue but in a way that doesn’t alienate employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders. just rely on providing a good product and not need to disclose some of those other things about your organization or your leadership,” Jesuthasan said. “Versus today, it’s awfully difficult to hide anything.” Also, polarizing political discourse around the world now requires corporate leaders to be more visible about their views and perspectives, he said. Although some leaders might not be comfortable speaking out on sensitive issues, avoiding the conversation can be damaging as well. “I think the recent rise of a number of CEOs coming out and taking positions maybe puts a spotlight on those who don’t, particularly within a similar industry,” Jesuthasan said. For those CEOs who do vocalize their stances, they could benefit from a halo of social activism, sparking increased support from employees and customers. “The recruitment brand, quite honestly, is shaped by what CEOs say or don’t say,” said Justin Hirsch, president and HR executive search lead for Jobplex Inc., a DHR International company focused on executive search and project recruitment. Prospective applicants often read or hear CEO commentary on an issue and they make judgments based on how they align. “It creates the feeling of what they’re perceiving as the corporate culture represented by the CEO,” Hirsch said. If aligned to the CEO’s stance, the candidate becomes more excited about working at that company and being among its culture; if they’re not aligned, that can work against the recruiting effort. “I’ve seen it work both positive, and I’ve S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


seen it impact negatively a potential candidate’s experience,” Hirsch said. Outside of CEOs going out of their way to vocalize their more passionate viewpoints, there is a tactical side to executive activism that is important for leaders to engage in. CEOs looking to take a more calculated approach to social activism can look at it by identifying safe and dangerous topics to engage on.

In September 2016, AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson passionately spoke with his employees about race during a companywide diversity event. Prior to making the speech, which supported the Black Lives Matter movement, Stephenson ran it by colleagues and friends, many of whom were minorities, according to an onstage interview he gave at the annual Great Place to Work conference in Chicago in May. The speech encouraged more open conversations about race at the company and outside of work. A video of the talk taken by an employee quickly went viral online.

One safe topic that tends to excite job candidates is outward support for military veterans. “It’s a bit more

“Sadly, racial tension is ripping apart the very fabric of our communities right now,” Stephenson said in the

What should leaders vocalize?

For CEOs who vocalize their stances, they could benefit from a halo of social activism, sparking increased support from employees and customers. inspiring in getting a candidate to really engage. As recruiters, we pivot, and we highlight that,” Hirsch said. Other safe causes to support are those around issues that most reasonable people can agree are universally good or bad, said Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing, a brand strategy consultancy based in Austin, Texas. This includes supporting pet adoption, ending child sex trafficking and researching cures for cancer and other dangerous diseases, among others. Still, executives should proceed with caution. “When you speak out about a particular social issue, you are basically branding yourself alongside that particular issue,” Gabor said. Treat the decision to speak out as if it were any other marketing arrangement, working diligently to understand the company’s ecosystem internally and externally to mitigate any potential loss of support. Naturally, it’s not only the CEO who is leading the company; they must also answer to board members and other executives. Public companies must also answer to shareholders. “Investors are kind of a customer of the company,” Gabor said. When it comes to appeasing them while also speaking out, there are many factors that determine the success of this approach. Financial arrangements make a big impact on this, Gabor said, and if the company is in good financial standing, a CEO could have more leverage to speak their mind. 26

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speech, according to the video. “Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and to not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments, without being challenged. Do not tolerate each other. Work hard, move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other.” Stephenson’s speech, which he never intended to make public, drew wide applause from employees and observers of the video. It took Stephenson months to read all the emails he received as a result of the speech, according to his remarks onstage at the Great Place to Work event. Regardless of how active a CEO is on social issues, they have to be prepared for the fact that not all of their stakeholders will agree with them. George Polisner, an employee at Oracle for more than 15 years, resigned from the company after CEO Safra Catz joined the then President-elect Trump’s transition team. In an open letter on LinkedIn posted on December 19, 2016, Polisner wrote, “I am not with President-elect Trump and I am not here to help him in any way. In fact — when his policies border on the unconstitutional, the criminal and the morally unjust — I am here to oppose him in every possible and legal way. Therefore I must resign from this once great company.” Polisner’s resignation shows that business leaders should carefully consider where they focus their efforts, while also being prepared for the inevitable talent attrition that may result.

Gabor’s Sol Marketing does pro bono work for some nonprofits, including her office’s local NPR station. She and her employees feel strongly about the mission of public radio, especially with the spread of fake news that readers see today. “Employees will join the bandwagon, mostly because I make them. It’s part of their job, and they like it,” Gabor said. However, every organization that they work with has to be something that ultimately aligns with Sol’s brand. Decisions to take on pro bono work go through the same criteria as when they choose paying clients. Therefore, employees don’t have issues devoting time to these projects, Gabor said. Such careful consideration is important when it comes to CEO social activism. The messaging around the issue should be thoughtful, not lip service. Gabor saw the intense, immediate online backlash from the April 2017 Pepsi commercial, which portrayed Kendall Jenner leaving a photoshoot and then seemingly repairing tension with police by handing them a can of Pepsi at a Black Lives Matter protest. The ad missed the mark. Commenters online mocked the simplification and outward commercialization of the issue. While it can be beneficial for brands to align with the social issues that represent the values held by their target audiences, how they go about conveying those messages is equally important. This applies to internal company policies as well. Thinx Inc., a company that creates women’s underwear for use during menstruation, initially branded itself as a feminist startup. “I think about feminism through innovation and I think about it by offering products and inventing things that support women and make them feel less shame about themselves,” the company’s founder, Miki Agrawal, said in a March 2017 interview with Stephen J. Dubner, host of the “Freakonomics” podcast. “But I don’t necessarily wear the badge loudly and proudly. And I do — I am a feminist. But I don’t have to wear that ‘Feminist AF’ sweater to be a feminist. You know what I mean?” Unfortunately for her employees, they felt that her feminism stopped there. Nearly a third of her staff quit between January and March 2017, citing subpar pay, sparse benefits and unpleasant working conditions, according to a March 29 report from Quartz. Chelsea Leibow, a former Thinx employee, filed a complaint with the New York City’s Commission on Human Rights alleging Agrawal touched employees’ breasts and made inappropriate comments, according to New

York magazine. Agrawal then faced an inquiry from her board and an onslaught of criticism. Her brand’s messaging obviously didn’t align with her behavior at the workplace. She stepped down as CEO mid-March.

How should leaders decide what to say?

When Sol Marketing’s Gabor advises clients who express interest in corporate responsibility, she tells them first and foremost to know their audience, and to ask themselves the following questions when considering speaking out on a social or political issue: • W hat is it going to say about us as an organization that we align with this social issue? • W hat does it say about customers who use that brand that is associated with an issue? • Will we lose people along the way? If customers and employees depart from the company, be ready to lose them. “I want them to look outside and inside the organization and make sure that that’s something that is going to be sustainable for them in terms of their ability to attract both talent and customers,” Gabor said. “This really is a case of know your audience.” Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email

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To properly equip talent for today’s business challenges, leaders are going to have to rethink how they design their learning experiences.


ave you ever wondered why so few of the amazing people you hire actually become amazing?

When asked how many of their people are peak performers, most leaders say 10 to 15 percent. What would change if 50 to 80 percent of new talent were able to rise to their full potential?


What if people brought their brains to work and leveraged their greatest gifts? Wouldn’t it be great to drive greater engagement, retention and innovation — and also build lasting relationships among team members? According to research from Mike Song, founder of, 43 percent of meeting time is wasted. If the average professional attends three hours of meetings per day and works 245 days per year, that’s about 316 wasted hours per person per year. Now think about the cost to every organization whose people say one of their least favorite things is going to meetings or having to take a day off for training. I have a theory about why so many people dislike meetings and train-

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ing sessions. Do you ever walk by a meeting room and glance in at the participants? If you’re a movie buff like I am, you immediately think of the film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” People are in a state of what I call “ocular lock” — they are staring straight ahead at the well-meaning leader in the front of the room who is talking and running through slides. What are the participants thinking about? Their to-do list, a project they should be working on or what plans they have the upcoming weekend are all likely possibilities. An organization is only as strong as its talent. Apathy, mental fatigue and a lack of active learning and practice keep skills from truly being applied.

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This results in innovative spirits being repeatedly crushed until the most promising talent runs the risk of becoming one of the above listed statistics. And their brilliance resides close to the surface, waiting to emerge. Often the secret to powerful instruction is engagement — involving learners in activities where they interact with new content, wrestle with concepts and teach those concepts to others. Learner-centered classrooms are alive with energetic activity as learners think out loud, conceive their own models for understanding and practice applying those models. The learners talk more while the teacher talks and presents less, because the teacher knows the ones who are doing the talking are doing the learning. Of 11 factors that positively inf luence employee engagement, the quality of training and learning opportunities ranks No. 1, according to the Association for Talent Development. Even so, people aren’t satisfied with the quality of the learning experiences they receive. So how can a leader, trainer or facilitator create more opportunities for people to unleash their brilliance?

The Brilliance Learning System

Learners need a systematic, engaging learning plan whereby they do the rigorous work of gaining needed skills and information so that they can be successful at work. This process must create a strong neural connection to the new information that results in changed beliefs, behaviors and skills.


Any time a leader or trainer brings people together to learn or develop, there is an opportunity to connect, inspire and engage. It starts with understanding people in the learning-teaching relationship. People are the foundation of learning relationships. Both the teacher and the person being taught have unique and diverse learning preferences that must be assessed to capture an optimal learning experience. More than 20 years of research on learning preferences through a rigorous assessment from the producers of the “Building Excellence” survey at discov-

Often the secret to powerful instruction is engagement — involving learners in activities where they interact with new content, wrestle with concepts and teach those concepts to others.

For the past 30 years, I have been honing the Brilliance Learning System — a strategy that increases innovation, connectivity and retention of information and drives learning throughout organizations. It is a human-centered design of interactions that influence and inspire learners. The Brilliance Learning System can be used to teach in any learning situation. It can be used to coach one person, to facilitate a virtual sales meeting with a global team, to train a roomful of people or to give a keynote address to thousands. Its principles apply to a 30-minute meeting and a four-day training session. This system can help anyone develop a clear, high-impact training design; analyze learner and teacher needs; ensure compliance with key outcomes; and send people out into the world feeling empowered to change their lives. In short, the Brilliance Learning System is the intersec30

tion of people, content and design. Let’s take a closer look at each component.

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ered that only about five percent of the population show up as strong auditory processors, while more than 50 percent are strong tactual, kinesthetic or verbal learners. Teachers and learners must carve out time together for being active, doing and talking — not just sitting and watching slides go by. People must get involved in sketching out ideas, answering questions and interacting with each other. This type of learning maximizes participants’ ability to learn and retain information. As people connect with each other and learn together, trust is increased and relationships are built — and this synergy accelerates development. Typically, people spend around 70 percent of their time on what they’re going to teach and only 30 percent of their time on how they’re going to teach it. But the teacher or leader needs to spend 70 percent of their time designing

how they’re going to inspire participants in meetings or trainings to ensure the highest level of involvement, active learning and retention. Questions for leaders to answer about people are: Who are the people who need to be trained? What are their needs? Experience? Receptiveness to learning? Objectives for coming to the class? Who are the people doing the training? Do they know how to teach? What do they believe about teaching and learning?


The next critical step for creating a learning organization — one that leverages every learning opportunity and ensures people are taught how to be successful, not just told what to do — is to focus on the content of the meeting or training session. The leader or facilitator must first consider the doing objectives. It’s not just about what people need to know — it’s about what people need to do differently after this time together. Once the learners have a vision of what they need to do differently, then come the learning objectives — what they need to learn, what information needs to be available and what resources will help them learn what they need to do. The content should be organized in the way the brain learns best. To do this, a leader should come up with a memorable strategy for optimal learning, such as three steps or an acronym Questions to answer about content include: What organizational problem needs to be solved through training? What do people need to be able to do after they leave? To do that, what do they need to know or learn?


Design begins the implementation of the 70-30 principle. The leader needs to spend 70 percent of their time focusing on how to best use the training or meeting time. The goal is for people to walk out the door already having practiced

doing what the leader needs them to do after this learning time together.

The ENGAGE Model

Designing a high-impact meeting or training session that will drive engagement and bring out people’s brilliance involves using the six-step ENGAGE model: E: Energize Learners. N: Navigate Content. G: Generate Meaning. A: Apply Learning to Real World. G: Gauge and Celebrate. E: Extend Learning to Action This model replaces the mundane sit-and-get training style with relevant, activity-based learning. The ENGAGE model also helps leaders go from telling to teaching. Let’s investigate each of the six steps.

Energize Learners

Energizing learners is the first step to engaging people in the learning experience. It is about tapping into the S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


part of their brain that has information stored on what they are about to learn as well as generating excitement for this new information. Energizing learners needs to happen both before the learners show up and immediately upon their arrival. Before the learners show up: In K-12 education, the best teachers often give kids a question, a quiz or some reading to get them fired up for the next day. Every Friday, for instance, my son’s first grade teacher would share an exciting concept such as, “On Monday we’re going to start a unit on chemistry. So this weekend I’d like you to ask people what is chemistry?” What’s the difference between those children and the other classes who didn’t have that pre-work? Mrs. Shuffleton’s class was fired up and couldn’t wait to share what they learned. On Monday morning they wanted to get right into learning the new content.

the information and can teach each other. This active participation leverages verbal and kinesthetic learning preferences and accelerates learners’ abilities to absorb and use new information. Remember: The ones who are doing the talking are doing the learning. The more that people participate in the learning process, the more they will learn. Trainers need to make it easy for learners to know what a good job looks like. They might say, “Today we’re going to learn six steps (or three strategies) for creating a powerful webinar.” The leader creates a target with manageable steps so that learners feel they’re making progress and are re-energized by each task completion. Navigating content is where leaders teach and review all the information they want participants to learn. At

This reticular activation keeps leaders from having to spend time getting participants pumped up — they’re ready to dive right into the content as soon as they walk in the door. For example, a facilitator might send participants a pre-assessment survey or questionnaire about the skills they will be learning, along with a list of expected outcomes. Immediately upon arrival: When a leader fires people up ahead of time, people show up at an event ready to participate — so the leader has to engage those learners the moment they arrive. How? By asking a powerful question and having them line up at a flip chart and write their answers or create teams and share their thoughts.

Navigate Content

This part of the ENGAGE model is where the leader or trainer actually teaches what learners should know so that they can do what they need to do. Bear in mind that this is where people leaders often have a tendency to tell versus teach. As I work with leaders on using ENGAGE, I often hear them say, “How are people going to learn if I don’t tell them all the information?” Remember that only 5.4 percent of the population are strong auditory processors. The instructor must create assets, participant materials and other manipulative elements so that the learners have 32

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the same time, they are building a community of practitioners. As the group works together to solve problems using the new content, the trainer is not only teaching but also connecting team members to each other.

Generate Meaning

Participants have now learned the important content they need to know to perform at their highest level. The next step in the ENGAGE model moves the learning to action. This is where learners generate the meaning and relevancy of this learning for their life to ensure longterm retention. If these were passive learners, the leader would tell them the meaning for their lives. But they are active learners so they tell the leader the meaning, which increases the likelihood of a behavioral change.

In this step, the teacher reminds the learners of their objectives and asks them, “How might what you just learned enable you to be more successful?” or “What part of what you just learned is most beneficial to your goals?” Participants thinking about the importance or meaning of the new learning in their lives increases the likelihood of behavioral change. Their interpretation of the value of the content will generate buy-in and set them up to apply their learning in a real world example.

Apply Learning to Real World

The next step of the ENGAGE model brings learners as close as possible to doing the exact behavior the leader wants them to do back on the job. This stage is critical to ensure behavioral change. Here is where learners become familiar with new actions they need to take to use their new knowledge when they go back to work. The facilitator creates scenarios or activities where people in groups of two or three model the new behaviors or skills, get immediate feedback and then try again. Practice builds new neural connections to the new behaviors needed for job-specific success. This step is missing from most training situations. Very often people are taught content and then simply told, “Now go back to work and use it.” For the facilitator, the work is in creating activities the participants need to do in order to practice exactly what will set them up for success. This step helps learners feel confident and also helps the instructor know if their teaching was clear, concise and actionable. If people have difficulty applying what they have learned, the leader unearths the cause of the limitation and reteaches the segment. Or, if one or two teams are successful in the new behavior, they can do a demonstration for the class.

Gauge and Celebrate

When people learn something new and feel confident about their new knowledge and skills, they can’t wait to share how smart they are. This step of the ENGAGE model is where confident professionals assess and celebrate their new talents. Leaders may give quizzes or play games to help people see how much they’ve learned. Not only does this make people feel good and build relationships with classmates, it also celebrates learners’ readiness to tackle the next needed change.

Extend Learning to Action

The final step to ensure talent continues to become more and more skilled is to extend the learning to action and keep it top of mind. In the first five steps, the leader has been in charge of creating a learning environment that enables people to acquire and share new knowledge and skills. Now is the time to help the learners build a community of practice.

Learners need a systematic, engaging plan whereby they do the rigorous work of gaining needed skills and information so that they can be successful at work. Sharing success stories, lunch-and-learns and other supportive activities will keep the learning alive and celebrate its impact on organizational and team success. Can this model be used in a virtual situation? Absolutely. It is the same premise as a face-to-face meeting. It starts with the doing objectives and then the leader leverages the technology to follow the ENGAGE model. After the interactive online session, people feel connected at a deeper level. They learned the material, had a chance to be vulnerable and build relationships with people on their team and enjoyed themselves. People like to feel smart. They love to learn, speak knowledgeably about something new and wrestle with an idea until it becomes theirs. Brilliant feelings transfer to taking on greater learning risks, exploration and innovative thinking. Learning drives transformations that enable people to step into their power. The best learning organizations are places where people want to do their best every day. Learning to design meetings and workshops with the ENGAGE model might feel different for people initially. Being a great teacher is like being a great athlete: it is a constant challenge, but someone who is willing to learn and grow will keep getting better. Hard work and practice make all the difference in being the kind of leader and teacher who transforms lives. Victoria Halsey is the vice president of applied learning for Ken Blanchard Cos. To comment, email

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Talent, the World Over


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Is the Global Free Trade on Talent Coming to an End? Britain’s looming independence from the European Union and fresh interest in nationalist economic policies in the United States has global businesses reconsidering their talent strategies. BY MICHELLE V. RAFTER


t didn’t take long for fallout from last year’s Brexit vote to cross the Atlantic Ocean from London straight into Nicole Sahin’s Boston office.

Sahin’s staffing firm manages salespeople and other overseas employees for U.S.-based multinationals and high-growth technology firms. Within three months of Great Britain’s June 2016 decision to leave the European Union, clients were asking for help reworking their talent strategies. London became a mecca for multinationals’ EU headquarters after the organization’s origin in 1993. But once Brexit is completed in 2019, it won’t be as easy for EU citizens to travel between the United Kingdom and their home countries. That means it will be less efficient for organizations to center EU operations there, said Sahin, founder and CEO of Globalization Partners. “They’re spreading out their sales teams,” she said. “They’re hiring maybe one person in Germany, one in the Netherlands and one in Ireland.” The nationalist, protectionist politics embodied by Brexit and championed in the United States by President Donald J. Trump are now spreading elsewhere around the world. It’s a seismic shift from decades of globalism that encouraged the free flow of talent throughout the world. The shift is giving corporate leaders pause by forcing them to reconsider who and where they hire — a change that could lead to a significant, global talent management reboot.

“The concerns are huge,” said Katherine Jones, a partner and director of talent research at consulting firm Mercer. “They’re widespread. They cross a huge variety of industries and many kinds of job roles, more than we would have expected.” The anti-globalist sentiment is a reaction to long-held economic theories that supported the idea of a global supply chain and the outsourcing and talent mobility that stemmed from it. But while free trade and open borders may have made some portions of the population better off, people whose jobs where concentrated in sectors adversely effected by globalization and the rise of automation technology — namely, manufacturing and other low-skilled occupations — suffered mightily. “They couldn’t find a place in this new world of globalization,” said Steven Tobin, a senior economist with the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency based in Geneva that works on labor and human rights issues. But closing the borders and clamping down on trade could exacerbate the problem rather than fix it if the larger dilemma of supporting underserved communities isn’t dealt with, Tobin said. Either way, “It raises questions about movement of talent,” he said.

Reshaping the Talent Economy

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the U.S., where the Trump administration’s nationalist doctrine has led to promises of tighter immigration and trade policies that threaten to throw existing talent structures for a loop. Although the administration’s efforts to this point have remained largely symbolic — Trump has signed executive orders supporting a more nationalist agenda, but has yet to pass significant legislation on that front through Congress — anticipation of what’s to come has business leaders guarding against profound implications for the talent economy, both in the U.S. and abroad. S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


Requests from earlier this year for H-1B visas from U.S. companies that want to hire highly skilled foreign workers for tech and other positions dropped for the first time in five years, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that runs the program. After the Trump administration announced a series of measures to crack down on H-1B abuses, Indian outsourcers that have been among the biggest users of the visa program to staff stateside operations announced they would switch tactics, including hiring thousands of U.S. workers, and possibly offshoring more work. Historically, U.S. companies have relied on H-1B visas to hire the best and brightest foreign students graduating from American university STEM programs. However, the new administration’s anti-immigrant policies have fewer students from India, China and the Middle East applying to U.S. colleges and universities, one reason total applications from foreign students dropped 38 percent for fall 2017, according to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Bad for Small Employers, Good for Gig Workers

In the U.S., tech companies are among the first coming to terms with the Trump administration’s nationalist policies. If they can’t move people as freely between countries as they used to, not only will it make them rethink where their physical workplaces should be but it will intensify competition for available top talent, ILO’s Tobin said. This is likely to be toughest on small- and midsize companies. Smaller companies traditionally have been big employment generators, but that advantage will be eliminated if they aren’t able to compete with larger companies on talent, he said.

Historically, U.S. companies have relied on H-1B visas to hire the best and brightest foreign students from American STEM programs.

Across the globe, the uncertainty created by the current political climate will affect some industries more than others. British health care enterprises, for instance, employ significant numbers of documented foreign-born employees. Because of Brexit, those workers are uncomfortable with the ambiguity of their positions and are looking for opportunities that will move them back to their home countries, according to Jones, who helps keep human resources executives at Mercer’s midsize and enterprise-level clients abreast of global human capital trends. “The discomfort in the individual employee is probably something politicians didn’t think about” when promoting nationalistic agendas, she said. On the more positive side, Trump’s pro-business stance and support for U.S. manufacturing, energy, defense and infrastructure industries could be a boon to those industries to step up hiring, said Fran Luisi, a partner at global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson and head of its U.S. HR practice. Meanwhile, the uncertainty leading up to the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential election caused companies to hit the pause button on C-suite hiring, Luisi said. Regardless of how organizations felt about the outcome, the results provided clarity they are now using to shape hiring plans, Luisi said. 36

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As companies grapple with replacing sources of lower-cost talent such as the H-1B visa program, it could lead to wider use of independent contractors in industries across the board, not just in information technology. The number of so-called gig workers is already increasing, and the current political climate could add to it, said Yvette Cameron, SAP/SuccessFactors senior vice president for strategy and corporate development. The changes have ramifications for the HR department, according to Cameron, whose team advises thousands of SAP/SuccessFactors customers worldwide on implications of current events on their own businesses. Historically, procurement managed contractors, but if gig workers become more integral to an organization’s workforce, the role should shift to HR. “It’s a chance for HR to take a new look at how they are staffing,” Cameron said. High-level, high-wage workers aren’t the only employees affected by talent economy shifts to a more nationalist, protectionist agenda. Stepped up deportation of undocumented aliens, Trump’s idea to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and potential tariffs on foreign imports threaten an already beleaguered agricultural industry workforce. Farmers depend on migrants to pick berries and avocados — jobs U.S. workers haven’t shown much interest in. A broad-brush approach to immigration reform and tariffs on foreign goods doesn’t account for that, said Jones, the Mercer analyst. “If everyone who picks avocados goes home, and we have a tax on food coming from Mexico — where avocados are also grown — you and I won’t have guacamole we can afford for the rest of this administration,” she said. If undocumented workers are deported and migrant laborers are afraid to travel here to work, it affects not just their

jobs but jobs in industries that support them, like retail. In families, if one parent is legal and the other isn’t, “they’ll all go home or go underground,” Jones said. Filling the vacuum those workers would leave behind isn’t as simple as moving in people who were laid off when U.S. companies downsized or took work offshore. Even if people are unemployed, they might not want the jobs, be willing to relocate to where jobs are or have the right training, she said. Add an ongoing shortage of talent in many other areas, “and it’s a huge mess,” Jones said.

A More Adaptable Workforce

Whether or not the era of Brexit and Trump directly affects them, organizations can use the opportunity to build more agile practices into their talent management strategies, said Cameron, the SAP/SuccessFactors SVP. As part of that effort, Cameron said companies should be constantly building and monitoring their talent pool so they have the right mix of candidates to draw from to respond to changes.

Companies also need to invest in mentorships, apprenticeships, feedback mechanisms and other forms of training for their entire workforce — employees and contractors — so people have the know-how required to adapt to changes, Cameron said. Sahin said Globalization Partners is already helping its clients adapt. The company has offices in 150 countries that handle employment paperwork, payroll, local taxes and anything else that comes up when a client company hires a new employee. Along with moving EU workers out of London to other European cities, Sahin said she is getting more requests for help relocating foreign-born employees of U.S. companies back to their home countries because they are afraid their visas won’t be granted or extended. When it comes to keeping up with changes, it pays to be flexible, Sahin said. As the current political climate takes shape, that’s an attitude more organizations could adopt for their own talent policies.


Global Talent Markets On The Rise? Developed and traditional emerging markets aside, these are two countries and one city-state executives should watch for talent. BY LAUREN DIXON


ith nearly 200 countries across the globe comprised of roughly 7.3 billion people, business leaders are not devoid of workers. However, for many businesses and industries, certain countries’ talent pools are a better fit than others. And while most leaders are well informed on the talent scope of most developed markets, what other, unsuspecting countries should they consider? A country’s strong gross domestic product, or GDP, and a large talent market are top-of-mind indicators for executives looking to enter new territory or source workers from a new part of the world. While many countries and territories were considered for this article, Talent Economy chose to include Poland, Singapore and Egypt for their large talent pools, geographic dispersion and growing gross domestic products. Data cited throughout this story comes from the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s “The World Factbook.”


Postcommunist Poland is a culture that thrives on struc-

ture. Over the past two decades, this cultural focus contributed to the creation of a strong business process outsourcing and shared services industry, as well as talent with finance and accounting expertise. “What follows on from that, naturally, has been that sort of process knowledge and technology knowledge combined [that] plays really well into the future of automation,” said David Poole, CEO of Symphony Ventures, a digital transformation consultancy based in London with an office in Kraków, Poland. Poland’s workforce of about 17.8 million people is a well-educated group with a 99.8 percent literacy rate. A strong education system and emphasis on linguistics has led many of the country’s citizens to learn a variety of Northern European languages, making many of them expert linguists. In 2012, 41 percent of the country’s 25- to 34-year-olds attained a university-level education, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and 53

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percent of its young people are expected to complete their university education. People in Poland are especially well educated in areas of information technology, engineering, economics, finance, natural sciences and medical sciences, according to Witold Orlowski, rector of the Vistula University in Warsaw, Poland, and chief economic adviser for PwC in Poland. “Poles are quite well educated and keen to work hard for their individual success,” Orlowski said. “However, they should show even more entrepreneurial skills, rather than accepting the relatively ‘safe’ career at the big corporations.” As a society, Poles aren’t keen on social capital, so areas for improvement in education include developing skills around effective teamwork and entrepreneurship, Orlowski said. Despite this well-educated talent market, countrywide unemployment stood at 9.6 percent in 2016. There are many constraints on companies looking to hire, Symphony Ventures’ Poole said, including strict rules around hours worked (no more than 48 per week), intellectual property, at least 20 days of annual leave, 26 weeks of parental leave at 60 percent of salary and benefits while sick. “I think from the employers’ perspective, it’s quite tedious to employ groups of people there.” Entrepreneurship also has been a slow build. “Generally speaking, a lot of the culture in Poland has not been around creativity and not been around creating things from scratch. It’s been around doing things according to the rules,” Poole said. Some of the lag in creativity is changing, Poole said, leading to an exciting business environment with an emerging startup scene. According to Startup Poland, there were 2,400 startups in the country in 2015, most working on software-as-a-service models via mobile applications, e-commerce and web services. While this is modest in comparison to Silicon Valley, Forbes magazine predicts that Poland will soon be a major European tech hub. Furthermore, the country’s growing middle class has sparked development in its marketing and hospitality industries, Poole said. Poland’s GDP has also been strong the past few years, with 2016 growth at 3.1 percent. Finally, the country was one of the few able to avoid recession in 2008-09, when the global financial crisis roiled the world economy.


The Egyptian workforce of nearly 32 million people learn very quickly, according to Adel Beshai, professor of eco38

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nomics and director of graduate program in economics at American University in Cairo, the country’s capital. However, with 27.8 percent of the population living below the poverty line in 2015, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Egyptians must get creative to survive. “Egyptians show their talent in the sense that necessity is the mother of invention,” Beshai said. Most of the country’s resources, including its talent, are centered on handicrafts, textiles, marble, steel and cement, meaning that the country is a huge market to corner. Its massive labor force recorded an unemployment rate of 13.1 percent in 2016; GDP growth stood strong at 4.2 percent in 2015 and 3.8 percent in 2016.

The main area where Egypt struggles is literacy, said Nicole Sahin, CEO of Globalization Partners, a global employment services company. According to CIA data, about 74 percent of the country can read; about 20 percent more of the country’s men than women are literate. Primary education enrollment is on the rise, but secondary education enrollment in the 2014-15 school year stood at just 60 percent, according to UNICEF Egypt. Many who don’t enroll in school live in poverty in rural areas. “The whole economy could improve by improving the access of education to lower-income individuals,” Sahin said, adding that well-educated workers tend to leave Egypt for career opportunities elsewhere.

Beshai believes that with expert outside management, Egypt’s workforce would be able to excel and increase its productivity greatly. “This combined with innate Egyptian talents and innate Egyptian resources, this country will be a heaven for any investor,” Beshai said. They learn fast, they are creative, and they can be easily given hope about more work, exports and income, he added.


In the late 1960s, Singapore began to invest in the semiconductor sector, paving the way for prosperity as the technology market grew exponentially in the decades to follow. Being a relatively open economy also helped the city-state evolve in industries like finance and energy, according to Jack Gao, a program economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a New York City-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on the relationship between finance and the economy. Although the city-state’s GDP growth stood at just 1.7 percent in 2016, its GDP per capita ranks fifth in the world at $87,100, compared to $57,300 in the U.S. The services sector makes up nearly 84 percent of Singapore’s roughly 3.6-million-person labor force, which boasted a healthy 2.1 percent unemployment rate in 2016. Education is also strong in Singapore, as the nation has a literacy rate of nearly 97 percent. Furthermore, the city-state excels in education. “A considerable amount of foreign talents were attracted at a relatively early age to Singapore because of education,” Gao said. Business and finance are popular choices for students, and many gain

internships early on in their college careers, thus preparing them for the business world. To further prime students for a post-collegiate career, teachers emphasize teamwork, leadership, community work and presentation skills. There’s also a movement to cultivate entrepreneurs and emulate Silicon Valley, Globalization Partners’ Sahin said. A focus on business, math and science has led to a lack of emphasis on liberal arts, however, so some schools are sending students to the U.S. to study how to think more creatively — a skill it sees as vital in producing more entrepreneurs. A foreign-friendly talent market also helps attract students who can find well-paying jobs in the city-state after graduation, Gao said. Still, the influence of foreign labor has a big effect on the social fabric of Singapore. Gao said politicians and citizens emphasize the importance of “Singaporeans First,” even going as far to start a political party under the tagline in 2014. “Relatively small and open economies have a canary in a coal mine effect to other parts of the world,” Gao said. Singapore must manage that balance of foreign and native talent very well if they want to keep growing. Areas for future growth in Singapore include transportation, as ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc. launched its first driverless taxis there in August 2016. Additionally, a cultural industry is emerging, Gao said, with a focus on literature, design and Singaporean food becoming more popular and bringing in revenue via arts-related events. And with the city-state scarce in natural resources, conservation is on the minds of government officials, which has lead to a rise in the clean technology industry.


Business Culture Lessons From Abroad American business culture can learn a lot from the norms and traditions from other countries. Here are three countries whose business culture norms are worth considering. BY ANDIE BURJEK


usiness culture in the United States is shaped by a number of different factors, often conforming around a series of familiar stereotypes. Given our country’s hard-working, capitalist roots, it’s no surprise that business culture in the U.S. is often perceived as a grueling, winner-take-all arena, led by hard-charging, highly competitive leaders. While the characteristics of business culture in the U.S.

are pervasive in some respects, they’re not representative of the norms developed by businesses born in other countries around the world. What can U.S. businesses learn from other countries’ business cultures? This article will highlight business culture norms from three countries — Thailand, Denmark and Nigeria — and examine the extent to which they are applicable to U.S.based firms. S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


Thailand’s Focus on Collectivism

Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has never been ensnarled in a conflict involving Western intervention. This is one reason why its culture is notably different than other Asian nations — and why its workplace culture is as well. Michael Chavez, who has done business in Asia for a decade, began working with a major Thai client in 2011. As the CEO of Duke Corporate Education, a global provider of executive education, Chavez noticed firsthand the distinctive culture differences between the American and Thai business cultures. One major difference in business culture is its focus on collectivism, which he said is at a different end of the spectrum from the American business ideal of individualism. Although Chavez said collectivism has some downsides, it also has many perks, like enhanced collaboration among workers.

Chavez said. “I don’t know if we’re going to adopt it the same way — nor should we — but there are aspects of it that would be very helpful.” Another aspect of Thai business culture is that it’s inherently purposeful. Individual employees are concerned about the well-being of the collective rather than their own individual achievements, and their primary, long-term focus is to leave a legacy for their company and their country, Chavez said. In a time where organizational culture, vision and purpose has become more front and center for American businesses, Thais already have a long history of those aspects incorporated in their business cultures. “They have this built-in advantage,” Chavez said.

Collectivism is a cultural tool common to Thai businesses allowing for shared thinking to solve complicated problems.

For instance, the more individualistic American may not be as willing to ask for help from others. In the U.S., workers have the tendency to think they need to persevere on their own when challenges arise. “That [attitude] I think will be more and more questioned as we move forward,” Chavez said. Collective environments and collaborative thinking are the best ways to solve problems as they grow larger and more complicated. “We are getting to problems that can’t be fixed by heroes or geniuses, but only by collectives,” Chavez said.

There are downsides to collectivism. Getting individuals to contribute to a conversation may be challenging. Also, some people may be nervous to make a different suggestion at the risk of being embarrassed. Chavez said it can slow things down and stagnate innovation if an individual isn’t willing to step up and share their ideas more openly. That being said, collectivism does allow for more effective collaboration, Chavez said. Even though the idea of individual contributors isn’t as widespread in Thailand, there is a collectivist way to develop conversation in a room and solve problems collaboratively. “There’s something about this collectivism that I think we’re going to have to learn from in Western cultures,” 40

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Finally, Chavez said Thailand has a very high-context culture. A high-context culture is more flexible and accommodating to the circumstances and allows someone making a decision to look at a situation more individually, Chavez said. America’s culture of particularism, or more linear thinking, is about things being done a certain, specific way and doesn’t take ambiguity into account.

Such linear thinking may be efficient in some ways, but it doesn’t work well when dealing with huge, complex, global problems, Chavez said. Like with collectivism, Chavez said, “I don’t think the way we absorb these concepts in the West will look anything like a Thai company. But we’re going to have to figure out how to absorb these highly-contextualized ways of working and principles-based ways of leading.”

Denmark’s Work-Life Boundaries

Denmark is another country that operates differently than America from a business culture perspective. It’s not the country people often think of when they think of economic powerhouses, but it’s a very economically strong country, according to Ken Siegel, president of The Impact Group, a Los Angeles-based group of business management psychologists. Working in Denmark the past five years has allowed Siegel to compare the differences between Danish and American business cultures.

Denmark is famous for a few resources: wind, water and herring. “What they’ve done is taken those kinds of resources and turned themselves into a country where they’re not in a lot of industries, but the industries they’re in, they dominate,” Siegel said. “And they dominate them because they build in a cultural level of pride and excellence and social connectivity that’s really unmatched in a lot of other countries.” The same idea of pride and social connectivity is something that permeates through the Danish workplace. The domination of companies in certain industries — for example, Maersk, the world’s largest shipping container company, and Vestas, the leader in wind energy — is in part due to the injection of the Danish cultural norm system into these businesses, Siegel said. There is also a downside to this laser-focused pride and loyalty. It can breed a sense of “stuckedness,” Siegel said, and there may be not enough external new blood to make different, innovative suggestions. Such pride bleeds into social interactions. “The level of commitment people have to their company is like the level of commitment they have to their families,” Siegel said. He gave the example of a friend talking about layoffs at a company. “I have to let my friends and colleagues know that we’re not going to be together anymore,” she said, which is more of a familiar approach to layoffs than a formal approach that may be favored by American companies.

Nigeria’s Religious Accommodations

In Nigeria, most corporations exist in a handful of major cities, such as Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Ibadan. Employees in the African country will migrate from the country to the city to get these jobs, at which they receive a number of allowances or accommodations and generally stay for a long time, according to Ahmed S. Mohammed, director of talent acquisition at Dartmouth College. Mohammed, son of a diplomat, was born in Togo and has lived all over the world and in many African countries including Nigeria. Although he currently works at Dartmouth, he still maintains contact with friends and colleagues in Nigeria. He also is a board member for a nonprofit called Leadership Initiatives, which does a lot of work in the Northern part of Nigeria. Nigerian businesses are also very keen on religious accommodations, Mohammed said. People in the country are generally more focused on their religious and spiritual lives. Christianity and Islam are the two major religions in the country and in the workplace; accommodations for those religions at work depend on the owners of the organization as well as the company’s location. In an organization with more workers who practice Islam, for example, employees are afforded time off for prayer five times a day. Workers in the country also rely heavily on their employers for financial support beyond a salary and basic benefits. It’s not uncommon, Mohammed said, for employers in the country to provided employees with a car or housing allowance.

Social connectivity has a few valuable benefits to companies. For starters, people tend to stay at companies longer. “In America, people rent companies. Not in Denmark,” Siegel said. People rely more on face-to-face communication than electronic communication. People eat lunch together, and the American construct of eating at one’s desk is uncommon. “Americans view that as an indication of dedication,” Siegel said. “The Danes see it as a measure of neurotic addiction.”

The housing allowance is something very different from American culture, though some companies do help relocating workers with expenses and temporary housing. In Nigeria, even in a lower-rung professional role, a job will come with a housing allowance that may cover up to all of the employee’s housing expenses for the year, Mohammed said. Nigerians appreciate these allowances, which help them with housing, transportation and even school for their children.

Danish workers tend to have a healthier sense of work-life balance than Americans. “When they’re at work, the intensity of what they do is high and their level of commitment, focus and performance is high, but they also seem to be able to leave that behind,” Siegel said.

One major difference between American and Nigerian business culture is the importance of social support. “In many cases, people will consider [this] more important than financial support in the workplace,” Mohammed said. For instance, if an employee has a major family event like a wedding, many people from work will attend. Or if an employee is experiencing financial difficulties, co-workers might support them by lending them money. The organization itself might have a program that allows someone to borrow money through a corporate-sponsored credit union, although this formal practice is not as common as the informal practice of co-workers providing direct financial assistance to each other.

Many aspects of Danish culture might not be as attractive to an uncompromising capitalist. For instance, many Danish companies operate like an extended family. They’re consensus-based where everyone gets a vote, which can make decision-making slow, Siegel said. Likewise, Danish firms tend to value a more constant and reliable way forward rather than a risky and uncertain but potentially innovative one. American companies with humanist values can take this Danish ideal that everyone has value in the decision-making process into consideration.

“I think that practice helps to solidify a commitment and loyalty within groups of the workplace,” Mohammed said, adding that people tend to stay a long time when they get a job. S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y



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Given the current global business climate, it is imperative that firms develop a leadership pipeline filled with global experience. The only way to do that is to have a robust and comprehensive global development assignment program.


emand for talent that can function in a global business environment is highly competitive. This is especially true for leaders and potential leaders who can

work effectively across cultures. Major surveys and studies by Development Dimensions International Inc., IBM Corp., Training magazine, Right Management, among others, conclude that cultural issues will dominate the new competencies required for global leaders over the next decade. In order to meet this requirement, global companies and their talent leaders are either making significant investments in global development assignments or are planning to do so. These assignments are complicated and expensive, and if not managed well present risk for the company and for those who take on these assignments. Company risk includes disruptions for the home country in the gaps left while the employee is on international assignment and the potential to not leverage the global learning that person is likely to achieve. Risks for the receiving country include not suc-

cessfully integrating the employee into its processes and not making use of new approaches presented by the assignee. Risk for international assignees includes not adapting to the culture of assignment, not fitting into the job role and ways of doing things in the new country, and the home country not valuing or maximizing the learning and growth achieved from the experience. The names and titles of those quoted in this article moving forward cannot be revealed due to confidentiality agreements. Furthermore, the people quoted were drawn from several sources that have been aggregated and reported for this article. These sources include: • An ongoing study on behalf of all of Tucker International’s corporate clients, which include 217 employees living and working in 30 countries. All partici-

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pants in the study are manager level and above and have completed an assessment titled “The Survey of Expatriate Training and Development,” where the participants also have an option to write in comments and observations. • The Dow Chemical Co. CEO International Exchange Program where 40 high-potential employees exchange positions with their international counterparts across 20 countries. • My own personal experience and individual interviews I’ve conducted as I’ve traveled to meet with clients and their expatriate/repatriate employees globally.

Assignment Purpose

The purpose of development assignments is not just to fill an international job opening. Companies have generally improved over the past few years in “localizing” employees in their native countries to perform essential jobs and thereby reducing the cost and challenges of expatriate assignments. Still, localization doesn’t give potential global leadership talent the cross-cultural experiences they need to lead dispersed businesses in international markets. This is where global development assignments really come in. For example, global development assignments actually help to develop and spread the all-important corporate culture around the globe on a face-to-face basis. A strong corporate culture and brand is often the difference in global business success and it is certainly a primary factor in attracting the best talent.

Learning Achieved

Global development assignments help leaders to achieve the following:

Dealing with Ambiguity. One of the hallmarks of the global business environment is that things are not as they appear on the surface. This is because people interpret their world and respond according to their own cultural lenses. Everyone carries these lenses around with them and expects others to respond as they do. The term “misattribution of motives” is used to describe how people misread the behavior of other cultures based on their own lens. An international assignment allows participants to get out of their comfort zone and figure out how things are done in all of the unfamiliar, ambiguous “gray areas” in another country. For example, an American on assignment to Japan reported the following: “I could not understand at the outset why my Japanese manager did not give me clear and direct performance objectives. He expected me to figure these out in the context of my role in the company. That meant that I was to first listen and learn from him and from my Japanese colleagues in order to understand how I could fit into the working environment. Once I figured this out, I was successful in adapting to the high context business culture of Japan. Back home, I now have increased confidence and a higher level of competence in dealing with ambiguity in my international work.” Global Perspective. Even the best employees working from their home countries do not naturally develop a broad perspective. They focus on what is going on in their world, which limits their performance in a global company. An international assignment directly challenges this rather parochial view and broadens it. As this employee said: “An assignment from the U.S. to Europe was really an eye-opener for me. At home in the U.S., I followed markets and news, but I was totally focused on

Figure 1: Value Model for Global Development Assignments

SELECTION FOR INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCIES: HOME COUNTRY MANAGEMENT: - Internal locus of control - Open-mindedness - Lifetime learning - Social adaptability - Ambiguity tolerance - Patience


- Guidelines - Performance evaluations - Communication and support - Share experiences

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HOST COUNTRY MANAGEMENT: - Mentor - Entry onboarding process - Social integration


the U.S. While in Europe, I had to keep up with my colleagues — they knew so much more about the U.S. than I did about Europe.” Company Culture. A strong company culture applied worldwide is a marker of the most successful global companies. It is adapted to accommodate national cultures, but consistency is critical for service delivery and company relationships. “Since my company is based in the U.S., while on assignment there I learned much more about the company culture and what is expected of company employees,” an employee from Germany said. “I learned how to adjust my language and attitude while dealing with Americans.” Focus on People. Most companies say their people are their most important asset. Some really do believe this and practice what they preach — but some don’t. The most talented people today are drawn to and likely to remain with companies that treat their people well. Seeing how this is done in other countries can be very valuable. “On assignment to Latin America, my company there is ranked highly in terms of great places to work. I noticed that a reason for this is how they view employees in a holistic way, showing they care both personally and professionally. I am trying to support this approach now in my home country.” Meeting Management. Nobody likes endless meetings that aren’t productive, but they remain essential, especially since a great deal of work is done as part of a team. Seeing first-hand how meetings are managed in other countries can be instructive. “I was impressed by the way meetings are managed in the U.S. People arrived on time and prepared, and meetings were shorter and ended promptly. This was quite different in my home country, where meetings can be chaotic. I am now setting up a similar approach in my home country, but adapting it to our culture.” Rapid Advancement. Advancing high-potential employees is a major goal of international development assignments. These stretch assignments are a great way to test potential. “I was being considered for a broader leadership role in my home country before my international assignment. I received this advanced position upon return, in no small part because I took on a much broader role in my assignment country. I managed my multifunction team there and continued to support my team back home, despite the time differences.” Networking. In a 2014 study of global leaders my firm conducted with Ron Bonial, Adam Vanhove and Uma Kedharnath, we discovered that the demonstrated ability to develop and maintain a network of international relationships was one of the leadership success factors. This was a study of 1,880 global leaders of nine nationalities. A set of intercultural com

petencies was used to predict success over time. The study found that the demonstrated ability to develop and maintain a network of international relationships was one of the success factors. There is no better way to do this than on an international assignment, and in fact this people-to-people connection is often reported as the most satisfying aspect of the assignment. “I developed a good relationship with my swap partner. She helped me to connect with her network and adjust to my assignment country and me to hers. We have continued to stay in touch and I am using my new network in many ways in my job back home.” Leadership Exposure. According to Albert Bandura of Stanford University in his 1997 work on social learning theory, individuals develop by learning from their

Global development assignments help to develop and spread the all-important corporate culture around the globe on a face-to-face basis. surroundings, either from interacting with people or observing other peoples’ behaviors. An international assignment can result in such deep learning and expose future leaders to how leadership is exercised in different parts of the world. “My supervisor, a wonderful high-level female leader, became a mentor and coach for me. I was able to observe her style and she introduced me to other great leaders,” said one of the people included in my studies.

Challenges Abound

These valuable learning experiences and outcomes do not come easily, however. Everyone who engages in these assignments faces job-role and intercultural challenges. Some don’t succeed. Some of these challenges include: Integration and Culture Differences. An American employee on assignment to China said: “I never really felt integrated into the group. I was not given a lot of responsibility or work. I wanted to do more and often felt I wasn’t making much use of my skill set. It took time to S u m m e r 2017 • T a l e n t E c o n o m y


get used to the Chinese culture. There is huge respect for elders in the workplace.” Isolation. “Being abroad can be very isolating. I felt I was being ignored by my home office. My messages were being answered very late or not at all, which caused unnecessary stress. The big time difference between Thailand and my home office in the U.S. just made it worse.” Social Adaptation. “At first my American colleagues seemed very friendly, but to me they turned out to be

country management onboard. The talent management function will of course manage the program, but the company’s senior leadership team must also openly and directly support the program.

Participant Selection

This seems rather obvious, but too many participants are selected for these programs only because of their technical ability. In addition to being very good at their jobs, they should also have demonstrated leadership behaviors beyond job tasks and responsibility. They should at least be at pas-

It is essential that global leadership assignments have senior leader sponsorship. quite superficial. People seem to have just a few close friends and relatives, and it is difficult to be accepted,” said an employee from Brazil. Decision-Making. “It was difficult to adjust to the fast decision-making process in the U.S. and I still don’t think it is the best way to get things done. In Germany, we think things out much more. We consult and consider what problems there might be before moving forward. My American colleagues thought my suggestions were a waste of time.” Communication. “English is the global language of our company, but daily work and personal life is tough if you don’t speak the local language. Even the same words or phrases in English can mean different things,” observed an employee from Australia. Leveraging Experiences and Learning Achieved. “When I returned to my home site in Shanghai, no one seemed very interested in my international experiences. They were in fact a little upset that some of the work that I was responsible for was either not done or had to be assumed by them.”

sage one as described in the “Leadership Pipeline,” written by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel. This is the passage from individual contributor (managing self) to managing others. Their pipeline includes six passages, from Managing Self all the way to Enterprise Manager. Passage one is the first stage in management development, where leadership is taken on for the first time and a good stage for early incorporation of international capability. Those at higher stages can also be good candidates for a global development assignment, especially if their jobs are transitioning from a domestic focus to an international one.

Intercultural Competencies

In my aforementioned 2014 leadership research, Tucker International identified a set of competencies that predict adjustment and performance on an international assignment. Some of these that are especially important for global development assignments are listed below. These can be measured and included in development plans. Internal Locus of Control. The belief that one’s own actions and abilities play a direct role in the process and outcome of the events in life instead of relying on fate, luck or circumstance. It means to take responsibility for one’s actions.

Value Model, Management Plans

The following model is presented to manage success with global development assignments. Each step in the model is then explained.

Open-Mindedness. Being receptive to and nonjudgmental of the ideas and ways of other countries, cultures and ethnic groups and demonstrating respect for diverse spiritual and political beliefs.

It is essential that global leadership assignments have senior leader sponsorship. This will ensure maximum exposure, attract the most promising high-potential talent, provide reliable funding and help to get home and host

Lifetime Learning. Engaging in a pattern of learning over time, which includes reading news, periodicals and blogs; tuning into national and international news broadcasts; and attending formal learning sessions.


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Social Adaptability. Being comfortable in new and unfamiliar social settings, seeking out and enjoying diverse groups of people, and showing genuine interest in others. Ambiguity Tolerance. The ability to see through vagueness and uncertainty, not become overly frustrated and eventually figure out how things are done. It means to take the initiative and lead through difficult situations.

Social Integration. Help with the potential isolation problem by ensuring that the assignee is included in company social events. A mentor can be helpful here to include the assignee with networking at professional events, club and community activities, etc.

Patience. The ability to be patient in the face of unanticipated delays or frustrating situations, with people who don’t meet expectations on time.

Home Country Management

The home country originates the individual assignments and manages the selection process described above. The following management plan applies to their role and responsibilities in the program: Guidelines. Provide clear guidelines about what will be expected while on assignment for the employee and their supervisors and colleagues. This should include job tasks as well as developmental learning experiences. Performance Evaluations. Ensure that any performance evaluations following the assignment include what was accomplished during the assignment. Communication and Support. Have consistent home office communication and support throughout the assignment. This includes timely responses to email messages despite time differences, communicating important information about goings on in the company and providing requested resources. Share Experiences. Ensure that participants deliver presentations and other communication back home to share experiences and what was learned to enable them to positively contribute to a global learning company culture.

Host Country Management

In development programs that include “swap partners,” the host country would also be selecting and managing participants from their country, so they would be responsible for the management plan described above. Their hosting plan includes the following: Mentor. Assign a mentor to work with the assignee. This mentor should be responsible to implement the job and developmental learning guidelines for the assignment as stated above. Entry Onboarding Process. Smooth the onboarding process by making sure that colleagues are aware of and support the program. 48

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Learning. Contribute to the learning culture by having the assignee make a presentation near the end of assignment, communicating observations and what was learned.

Build Intercultural Competency

Some of the risks involved with implementing global development assignments were discussed in the introduction. An additional — and significant — risk faced by global companies is not to engage in these assignments at all. This will leave a leadership gap in place, with no bench strength of emerging leaders with international experience. It is hard to imagine a global company led by individuals without this experience. When a global development assignment program is implemented, leaders can mitigate the investment risks by following the value model described earlier. To do so requires planning, preparation, coordination and follow through. This work is necessary in order to overcome the false assumption that the assignment itself can result in higher levels of understanding and skills needed to lead global business. Michael Tucker is an I/O psychologist, certified management consultant and president and founder of Tucker International. To comment, email

QUOTES OF NOTE FROM THIS ISSUE “I never look at a résumé; I never care about what they’ve done before. It’s how I feel about them at the time of our engagement.”

“The concerns are huge. They’re widespread. They cross a huge variety of industries and many kinds of job roles, more than we would have expected.” — Katherine Jones, a partner and director of talent research at consulting firm Mercer, on shifting global talent strategies in the wake of nationalist policy agendas around the world | “Talent, the World Over,” page 35

“I think the recent rise of a number of CEOs coming out and taking positions maybe puts a spotlight on those who don’t, particularly within a similar industry.” — Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global practice leader at research and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson | “The Era of the Activist CEO,” page 25


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— David Williams, CEO of Fishbowl, an inventory software maker in Orem, Utah | “With Some Hires, Less Experience is More,” page 13

“For young people, I hope more and more of them recognize the value and promise of devoting themselves to an enterprise bigger than they could establish sitting around their kitchen table.” — Bill Taylor, co-founder, Fast Company | Insider, page 19





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Profile for Talent Economy

Talent Economy - Summer 2017  

The continuing globalization of business comes with multifaceted implications for how firms manage their talent.

Talent Economy - Summer 2017  

The continuing globalization of business comes with multifaceted implications for how firms manage their talent.