Corporate Eye

The Global War for Talent

Take China, for example. The new hotels we are opening will create over 30,000 jobs there. The job market there is extremely fast-paced, and quality candidates have a range of opportunities. We are competing with major multi-national companies for qualified and experienced staff across different skill sets, including HR, finance, sales, marketing and engineering.

That quote is from a “Hot Topic” article on the InterContinental Hotels Group website, written by Tracy Robbins, Executive Vice President of Human Resources for IHG.   I think for some folks—and particularly for some Americans—there’s a moment of disorientation upon reading that paragraph.  For one thing, the downturn in hiring (to say nothing of the increase in downsizing) has dominated the news about employment for so long that it takes an active imagination to contemplate hot labor markets.  But according to Robbins, “the number of workers with transferable skills is steadily increasing and people are willing to change jobs more often.  In short, we’re in a seller’s market–a market where talent matters, and talent wins.”

Wow.  And double-wow for the people who got ahead of the global curve on this one.  It’s been a surprisingly fast trip from the Cultural Revolution to the Capitalist Revolution, and I think it would be fair to say the China boom wasn’t an obvious development, viewed from twenty or even ten years ago.  But now it’s now, and the playing field has changed dramatically.

For another thing . . . there’s a lot of rhetoric about the impact of globalization on employment.  But most of the public discussion is about the shift of relatively low-wage manufacturing and customer service jobs to countries where labor is cheaper.  Much less is said about either (a) the opportunities in Asia and other countries for American and European workers, or (b) the competition for local talent in quickly developing markets such as China.

The IHG website features a gorgeous video about China, and their Careers site is worth a visit—not only for a look at their Asia initiative, but also to see their strategies for increasing employee engagement.  With a farflung workforce, it’s especially important to create a feeling of “corporate community,” and IHG is pursuing that goal with a lot of features on their main site, and a special campaign called Room to Grow.

If your company isn’t doing business multi-nationally today, it may be soon.  What’s the plan for expanding the recruiting message beyond familiar borders?

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.

China’s economy is booming but in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find work for the millions of university graduates that come out every year.

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