The Global Talent Management Challenge

September 16, 2016 • STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT, Talent Management

By David G. Collings

David G. Collings outlines key factors which can effectively develop global talent management systems to drive sustainable performance based on his own experience with multinational organisations.



Talent management is widely recognised as a key priority of CEOs globally. For example, CEOs regularly report spending an average 20 percent of their time on talent management with most considering talent management that is too important to be left to HR alone.1 Indeed, more recent study of US CEOs identified their key priorities as talent, operating in a global marketplace, and regulation and legislation.2

Given this focus, one might expect that large multinationals have developed highly efficient and effective global talent management systems which contribute significantly to sustainable organisational performance. However, this is rarely the case. Studies regularly identify a lack of sufficient talent pipeline as a constraint on the ability to grow the organisation and deliver on strategic priorities. For example, PwC’s 2016 Annual Global CEO3 Survey found that 72% of CEOs identified availability of key skills as a major worry. Similarly, one might expect that this prioritisation of the talent agenda is reflected in highly diverse senior leadership teams with significant international experience in multinational organisation’s senior leadership teams globally. However again this is rarely the case. PwC also found that fewer than 3 in 10 incoming CEOs had international work experience. This is consistent with research in the US context over two decades ago suggesting that the situation hasn’t improved greatly over that period.

icon-and-captionOur experience in working with multinational organisations globally has led us to conclude that one of the key constraints on the development of effective global talent strategies is a failure to develop a shared understanding of what global talent management means for the organisation concerned. This means that while the rhetoric around the importance of global talent management is pervasive and compelling senior leaders and HR teams have failed to develop a shared understanding of how to operationalise global talent management. Indeed, a study by the Boston Consulting Group reinforced the idea that talent management was one of the key priorities for the HR function looking forward but worryingly the one which they felt least prepared to deliver on.4

Based on our experience working with organisations who are working on driving the talent agenda, my colleague Kamel Mellahi at Warwick Business School and I have developed a framework which can help organisations in developing an effective global talent management strategy and delivering on the global talent agenda. I outline the key implications of this framework for global talent management below.


Global Talent Management Defined

infographAs noted above one of the key challenges facing organisations in delivering on the global talent agenda is the failure to develop a shared understanding of what talent management means in a particular organisational context. Our framework of global talent management is based around three key processes:

1. The systematic identification of the key positions that differentially contribute to an organisation’s sustainable competitive advantage

2. The development of a talent pool of high performing and high potential incumbents to fill those roles on a global scale

3. The development of a differentiated human resource (HR) architecture to facilitate the filling of positions with the best available incumbents and to ensure their continued commitment to the organisation.

I will now outline the key implications of this framework for the design of global talent strategies.


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