On January 19, 2016 in Davos INSEAD launched its latest Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) report. As in previous years, the report focuses on the important topic of global talent competitiveness, highlighting the emergence of an unprecedented international landscape that redefines global mobility. Today we can speak about increased mobility across all facets of the talent equation: skills become more mobile by virtue of online education and training opportunities, developments in transportation and telecommunication allow people to move more and more each year, and telework has enabled jobs to come to people, rather than other way around.
On a broader level, the report, covering 109 countries this year, reaffirms the link between talent competitiveness and wealth. Specifically, countries with a high GDP are shown to be generally more talent-competitive that lower GDP countries. That comes as no surprise given that rich countries have better opportunities to educate, attract and retain talent. Analyzing the report data at a country level though, the authors derive several key messages about the current talent competitiveness landscape:
- Mobility has become a key ingredient in talent development
We have come to the understanding that mobility helps to develop talent, and hence it is a necessary ingredient for growth. While we used to speak about mobility mostly in terms of ‘brain drain’ vs ‘brain gain’, suggesting a zero-sum paradigm, it is more accurate to speak about ‘brain circulation’. Indeed, the new context of talent mobility allows all involved parties to benefit: the country of destination, the home country, and the mobile person. For example, as discussed in one of my previous blog posts, members of the diaspora can support and enhance the development of their homelands. Members of the diaspora can create business ties, send remittances back home, exchange knowledge, and innovate.
- The migration debate moves from emotions to solutions
Currently, migration is a buzzword and not in the good sense; it creates tensions and lots of negative emotions. Echoing the previous key point, the authors argue that the migration debate should shift to solutions, thereby avoiding a zero-sum game. The idea that everyone could benefit from migration lies in the words of British business editor Robert Guest, who argues that ‘in the battle against global poverty, the best weapon is a welcome mat’ (see his book on Borderless Economics). I have discussed this topic in my blog as well, highlighting such European problems as aging population and labor skill gaps, whose potential solutions could be found in the waiting lines of skilled people in refugee camps.
- Management practices make a difference in attracting talent
Countries continuously think about how to attract talent and the factors that would make their destination more appealing. There are numerous surveys that usually look at quality of life, safety, climate, taxes etc… Yet, the GTCI report highlights one probably less known factor in talent attraction – the quality of wide-spread management practices. Specifically, the report indicates that mobile workers are interested in management professionalism, the extent to which employee-related decisions are made on merit rather than kinship or friendships, and management initiatives in terms of employee development. For example, employee surveys indicate that Millennial workers expect opportunities for global mobility, which brings us back to the notions of the first key point.
- New ‘talent magnets’ are emerging, and cities and regions are becoming critical players in the competition for global talent
Out of the emerging talent magnets, the authors name Indonesia, Chile, South Korea, Rwanda and Azerbaijan. For example, South Korea ranks 37 out of 109 countries, scoring equally high on dimensions of talent growth, enablement, global knowledge and vocational skills as the average high-income countries. Rwanda in turn, stands out in Africa and is doing better on the majority of talent competitiveness dimensions than the low-income group average.
Apart from looking for new talent hubs at the country level, the report highlights the increasing importance of cities and regions. According to the report, ‘cities today are increasingly adopting proactive strategies, including imaginative policies, to attract global talent’. Such localized branding also makes sense, given the possible heterogeneity and diverse internal socio-economic conditions within large countries. The authors conclude that agility and branding are becoming more important and serve as more critical differentiators of talent attraction than size.
- Landscape of necessary skills is changing
Finally, the report indicates several inevitable changes in the landscape of global skills. First, rapid advancement of technology continues to replace low-skilled workers, which in turn fuels further mobility. Some people need to retrain and move for their jobs, while others benefit from technological advancement through virtual work, thus relocating their job from a physical location to a portable computer.
Second, the authors argue that while investing into higher education many emerging countries have neglected vocational skills, and this scarcity continues to handicap their economies. As such, in the landscape of skills we are facing an abundance of low-skilled workers and a lack of vocational skills. Yet another reason for why the mobility of skills, people and jobs matters.