Last week I was invited to attend the Hay Group International Conference in Vienna. BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Anna, Maria and all the team at Hay Group for another great show – now I believe in its 27th year! I am a frequent flyer and love Vienna so didn’t need much motivation to mark this one into my diary. Vienna was a balmy 31 degrees C this time around, which beats the snow but certainly not suit & tie weather! The streets of Vienna bustling as ever, shy of any recession or depressing doomsday conversation’s on politics or market economy that you may find from Dublin to Budapest. I love the Stadtpark area, you have the splendor of Viennese architecture, grandeur of magnificent imperial palaces (one or 3 of whom now double as hotels) and surrounding parks, which is why it really is officially the No. 1 conference destination in the world. I passed an old oak tree on the walk across to the Hilton and a thought occurred to me that some of these trees are century’s old, the whole setting might have inspired great composers like Mozart, Beethoven and other conductors who lived and worked in the city. Love it!
There was a great atmosphere when I arrived at the conference and I am trying to remember if it was lunch or breakfast when the beer started to flow in true Central European fashion! I found myself sitting beside a Dutch delegation who were totally decked out in the latest & greatest gadgetry, mostly from the apple tree, I felt somewhat intimidated on my end, hugging my new found Hilton notepad and pencil ;o).
Robin Bew from The Economist kicked off the event with some market and industry positives, including the latest global research from EIU on where the economy is headed …. or where we hope it is headed (Europe might be back on track in 10 years time) ;o) I also noted great updates and examples from emerging markets especially China (See below info-graphic – you may find your own country or neighbor!).
Everything we were hearing started to feel like the good old days – pre 2008 – US is recovering and Germany becomes the new Tiger of Europe, just as the smile on my face was starting to reach my ears, Robin brought us all back down to earth.
So there is nothing to worry about?
Robin took us through the 4 i’s facing global economies *Insolvency * Idleness * Inflation and *Instability.
Idleness stood off the page for me, for the first time the average unemployed person in the US has been out of work “longer than 6 months” – describing this as a phenomenon – didn’t go into too much detail on the jobless recovery but the thought did occur – will this phenomenon continue? The instability scores for countries across the globe were brilliant where EIU rank democracy scores against vulnerability - Yemen, Egypt etc all took the spotlight – we learned that democracy for the past 12 months was in retreat – democratic freedoms have eroded in 91 out of 167 countries!
Conclusions drawn from Robin’s work and implications for HR (taken from this year’s EIU HR survey):
Businesses will be larger, globally dispersed.
Better integrated, yet less centralised.
Local operations can take initiatives.
Flatter, decision making responsibility pushed downwards.
More flexible workforce.
As technologies change, geographies change.
Geographic stretch, more decision makers means more emphasis on soft skills.
So new fronts open up in talent war.
Focus on leadership and management development.
One of the biggest challenges facing CEO’s and functional line leaders – strategy execution.
I also interviewed Wayne Chen from Hay Group Shanghai about his current work and research with CEO’s across Asia, a focus on India and China.
Indian CEO’s appear to come out as the most adaptive innovators in Asia with the ability and motivation to leverage and serve Indian society. The Indian situational environment – there is alot of extreme poverty, so rather than a window there is actually a wilderness of opportunity “to do good”. Many CEO’s talk about what they did or are doing for the Indian people – this is a very powerful message – probably the most powerful message any business can send to employees, partners, customers and prospects.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently commented on India’s reality: “There is no better training ground for Indian leaders than India itself. They face many challenges like diversity of its people, scarcity of resources, multiplicity of demands, plurality of objectives and complexity of rules and regulations. India’s greatest strength is its ability to deal with any situation. Indian CEOs are second to none,” Singh said.
G.M. Rao is the newest noted philanthropist in India. Chairman of the GMR Group, which operates in the infrastructure space, Rao recently pledged to use his entire personal share of the business for social good. Reasons for giving? It has nothing to do with the Giving Pledge — an initiative spearheaded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett calling on billionaires to promise to donate the majority of their wealth to charity — he says, though the duo was in India at the time of his announcement pushing their proposal to the country’s wealthy. “More than money, it is essential that we give people a good education and the skills to earn an honorable livelihood,” Rao says.
Andrew Witty CEO of GSK offers a Western perspective back in March ‘Big firms have allowed themselves to be seen as detached from society’
Wayne went on to discuss the Chinese CEO study, where self-reflection and self-criticism were the big highlights of the results. China doesn’t have a long history of the free economy so this is something relatively new. There aren’t too many role models in leading business in the new economy or new enterprise … so in order to be successful, leaders need to learn very fast.
Chinese chess originated more than 2,000 years ago. The game is noted for being rich in strategy despite its relatively simple rules. After the game it is normal for the two players to conduct a review, to go back through the game step by step to really understand how you could have done things differently, better perhaps – Wayne referred to this as play the play – repeating the play and understanding how to do it differently even though you are essentially competitors/opponents – the idea is breaking new boundaries and progression. Wayne suggests that many Chinese leaders do this today.
The very best leaders in China have demonstrated the highest level of social responsibility. Chinese leaders are always thinking of how to create a good ecosystem for business and society, citing real estate giant Vanke and energy giant China Resources as good examples. The second point Wayne made in our interview was that in order to be successful in emerging markets such as China and India – 3 points that are very important amongst other suggestions that people may be hearing at the moment:
1.) Seems obvious – however, so many companies are getting it wrong – putting the right person in charge of emerging markets – this person needs to have passion, care, empathy, and very importantly – insight into emerging markets – multinationals are often putting a cluster manager in place.
2.) Design a “do-able” job – Head of China, Head of India or Head of Brazil – don’t make it complicated – don’t make it matrixed when speed and agility are key in emerging markets – often a different model is needed for working in China or India – they often have unique operating models – the man on the ground is empowered basically.
3.) Importance to guide everything particularly around talent management with global principles & practices but created & designed around local practices – as an example many companies having lengthy review, salary review – adjustments etc. – the bottom line here being, “talent cannot and will not wait”. Talent doesn’t need you, you need talent – especially in emerging markets where talent management is now considered a critical issue and not just a war.
I then dove into the deep end to close the interview asking Wayne about HR’s credibility as a strategic function in Asia?
Wayne spoke of the emergence of strategic HR executives and that there is still a long way to go, referring to a great % of HR functions focused on administrative work. Most of the senior HR execs he meets come from non HR Backgrounds – they have learned very quickly the hr models, practices and processes and are often supported by great HR specialists. Much of his work is directly with the CEO and Chairman of the business, simply because those are the people that are driving change in their companies and across the region.
I also really enjoyed meeting and hearing Jo Fairley from Green & Black’s Chocolate Company, Robert Bond from Barclay’s and Nicolas Van Rosty from Siemens – I think the golden nuggets of the event – simple succinct messages on getting leadership right, development, enable-ment and success built on trust.
Some of the more interesting one-liners and tweets from the event:
“There are no good or bad employees, only good or bad placements.”
“Major difference between western and eastern leaders is the ‘moral’ and ‘spiritual’ compass.”
“Asian talent now prefers 2 work 4 local companies”
“You have to continuously upgrade your leadership: people work for people”
“Hope is a gamble on a future you want, not a lottery ticket you sit on the sofa clutching”
‘Employee retention is a business (not an HR) problem”
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room”
“Talent doesn’t need you, you need talent”
*****With Special Thanks to Hay Group!*****