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The Boom in Global Talent

Educational efforts in emerging markets are creating a glut of skilled workers.

8Oct

After years of emphasizing worker training and education, emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil, and Eastern Europe now have labor surpluses — and not just of the manufacturing and construction workers whose low wages have attracted outsourcing and driven global expansion for a quarter century.

Workers in emerging markets increasingly are agile thinkers with digital, communication, and global-operating skills, according to the new “Global Talent 2021 Survey” from Towers Watson and Oxford Economics. This surplus talent could help companies fill vacant finance, managerial, and technical positions, the survey suggests.

According to the survey, 217 million workers in emerging markets, or 60% of the global workforce, will be college-educated over the next 10 years, compared with 143 million in the developed world. Annual talent-pool growth in the major emerging markets, including India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, and China, will surpass that of developed countries (see chart). The availability of more talent globally means companies, especially those with significant international operations, should pay more attention to human-capital planning than they have historically, the report suggests.

The benefits of an overseas talent surplus go beyond affordable, available workers. Having new, highly skilled workers near existing production locations can boost efficiency. “Instead of having to deal with different time zones and different languages, it’s very beneficial to put product people, marketing people, and even finance people in the same area as engineering centers,” says Mike Berry, CFO of Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds, which sells IT-management software in 180 countries.

Although SolarWinds has traditionally employed engineering development specialists in two of its major international locations, the Czech Republic and India, it is now hiring workers trained in digital media and search- engine optimization, Berry says. Looking to emerging markets for a wide range of skills allows companies to build a more robust international presence in areas that were previously seen solely as satellite locations, he adds.

At the same time, when it comes to emerging markets, companies should offshore wisely, Berry says. “You may go into a country that costs more up front but find that over time, the workforce is more skilled” and productivity is better, he says. Beyond rethinking their global strategies, companies should also consider redefining job descriptions and retraining workers domestically to make use of existing talent, the survey advises.

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