Human Capital Association hosts 2013 Human Capital Symposium

Human resource professionals discuss “Development and Succession of Global Talent”

Human Capital Association hosts 2013 Human Capital Symposium
How do companies develop leadership in emerging markets, and what role does human capital play in the success of a global business? At the 2013 Human Capital Symposium, “Redefining Globalization: A Leadership Perspective on Human Capital Strategy,” human resources leaders answered these questions and offered insights on the challenges and benefits of conducting business in emerging markets. The symposium, hosted by Johnson at Cornell University’s student-run Human Capital Association (HCA), was held Oct. 4 at Sage Hall.

The second panel discussion of the day featured Jeffrey Hamilton, principal in human resources at Accenture; Jack Ryan, human resources leader for General Electric and GE Capital; and Kelly Maberry, vice president of global executive recruiting for Hewlett-Packard (HP).

When setting up a leadership structure in a new global market, began Ryan, “understand what the market is, what customers want in that market, how to get to market, and what the organizational capability needed to do that is — all before looking for who is going to do it.” As for deciding who should carry out the work, Hamilton cautioned that using expatriate workers is often expensive, and they may be unwelcome.

At the same time, however, expatriates serve as teachers for building successful businesses and can help build local talent and perpetuate that talent. Ryan then added that GE has been successful in setting up incentives for expatriates to help them understand their mission abroad and ensure they are building sustainable business models in emerging markets.

This need for a sense of purpose was a theme that reverberated throughout the panel discussion. “What are you there for?” asked Ryan. When sending expatriates to help build local leadership capacity, it is important to have the mindset of “My job is to build local talent, to make them successful when I leave … it can’t be a vacation.”

As Maberry explained, there are certain attributes or traits beyond business and cultural knowledge that HP takes into consideration when building a leadership team in a new market. They want “people who thrive on the new and are very resilient ... who are comfortable with a little bit of chaos, who like to get their hands dirty.”

Hamilton seconded that sentiment and added that “you need someone who’s impassioned almost to the point of obnoxiousness” and willing “for things to be a little messy, having the outcomes be just a bit not what we were looking for.” All three speakers emphasized the need for workers to be curious, self-aware, and eager to explore.

Maberry also tackled the question of corporate culture in emerging markets. When opening a center in Panama about four years ago, HP noted a lot of young workers coming and going very quickly. In trying to get to the root cause of this problem, HP focused on developing a sustainable and consistent subculture within that of the larger company, while making workers feel more comfortable engaging with their managers.

HP also made sure to differentiate itself — when going into a new market, HP promises a professional “depth and breadth you won’t get anywhere else in any other technology company … if you’re looking for a global leader, you need someone who wants that.” Ryan agreed, reaffirming the importance of selling “the value proposition that your product [being your job] is better than being in other companies.”

With a limited talent pool, however, for companies to stay competitive, they must increase the value of their offering, creating what Maberry describes as a “talent warp.” Talent retention and labor costs are both becoming more expensive in places like China and India. “We’re all vying for the same top talent,” Maberry said.

In the end, the panel stressed that companies must have a strategic awareness of workers’ relationships and must engage workers at every level of the organization. For global firms, human capital development will be more successful by striking a balance between global baseline standards and local cultural knowledge.


Patrick Braga ’16 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.

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