One of the key differences to examine when learning about a culture
is the individualism-to-group welfare (or collectivism) continuum.
Cultures within Europe and the United States tend to be more
individualistic, while Eastern cultures generally tend to be much
more collectivist. These differing tendencies have great
implications for talent development in a global organization.
Conflicting views on how talent is defined
A natural extension of the group welfare or collective cultural
tendency displayed in Asia, and to some extent in South America and
the Middle East, is the way employee talent is viewed. In these
cultures, talent is often evaluated in the context of an
individual's ability to build long-term trusting relationships
along with the knowledge of functional skills. Ultimately, the
focus is on the ability to be a contributing part of the
Meanwhile, in Europe and the United States, employee talent is
evaluated according to each person's abilities and accomplishments,
sometimes even relative to the rest of the group.
Differing approaches to developing talent
Collectivist cultures tend to develop talent in ways reflective of
those values. In many Japanese and Korean companies, top talent is
developed through a prolonged boot camp lasting four months or
longer. In these programs, employees are trained as an entire
On the other hand in Western cultures, the individual is most often
the primary focus of talent development. On April 20, 2011,
Financial Times reported on the growing use of software
(by Western organizations) to track talent development of
individual employees, demonstrating an investment in an
increasingly individualistic approach to talent development.
(Read the PDF of the article here.)
In collectivist cultures, employee rewards and recognition more
often go to groups or teams rather than to individuals.
In individualistic cultures, bonuses and other rewards are
typically for individuals. Additionally, individuals are often
publically recognized for their contributions.
With such different views and approaches to employee talent, how
can organizations effectively develop and reward talent with a
Geographically strategic student recruitment. A
growing number of global companies are now actively recruiting MBA
students from leading universities in the key geographies where
they will need talent. These students are recruited while in school
and put through an accelerated development process to quickly
become future leaders. Upon graduation, these recruits typically
spend six months to a year at the company's headquarters where they
are trained in both the corporate culture of the organization and
one or more specific functional areas of focus. After completion of
this program, the employees are placed in a strategic position in
their home country.
Give managers a global perspective through
experience. One promising approach to developing global
talent is for companies (with a globally focused training and
development department) to provide managers and leaders with
assignments in another country.
Leverage social networking. Another method for
developing global talent is to leverage social networking and
collaborative technologies to transcend boarders and silos. The
training and development department would ideally coordinate and
oversee global communities of interest within the organization.
When properly executed, these learning communities provide a
culturally comparative perspective on all pertinent areas, such as
training, marketing, and product development.
Do you have best practices and approaches to global talent
development you'd like to share with colleagues? Please get in
ASTD Field Editor Neal Goodman is president of Global Dynamics;
2011 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.