The Battle for the Best

It makes great sense that there would be a geographic war for talent. There are at least three battlegrounds for waging war for talent: human capital, brand capital and financial capital.

by Martha Tintin

Rick Brandt, president of TalentQuest’s consulting services admits that when looking at where companies are deliberately settling, financial capital is a significant driver, and if the specific areas have an elevated number of inhabitants, some of who are skilled workers, it is even better, he explains, “Where companies are strategically locating financial capital is certainly in play” and adds, “If the geography has depth of population, this is a distinct and competitive advantage.” According to Rick Brandt it all seems connected, finding and keeping the best talents is also a matter of brand capital. In order to pursue this battle companies must plan to address these areas, as he unfolds, “A company must have a brand that people are drawn toward, but also develop employee value proposition.” Companies must also find new ways to help people develop their workforce skills and human capital, beyond static classroom training and because of the impending knowledge drain with the population shift, companies that are creating knowledge transfer and orderly succession are on the high ground in the talent wars.

It seems that the most active sectors in talent research vary from market to market, Aurea Imai, Managing Director of Boyden Brazil explains, “We are working hard with the industrial sector: oil and gas, agribusiness, life sciences, automotive, electronics.” The industrial sector seems to be strong in other countries such as Turkey. Özlem Ergün, president of Boyden Turkey explains, “In Turkey the activity is mainly in retail, industrial, manufacturing, energy and telecommunications.” Some of these sectors combine with the market in South Africa as Fay Voysey Smit, Managing Partner at Boyden South Africa reveals, “The resources and industrial sector are the most active in Sub Saharan Africa, although we are also seeing renewed activity in the retail sector across the region.” The situation seems to differ in the United States, as Jeanne Branthover, Managing Director at Boyden New York explains, “Much of our business comes from the Global Financial Services industry where we see consistent demand in Private Wealth Management and Private Banking as institutions seek the certainty of fee-based revenues.” Financial Services, however are not the only main sector in the country, they also see formidable demand for digital marketing and content creation, with the inevitable advent of Web 2.0 and social media. “From a functional standpoint there is a lot of demand for experienced Human Resources executives who can serve as true business partners with line managers,” says Brenthover. In Hong Kong things seem to roll just as in the US as Brian Renwick, Managing Partner of Boyden China confirms that the most active sectors are Financial Services and also HR. The Italian market is still slightly stiff as Anders Lindholm, CEO and partner of Boyden Italy explains, “Currently, overall things in Italy are still quite stagnant.”

The most widespread skills requested are strong leadership, flexibility, dynamism and communication. In the US companies also seek business development, risk and crisis management and also employee development. In South Africa executives have to be innovative, forward thinking, but at the same time keep a firm focus on bottom lines. In Brazil, things get more practical, full proficiency in English is a must and fluency in a third language is an extra bonus. Language skills are highly valued even in Turkey, where a second European language is appreciated and fluency in Russian specifically is a great plus. In Turkey it is also important to have gained international experience and to be easily adaptable to change.

According to Ms. Ergün, “A company must win the war by attracting talent who fit the culture today and tomorrow and also by communicating openly.” She also insists that it is enough to do a tiny thing wrong to make a forced retreat. The same advice is given by Mr. Lindholm, who strongly believes that being transparent and finding talents that fit the company’s atmosphere are key to success. In the Brazilian market it is essential that companies who want to hire the best talents follow 3 steps as Ms. Imai explains, “Companies have to 1) present career development perspectives, the possibility of an international career is attractive to professionals; 2) establish processes to provide recognition and visibility of the professional; and 3) compensation and benefits have to be aligned to the market.” On the other hand to lose talent is as simple as not giving professionals the autonomy they require, not having a good corporative environment or being unable to communicate effectively. Ms. Smit gives another interesting insight on how it is possible to win the war for talent as she claims, “Human Resources needs should be considered across the short, medium and longer term and should inform a strategy that determines which skills currently existing within the organization can be utilized and developed to deliver the strategy, and which new skills need to be sourced externally,” and also adds, “Many large global organizations have Talent Directors in place who are responsible for managing the talent across the organization, usually on a global basis.”

Once talents are hired, they must be retained. It is key to success to provide a fostering environment for employees to grow in. “Plan personal and technical development programs, compensate fairly and competitively, measure growth,” says Ms. Ergün. In the Italian market depending on levels it is all about training and job rotation as Mr. Lindholm shares, “At junior level, I believe it’s about giving them well rounded training, training programs and on-the-job training when they are in their early years, then maybe having the opportunity to do a job rotation program so that they can try not just one specific function, but try others as well.” Organizations that implement impressive strategies of talent management are consistently in touch with the skills and capabilities of the people inhabiting its facilities, “career mapping is undertaken to empower individuals to manage their careers through the organization and personal development plans are put in place, which will generally include education, training, mentoring and coaching,” says Ms. Smit.

In Brazil, challenges are currently related to salaries, “we are facing a salary bubble, as the demand is higher than the offer, companies are paying higher salaries and increasing their benefits in order to retain their talents,” Ms. Imai says and continues,” As a result, there is a gap between professional qualification and compensation paid.” The salary bubble is also causing young professionals to fast forward in their careers, since companies are becoming more flexible on the requisites to promote those professionals, and this results in having underqualified people occupying management positions.“ It is evident that there are many non-prepared professionals assuming management positions,” Ms. Imai explains. “The last decade has witnessed serious erosion in trust that needs to be rebuilt,” says Ms. Branthover, therefore in the USA the most significant challenge for businesses is to convince their people that the company does value and appreciate their workforce and it will do everything to develop their careers. In Turkey, there are many challenges, from keeping up with current and future trends, to adapting to change, and on how quickly it occurs.“Don’t sleep! When you wake up, the game is over,” says Ms. Ergün and she adds, “Learn about Generation Y, they are entering the workforce and they have to be managed differently, motivation here is the key.”


Founded in 1946. Boyden global executive search was the first firm to focus entirely on retained executive search. The company covers the globe with over 70 offices in more than 40 countries, led by resident professionals adept at working in a global economy. In addition, Boyden works with clients seeking advice regarding their Boards.


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Winter 2011