Forget What You Know: Recruiting Talent in Emerging Markets

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CityUncontroversial statement: We live in a globalized economy, and as a result, the war for talent is a global phenomenon. Thanks to the rise of telecommuting technology, even smaller companies are beginning to hire talent from around the world.

Controversial statement: People everywhere are not the same.

Now, don’t misunderstand us. We’re not talking about fundamental differences in human nature. What we simply mean is that people are shaped by the cultures they live in. Our cultures play important roles in who we are, what we like, and how we conduct business.

In the global war for talent, then, employers have to be smart about their recruiting strategies. What entices top talent in one country may not entice top talent in others.

Today, we turn our attention specifically to recruiting talent in emerging markets. According to a new report from Universum, these countries will soon become critical sources of workers for companies both large and small.

“Seventy percent of global GDP growth is projected to come from emerging markets over the next several years,” says Carly Creighton, head of Latin America at Universum. “We expect that this, coupled with the increased scarcity of talent, will lead to a higher demand ​for skilled talent in these markets. In order to compete — whether they are global or local organizations — employers need to understand how to capture this talent.”

Universum’s report, entitled “Talent Attraction in Emerging Markets,” defines an emerging market as “a country exhibiting a rate of GDP growth higher than the global average, but whose markets are not as mature as those in countries with developed economies, such as the U.S., U.K., Western Europe, China, and Japan.” Examples of emerging markets include Kenya, Ghana, Brazil, Malaysia, and Turkey, among many others.

Creighton says that every company — no matter its size, industry, or location — should be looking to emerging markets as potential talent pools.

“​Everyone should have an eye on emerging markets, whether you’re global and potentially have plans to recruit there, local within an emerging market and have to compete with global organizations, or outside the region altogether,” she says. “The war for talent is a global trend, and emerging markets will fuel the future talent pipeline.”

MarketWhat Workers in Emerging Markets Want

As mentioned above, a person’s culture shapes their preferences in all areas of their life, including their work-related preferences. In many ways, however, young workers in emerging markets have similar desires as their peers in developed countries.

For example, Universum found that “[w]ork-life balance topped the list as the most important career goal for graduates in emerging markets,” which should sound familiar to anyone who has followed millennial employment trends here in the U.S. Universum also found that “a creative and dynamic work environment is the most sought-after attribute of workplace culture among business and engineering students in emerging markets,” which aligns quite nicely with the results of Universum’s “World’s Most Attractive Employers” survey from last year.

Where workers in emerging markets differ from workers in developed markets, however, is in how they can be reached.

When we talk about engaging with millennial talent here in the U.S., for example, the focus is almost always on new media and social networking platforms. Universum found that workers in emerging markets respond well to outreach efforts in these channels, but it also found something a bit more surprising: outdoor and billboard advertisements are critical channels for recruiting young workers in emerging markets. This may not be something you expected to hear about tech-savvy millennials, no matter where they live.

“In emerging markets, it’s vital to first make [young workers] aware of existing opportunities by advertising on billboards and T.V. and use these traditional channels to drive [young workers] to your organization’s website and social media pages,” says Universum’s study.

When Recruiting Talent in Emerging Markets, Think Locally

The power of billboard advertising in emerging markets is a useful example of how talent differs between locales. Workers have a lot in common across the globe, but they also differ in crucial ways, depending on where they live. This is why it’s so important for employers to get smart about cross-cultural recruiting efforts. They cannot go into new markets and just use the same old tricks that have worked for them in developed countries. Instead, what employers need to do is take some time to understand what talent in a given market will really respond to.

“​Each market is unique, but TVthings to look out for are: interests in mobility, career aspirations, and the most effective ways to communicate,” Creighton explains. “For example, when we look at Latin America specifically, we see that being entrepreneurial is more important than in other regions.  In addition, when we look at communication preferences, emerging markets have the fastest growth rates in Internet and social media adoption, and talent expects employers to engage via these channels.  That said, traditional marketing channels such as billboards, T.V. ads, etc., continue to be big brand influencers in underdeveloped markets, and therefore it’s key to have a healthy mix of channels in your communication strategy.”

There’s only one way to be successful when it comes to recruiting in emerging markets, Creighton says: you have to understand the talent.

“If you build a strategy based on assumptions, how can you be confident you’re reaching the right people through the right channels?” Creighton asks. “It’s critical to understand your audience and know how to attract them.”

By Matthew Kosinski