Expanding overseas needs a diverse leadership team

Many of Asia’s corporations are expanding their brands overseas. Cross-border promotion of a brand is relatively new for China and increasingly diverse for Japan. Japanese car and technology brands such as Toyota, Sony and Honda are already global household names. In China it is Alibaba and Lenovo that spring to mind.

Any company that is looking to expand internationally must ask itself whether the corporate culture be applied elsewhere? And can it be inclusive?

The number one issue is the management itself. Whether your aspiration is expanding your brand into a new country or acquiring overseas businesses and exporting your expertise, you are ultimately likely to export your management structure, style and brand values.

There is no one-size fits all management or business plan. The successful multinational usually has satellite offices that have different practices based on local laws and customs. However there  needs to be a basic corporate ethos and standards of conduct. The successful multinationals tend to have multicultural leadership that promotes equal opportunity in leadership.

That may sound too simplistic and obvious. However, often companies expanding overseas like to have senior leadership that is largely from their home nation, they do not change the acquiring company’s management and therefore do not add value beyond cash infusion. A leadership team that all looks and sounds the same puts a company at a disadvantage by shutting the door on diverse outlooks.

As companies do their due diligence on expansion, not only do they need to consider if it is strategically a fit and the finances are right, they also need to question if they have the right management team and integration plan. Establishing world-class management processes is the first step, not the last one.

Companies should ensure they have leadership programmes in place where they share the mission and strategic intent of the company. What the leadership programme looks like will vary from company to company, but having one is an absolute must, both for the home and host teams. Establishing best practice enables knowledge transfer and promotes a cohesive corporate ethos. Both the home team and the host team will need help to adapt to new ways of communication and doing business. It’s also crucial for recruitment: the best and brightest are not going to work for a company where they do not see opportunities for promotion. Leadership programmes highlight a path.

The second critical component companies need to have is genuine succession planning. Managers at both at home and overseas will need to develop new skills. Your people will need training in leadership, cultural sensitivity and the opportunity to gain experience in different parts of the business. Leadership programmes and succession planning have long been basic building blocks of world-class management

The bottom line is that as Asian companies look to expand their businesses into overseas markets they need to make sure their management teams are up for the task. Their aim should be to build a diverse leadership group that embraces best global practices.


Innovation in the 50-Plus Work Group

Decades continue to be characterized by how much younger we all are in an age where movement and evolution are key. Fifty is now the new 30, and 60 the new 40. Because the baby boomers and those just behind them live longer are generally healthier and desire to work beyond 65 more senior individuals are filling more spots in the workplace, often reinventing themselves to fit a “new mold”. Studies show that up to 80 percent of baby boomers continue to do some sort of paid work until at least age 70, thereby staying mentally sharp and keeping socially and professionally engaged. The current financial reality also assumes that while boomers live longer and are healthier, they also seek to maintain their lifestyle and, to do so, need additional income.

People who make a career change later in life tend to be happier, healthier and, more active than others who have opted to become retirees. Money Magazine published an article about baby boomers who reinvented their careers with considerable success and the consistent was creativity and keeping the brain active. Would-be retirees were remaining in the workplace and retirement as a concept became outmoded as reinvention took its place.

Money Magazine highlighted a 57-year-old sales manager in a real estate firm who became increasing discontented and struggled to do the job she had done for a number of years. At the same time at home, her washing machine stopped working and she had to visit a laundromat. Appalled by the conditions she found, she decided to launch a chain of cleaner, more energy-efficient laundromats “Wash Day” and focused on a younger demographic. The business clearly filled a need in the community. After the first year, they opened two additional facilities and they are now looking to further expansion.

Similarly, a retail executive who worked for the same company from the age of 15 to 46 in both management and corporate positions was terminated in a downsizing. She decided to use the skills that helped her to become a successful executive to develop an idea for a card that could be used to track and simplify discounts on health care expense given to workers. The company, “freshbenies”, gradually expanded and in 2013, had revenue of US$1.3 million. By 2016, the revenues tripled. A simple reallocation of skills with a mix of creative thinking.

These individuals shared common traits: they were willing to take risks, they used past skills as leverage for new challenges, they used their networks to help in the transition and they were creative.

source: Frederick Lamster is a partner at Battalia Winston International, and an ex-CHRO at L Brands. Sharon Tunstall is a consultant at Connect the Dots, and former CHRO at Nike.



Technology is changing the ways we live and work – the emergence of a ubiquitous internet, connected objects (e.g. self-driven cars), digital technology, robotics and virtual teams working from remote locations. They are affecting the world of work so deeply. Talent readiness and talent competitiveness will largely determine which economies will be leading in the race to turn technological advances into job creation.

The effects of technological change are increasingly impacting talent competitiveness. Jobs at all levels are being replaced by machines, technology is also creating new opportunities. However, people and organisations will need to adapt to a working environment in which technology know-how, people skills, flexibility and collaboration are key to success. Horizontal networks are replacing hierarchies as the new leadership norm.

Governments and business will need to work together to build educational systems, change ways of working and re-engineer talent attraction policies. But our school system, dating from the factory age, prepares our children for routine work rather than for creativity and projects, also neglecting to foster the learning-how-to-learn mentality that is needed in a world where people will have multiple careers during their lives.

The Insead Business School has recently released their fourth edition of Global Talent Competitiveness Index. Switzerland and Singapore occupy the top spots in 2017, with four Nordic countries in the top 10 (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway). The United Kingdom and the United States rank third and fourth respectively.

These countries share key traits, including educational systems that meet the needs of the economy, employment policies that favour flexibility, mobility and entrepreneurship, and high connectedness of stakeholders in business and government.

The fast advance of automation and artificial intelligence is the source of the most disruptive changes of our time in the way we live and work. The transition will be rocky, so governments and business must act.

Education system reforms are urgently needed to provide the right technical and people skills, and the ability to adapt to change. As a multi-career reality becomes the norm, workers must boost employability by committing to life-long learning. At the same time, employment policies must combine employers’ need for flexibility with social protection.

Technology is having a profound impact on the nature and structure of work. In this digital era where work is constantly evolving, a premium is placed not on employees who possess the highest level of technical competencies, but on those who have the ability to learn and re-learn on the job. Many employees will find themselves facing technological and structural unemployment if they do not re-invent themselves.

Successful transformational change is most likely to occur where there are strong ecosystems. Cities and regions are showing the way in talent competitiveness because they enjoy a higher level of higher financial independence and economic growth rates than the countries in which they are located and have more agile decision making and innovative branding abilities. The top ten cities combine high quality of life, high connectivity, and high levels of opportunities for international exposure and careers.

The Insead Report offers an interesting picture of a world in which talent moves not only from country to country but also from city to city, often across national borders. Cities are hence emerging as global players on the talent competition scene. The rankings show that although megacities such as San Francisco, Madrid or Paris are among the leaders, smaller cities such as Copenhagen, Zurich, Gothenburg, or Dublin are competitors to be reckoned with. They are cities where talent can find excellent career opportunities, good connectivity (broadband and transport) and a high quality of life for themselves and their families.

Many small cities amongst the top performers have less than 400,000 inhabitants. Top performers combine the best of both worlds (high quality of life combined with opportunities for international exposure and careers). Interestingly 3 Scandinavian cities feature in the top 5, having benefited from concerted strategies for attracting and retaining talent.

Technology and hyper-connectivity are already changing the nature of work: along with demographic, economic and social factors, they are driving the rise of a more independent and dispersed workforce. Flexibility is the watchword of our age, as we are shifting from an environment in which work was based on traditional (salaried) employment to one where 30% of the USA and European working population are free agents. Foxconn the mega supplier of Apple has already replaced 60,000 of the 110,000 workers at its giant plant near Shanghai by deploying thousands of industrial robots.

Technical skills plus social/project competence are crucial for the new talent profile since innovation increasingly comes from collaboration. As the world we live in is so unpredictable, young people must be empowered by ‘learning how to learn’, along with creativity, problem solving and communication skills. Curricula must consist of experiential and project based approaches, including work-based training opportunities, such as apprenticeship systems. In a multi-career age, moreover, life-long learning is a must.

We are experiencing a profound transformation of society, organisations, careers, education and employment. Organizations are becoming flatter and interconnected; results and collaboration win over authority and hierarchy and a ‘multi-career’ has become the norm.


Manufacturing needs to fix an Image Problem to solve its Talent Shortage

Today, 6 in 10 openings for skilled production positions remain unfilled because of a talent shortage. Looking ahead, the U.S. will need to fill nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs between 2015 and 2025 – yet about 2m of those jobs are expected to go unfilled because companies won’t be able to find workers with the skills needed in today’s technology-enabled industry.

Equipping the current and future workforce with the necessary skills is crucial. But we also need to clear the outdated and mistaken perceptions that exist which are preventing many from seeking careers in manufacturing in the first place.

Manufacturing has become very digitized. Smart factories are replacing primitive production plants. Workers are spending more time at computers and less time at manufacturing equipment. Advancements around newer processes, like 3D printing are continually pushing the limits of conventional manufacturing.

Unfortunately, public perceptions have not caught up with this new reality. As a result, many people hold the same views of manufacturing careers that their grandparents had – decent-paying jobs that often involve long assembly lines, manual labor, and loud machinery.

This perspective was reinforced in a study conducted by Opinion Research Corporation. The survey revealed:

71% of respondents do not view manufacturing as a high-tech career choice.

People mostly believe manufacturing jobs are working among machines (55%) and on assembly lines (50%). They only envision robotic technicians managing automated machines (20%) or software developers working in front of computer screens (10%).

Only 31% of respondents think a career in manufacturing is high paying.

Changing perceptions about manufacturing and sparking interest of the millennial generation is essential. A number of companies are already demonstrating how to do this.

GE, for example, created its “digital industrial” ad series starring millennials, Sarah and Owen. It is just as much a rebranding effort as it is a recruitment tool. GE premiered ads on late-night comedy shows and posted them on YouTube – with some videos including links to the GE careers page. The company even created a clever “Digital Industrial” filter for Snapchat, a popular social network among millennials. Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt has stated “The Industrial Internet and the economic potential of connecting a locomotive or a jet engine to the cloud has much more potential than the consumer internet! We can now use software and analytics to unlock the incredible value of machines and increase productivity, something that wasn’t available before.” And that all new recruits to the company, even finance and HR will need to learn Code

Lincoln Electric has used virtual reality to engage with young people, transporting them from a career fair to a plant floor to try their hand at welding.

SKF USA created an outreach program for community and technical colleges that included free instructional materials and training for teachers.

Proto Labs have given away tens of thousands of free manufacturing aids, like demo molds and design cubes, to help the faculty at the nation’s top engineering schools teach aspiring mechanical engineers about the latest technological advancements in manufacturing

The digital transformation of manufacturing has opened doors to STEM-rooted careers in the fields of software development, mechanical engineering and computational data sciences. This expertise is absolutely critical in further advancing both conventional manufacturing processes, like injection molding and CNC machining as well as industrial 3D printing. The proliferation of industrial robotic equipment, automation controls, digital scanning devices, and M2M learnings has and will continue to create an increased demand for a highly-skilled workforce capable of operating and maintaining this type of equipment.

A rewarding career awaits the next generation of manufacturing talent – many of them just don’t know it yet. By dispelling age-old misperceptions and enlightening young people about what modern manufacturing really is, we can begin to close the skills gap and inspire a new generation of workers to pursue high-tech and high-paying careers in our industry

Dec 21, 2016
Vicki Holt President & CEO, Proto Labs