The tight labour market has heightened the need for companies to attract, develop and retain highly-skilled workers. Michael Kunkle, principal consultant for Right Management Hong Kong, finds himself on the frontline of the battle. Rick Gangwani talks with him about the state of the industry, the ‘human age’ and being in the zone
What are the areas of talent management in which your company specialises? We mainly focus on five key areas: leader development, organisational effectiveness, employee engagement, outplacement services, workforce transition and talent assessment, which includes one of the hot topics in Asia right now – sales team effectiveness.
What are some of the other ‘hot topics’? One of the big things that people are asking for in Hong Kong and Greater China right now is high potential programmes. They want to retain and develop their top talent. Manpower Group has actually done a lot of research in this area, and even helped coin the phrase “the human age”.
What is “the human age”? This refers to the transition from an era of capitalism – where if you had money, you could grow – to an era where the pivotal thing that allows you to grow is your talent. Capitalism, we’re saying, has been replaced by “talentism”, where whoever has the best people, and can hold on to them, is going to be the winner.
What does your role involve? My role is to build up the capability of our consultants in the Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific region. I’m doing that in two ways. First, by building up the capabilities of our existing consultants through training and development. And second, by hiring additional consultants. Like our clients, we are growing our operations and finding ourselves in a position where there’s a lot of work in the marketplace.
What does one need to be a consultant? Experience in human capital consulting, or 10 years’ experience in a senior executive HR [human resources] role.
How would you describe the ideal consultant in terms of ability? One who is able to quickly assess situations using data and, based on their industry knowledge and experience, can listen and partner with a client to develop successful talent management solutions.
How have attitudes towards talent management changed in Hong Kong over the years? I can tell you with great confidence that one of the things we’re seeing is an increase in the education level and sophistication of our customers. Five years ago, our primary point of contact would be someone in the HR department. Our primary contact these days is the C-suite – the CEO, CFO or, in many cases, the board. They absolutely get how important having a talent management strategy is for succeeding in business. We have a much more educated buyer at a much higher level in the organisation than ever before.
Do you see the need for your services increasing over the next few years? Absolutely. The talent crunch that we’re going through is only going to get worse. In Hong Kong and China, there are a couple of very specific things happening that are troubling, the most notable being the tendency among [job] candidates to choose Chinese companies over foreign ones. That’s creating a unique situation, one that combines with the existing shortage.
In addressing this need, how will Right Management strive to differentiate itself from competitors? Our primary advantage is our ability to customise leadership solutions. We also focus every engagement on identifying, as clearly as possible, what the ROI [return on investment] is on all our initiatives. We come up with clear metrics so that all of our actions can be linked to specific business results.
Do you have any worries or concerns in terms expansion? My only concern is our ability to continue growing and to overcome the same challenge our clients have – that of having the right people, in the right place and at the right time.