Company remains one step ahead in winning talent war

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 December, 2008, 12:00am

Fundamental to IBM's business success is its culture of learning. 'Training and development, plus career opportunities, are the key things that staff look for before they join a company,' said David Chan, IBM China/Hong Kong manager of leadership development.

'Companies need to make sure that employees are offered the right training and development and that they have the opportunities to pursue their career dreams.'

Mr Chan will be speaking on 'Winning the Talent War: IBM's Approach and Lessons Learned' at the 2008 Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management conference.

With training and development systems in place that have historically been the envy of the information technology industry, IBM is finding that it has had to adjust to massive shifts over the past couple of years in the way that it views learning and human resources.

One of these key shifts has been the impact of globalisation. As an example, more than half of its 16,600 employees in China work on global tasks such as software development as opposed to jobs specific to the mainland.

'These staff, serving global customers, need a different sort of training,' Mr Chan said.

'For example, they might need to learn how banks work, how to add value and to have knowledge about global business.'

The rapid growth of emerging economies, such as the mainland, also means that their training needs differ from those required in developed economies.

'There are growth market needs and developed market needs. The requirements for both markets are quite different regarding learning and staff development,' Mr Chan said.

'In IBM China, for example, we have about 300 new managers every year.

'When Chinese professionals are promoted to managers, they tend not to be as experienced as their counterparts in developed countries. This poses a different set of training challenges.'

On the mainland, there is a need for a high degree of coaching and mentoring from senior managers. 'We employ a lot of leader-teaching-leader concepts. Most of the learning there happens on the job - leaders learning from more experienced leaders,' he said.

Many experienced managers in IBM China are from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Thanks to technology and globalisation, the learning road maps that the company puts in place in China can be shared by all its subsidiaries.

'We have a very good one-year programme for our middle management in China. When we shared this with our colleagues in Peru, they said 'hey, this is what we need - why reinvent the wheel?' This is the beauty of globalisation and leveraging,' Mr Chan said.