Global companies in Singapore with aggressive ambitions for Asia have started ramping up internal programmes to advance the skills and experience of nationals. Success in Asia is increasingly being linked to the visible diversity of top executive leadership - and international banks have responded accordingly.
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep) recently published "Adopting an Asian Lens to Talent Development" based on research done jointly with Hong Kong's Community Business NGO and Aperian Global, a consulting firm.The report identified six ways multinationals can groom local Asian candidates for senior positions.
International exposure will boost the skill-set of any employee, but the research noted that Singaporeans are reluctant to relocate, particularly those with families or older parents. Banks participating in the survey said that global rotation programmes have struggled to attract Singaporeans. Tafep says companies should target junior employees for overseas postings. "Such initiatives [are] potentially less expensive...as they can be positioned as a learning and development opportunity rather than a formal expatriate package."
Unconscious bias, where senior management unintentionally targets talent from similar cultural backgrounds is a problem for Singaporeans hoping to secure global leadership opportunities in multinationals, suggested the research. Ensuring that more Asian bankers made it on talent committees would help overcome this problem.
If Singaporeans can't be persuaded to move internationally, one solution would be to invest in mentoring and sponsorship programmes that partner employees from elsewhere in the world with Singaporean staff. This both broadens their international exposure and connects them with influential people in the financial sector.
Structured and customised development is needed to help Singaporeans polish skills and competences required by global corporations, such as dealing with change and ambiguity, and building cultural and emotional intelligence. "[This] should be provided in the earlier stages of an individual's career so that employees are better equipped to take on leadership roles when opportunities arise," said the report.
This is seen as a critical requirement, particularly where skills gaps present an insurmountable obstacle to career advancement. Examples cited included coaching on risk-taking and building a strong personal brand, as well as helping to encourage Singaporeans to move beyond their comfort zones to take advantage of new opportunities.
To meet the challenge of creating global exposure without leaving Singapore, Tafep says companies could make the city-state their central hub, and roll out global projects from there.