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  • Suzanne McMinn
  • 2 February 2015
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European countries top league for world talent

The 2014 World Talent Report, published by global business school IMD at the end of last year assesses how well 60 countries meet corporate needs and assesses the ability of each country to develop, attract and retain talent.

According to Professor Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center:

"The best-ranked countries have a balanced approach between their commitment to education, investment in developing local talent, and their ability to attract overseas talent."

He added:

"Countries with smart talent strategies are also highly agile in developing policies that improve their talent pipeline."

The 2014 IMD World Talent Ranking is led by Switzerland (1), Denmark (2), Germany (3), Finland (4) and Malaysia (5). Ireland is in sixth place, followed by the Netherlands (7), Canada (8), Sweden (9) and Norway (10), with the US in 12th place.

The UK was at no. 20 and Australia no. 19.

At the bottom of the ranking are South Africa (56), Peru (57), Croatia (58), Venezuela (59) and Bulgaria (60).

So what more can a country do to invest in its home grown talent, while balancing that with attracting talent from overseas?

Certainly there is an easy win, in my view, for countries to develop their apprentice schemes. This is why countries like Germany are doing so well in the World Talent Report. They have a number of good apprentice schemes in place which support the young working population. Currently Germany’s youth unemployment rate is at 7.5%, a fraction of what is happening in the UK! So this is something which all areas of the globe could really utilise and build on, making them a real option for talent coming into and already in the workforce.

If managed effectively you can balance growing your own home talent and attracting talent from overseas. You just need to be clear on what you are offering to each section to make it attractive enough, develop and reward them to stay and make it fit not only with your home country workers, but also your business and culture – no mean feat!

According to the data, although the US achieved a rating of 12 in developing its home grown talent, it came in at no. 3 in attracting overseas talent.

While the US might wish to have a higher rating in developing its own talent, being able to attract talent from overseas is a great advantage. In a global climate where so many countries are suffering from an ageing population, there is a real risk for them to lose many skilled workers from the employment market. It's the countries that can focus on both engaging the youth market and attracting overseas talent can be a formidable economic force, enabling skilled workers to join in their economic success.

Does this mean though that globalisation can mean that creating home grown talent is just creating skilled workers who go elsewhere?

Brain drain is becoming a real issue, whereby countries are up skilling their workforce just to see them then ‘jump ship’ to work in countries that can offer them more, in terms of remuneration, opportunities and qualifications. This can be a double-edged sword for some countries, who may ask 'why should we bother to develop our own people when we can gain migrant workers who are highly talented, skilled and qualified who want to work in a different country and experience a better lifestyle?' 

In my view, a balanced approach of developing home talent and bringing in new talent, offers the benefits of keeping the skills at home but will also help manage the ageing workforce where it’s an issue.

One notable country to suffer greatly with 'brain drain' is South Africa, which came in way down the scale at no. 56.

South Africa has seen large numbers of its young people leave its country to study in other countries, who once qualified leaves the country struggling to entice them back to their home economy. 

This has a major impact in some professions; doctors for example are at an all-time low in South Africa. Part of the issue that the country is facing is an academic system that doesn’t support high academic achievement, with around 40% not achieving grades. My feeling is that South Africa needs to look beyond academic qualifications and focus more on vocation training and doing that well. 

This will enable more people to stay in their home country and gain the skills needed, but the trick then will be as for every country in the survey, for South Africa to engage them enough to keep them!

You can read more about the World Talent Report by clicking on the link, and for details of our training venues around the world, click here.