Global talent management

Global talent management encompasses all organisational activities that aim to attract, select, develop and retain talented employees in firms operating across borders. The specificity of talent management, compared to HR.M, is employee segmentation, with pivotal positions in the organisation being reserved for people capable of making a disproportionate contribution to the company’s competitive advantage. The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up work practices, forcing many staff members (including in the HR.M function) to work remotely. The added costs, along with a revenue squeeze, meant many MNEs would find themselves implementing a hiring freeze. In this highly unpredictable and disruptive environment, MNEs focus on maintaining the flow of talent, ideas and innovation. This implies upskilling or reskilling employees locally and tapping into the company’s talent pool internationally to nurture capacity, capability and agility.

Like all international business functions, global talent management (in the wider sense) and HRM (in the narrower sense) involve micro-level MNE strategies unfolding in a context defined by macro-level international constraints.

Attracting global talent

Among the best practices developed by MNEs seeking to recruit the best people, three main approaches can be outlined. First, a clear employee value proposition establishes what the company will offer in terms of leadership development and career growth. It can be communicated through advertisements, job descriptions, websites and organisational social media. However, if this proposition is perceived as unclear or inconsistent or is poorly communicated, it may deter prospective talent from joining the organisation.

Secondly, it is of prime importance that MNEs develop a global talent management strategy consistent with its organisational strategy, mission, values and culture. If the MNEs’ actions do not match their discourse, this may lead to public mistrust and consequently damage the firm’s reputation as an employer of choice for talent.

Thirdly, the culture fit between the employee and the company must be considered during the recruitment process. A study conducted in 2015 by the Society of Human Resource Management claims that when individual and organisational values diverge, it may cost the organisation up to 60% of the person’s annual salary. Hence, MNEs need to clarify what they stand for and select the right talent for fruitful collaboration.

A useful example at this level is a recruitment strategy developed by the Chinese MNE Alibaba. In 2016, an innovative recruitment and training scheme called Alibaba Global Leadership Academy was launched in order to internationalise the company’s workforce, which is predominantly Chinese, and help it to develop a global mindset. The scheme aims to attract talent from major foreign markets targeted by the firm as part of its internationalisation strategy. It includes on-the-job training and a 16-month cultural immersion at headquarters, located in Hangzhou, China. Ultimately, this initiative helps nurture future Alibaba global leaders who will bridge the gap between China and the rest of the world.

Developing talent

The development of global talent has been at the forefront of MNE for a long time. Among the talent management practices taking place in large organisations, coaching and mentoring are often identified as the most effective. Coaching is used in big companies for performance, leadership and career development purposes. Typically, leaders are offered coaching support when they transition between roles, face the prospect of promotion or join a talent management scheme. Talent development activities and leadership coaching used to be the prerogative of top managers and executives. However, mentoring schemes, whereby a senior manager is paired with a less experienced employee, are particularly valued by younger generations.

With millennials comprising over 50% of the global workforce, recent studies have discovered a growing tendency among MNEs to design talent development programmes for graduates and junior and middle managers identified as having high potential. Among the various practices used to develop leadership capabilities and enhance employee performance, coaching and mentoring help extend the network of talented employees, raise awareness of organisational politics and foster intercultural competence. These are essential aids for a fast-track career in an MNE.

Retaining talent

Rewards, promotion and career progression are an important set of HR policies used to recognise and retain the contributions of talented staff. Employees identified as high performers (or possessing high potential) are often positioned in an MNE’s talent pool for succession planning and leadership development purposes. Typically, a talented employee would benefit from developmental activities, such as shortterm international assignments, shadowing, coaching, mentoring and training. Rewarding talent may also be achieved by providing exclusive perks in the form of discounts and access to healthcare, and sport facilities. MNEs are increasingly outsourcing these services to third-party organisations (e.g. Perks at Work), which provide a differentiated offer to talented employees.

In sum, people are a key asset for global performance and organisational competitiveness. Global talent management and human resource practices must constantly be adjusted to support a firm’s internationalisation strategy and reflect societal changes in the countries where it operates.


INSEAD (2019), The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019, Fontainebleau.

Minocha, S. and Hristov, D. (2019), Global Talent Management: An Integrated Approach, Sage: London.

Scullion, H., Collings, D. G. and Caligiuri, P. (2010) “Global Talent Management", Journal of World Business, Volume 45, No. 2, pp. 105—108.

Sparrow, P., Brewster, C. and Harris, H. (2017) Globalizing Human Resource Management, Routledge: Abingdon (2nd edition).

"The world certainly is getting smaller”.

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