One of the most important initiatives undertaken by governments across the world is to ensure that the unemployment percentage of their working-age citizens remains low to ensure domestic harmony and a respectable international standing among the galaxy of nations. It features prominently in the economic agenda of current administrations and future aspirants. Generally, governments try to cultivate an increase in economic activities that boost the hiring of its citizens through favorable consequential factors, e.g., conducive tax breaks, infrastructure investments, robust law & order, education & skills enhancement initiatives, quality healthcare, astute societal integration, corporate-friendly monetary policies, leveraging cordial relations with other nations, etc. Such measures also attract foreign businesses who normally prefer to bring their own key management personnel as expats while hiring local team members at positions that are liable to be more risk-tolerant and operational in nature.
Ideally, capable locals are expected by their governments to rise through the corporate ranks to eventually replace the expats and diffuse experiences/lessons/expertise as a catalyst for domestic growth and mushrooming of businesses that are home-grown with international infusion of know-how. However, savvy foreign concerns are frequently hesitant to relent in such terms and find innovative ways to run organisations on their own terms. Consequently, some investment-friendly countries have seen huge number of expats dominating the professional realm within majority of the corporate sectors. This has led to an active role by concerned governments, e.g., in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, to use the active incentive-driven ‘Push’ strategy, rather than rely on the passive need-driven ‘Pull’ strategy by corporate entities in terms of customized Workforce Nationalisation. Such measures include; penalty-based rules and regulations mandating quota-based/preferred hiring of locals with better pay and benefits than their peers, stricter visa policies that prioritize expats from certain countries over others, special privileges for organisations that perform well in terms of inclusiveness of local talent, etc.
Workforce Nationalisation doesn’t have to be an adversarial initiative if it is managed as a progressive ‘strategic imperative’ and not as a cumbersome ‘operational accommodation’ by the organisations concerned. However, this requires relinquishing preconceived notions of stereotypes on both sides, i.e., between the government and the corporate sector, and the magnanimity of positive forward-thinking and the exuberance of the realizable/productive practical application that effectively bridges the ‘apparent’ and ‘hidden’ divides.
The following ‘12C’s Approach to Talent Management Strategy for Workforce Nationalisation’ is being presented in the respective context:
Convergence (Employer Branding Focused)
This refers to the initiatives that are undertaken to attract local talent by appealing as a conducive workplace for effective utilization of their skills with an accommodating culture, competitive compensation policies and ample opportunities for progressive growth and development. It is a judicious combination of both formal and informal measures and leverages the achievements and comfort level of the current local workforce as a motivational trigger in reflecting a fertile ground for the next generation.
Culture (Alignment Focused)
This refers to the measures that are geared towards ensuring that the available local talent is a ‘good fit’ with the organisation. It involves having clearly defined core values that form the foundations of an enterprising culture and provides support to functional processes for inducting, developing and engaging local talent without contemplating subtle ways of alienating/marginalizing as a ‘passive’ response to the compulsion of an ‘enforced’ regimen.
Competency (Skills Focused)
This refers to the steps taken for ensuring that the local talent is capable of performing the assigned tasks. It starts from the induction process and carries on throughout the respective employee’s stay with the organisation. The key to keeping training & development costs low in the respective context is the ability to attract and retain ‘above average’ local talent with strong management support in terms of steady career progression upon achieving the required competencies.
Communication (Information Focused)
This refers to the measures that are undertaken to provide lucid understanding, answer simmering concerns, encourage open dialogue and neutralize the grapevine chatter with respect to the ‘regulated’ intake of local talent. Senior leadership has to drive the respective initiative in order to ensure necessary traction throughout the organisation. Both formal and informal channels need to be astutely applied for effectively attaining the desired objectives.
Consideration (Compensation Focused)
This refers to the establishment and application of policies/processes/procedures in terms of providing compensation to the local talent in accordance with the applicable labor laws. It has the potential of disturbing the ‘felt fairness’ aspect that is psychologically entrenched within the expat workforce if the ‘mandated’ standards are glaringly higher than the comparable levels for the expat workforce. Consequently, proactive formal and informal communication is crucial for minimizing passive and active resistance in the respective context.
Contribution (Inclusion Focused)
This refers to the steps taken for ensuring that the local talent is effectively utilized in key aspects of organisational functioning with respect to their assigned responsibilities. It means that their voice is heard, heeded and heralded as the reflection of an integrative culture that is accommodative of all perspectives. It sends a strong signal to the local talent that they are valued for their professional inputs and have a legitimate stake in the progressive strides of the organisation.
Counseling (Mentor Focused)
This refers to formally assigning a member of the mid-senior/senior management, ideally, a local himself/herself, as a mentor to the inducted local talent for providing support and guidance on various professional matters, e.g., career development & advancement, integrating with corporate culture, navigating the tricky path of organisational politics, the art of networking, achieving a sustainable work-life balance, etc. Broad parameters of the respective relationship are provided by the HR function to both the mentor and the mentee while gauging success in the respective context is an integral part of the mentor’s performance appraisal with one of the inputs coming from the mentee.
Coordination (Process Focused)
This refers to the streamlining and effective running of functional processes that are triggered when local talent is inducted, and remain relevant throughout their stay with the organisation. It requires close collaboration between the heads of the key functions concerned, e.g., HR, Legal, Assigned Department, etc. Periodic review of the relevant functional processes as an improvement exercise can provide timely feedback and facilitate focused efforts on any refinements/adjustments needed to ensure the seamless administration of relevant operations.
Cooperation (Engagement Focused)
This refers to the various initiatives undertaken to strengthen the alignment of personal goals/ambitions of the local talent with the corporate imperatives. It includes formal and informal activities/approaches/methodologies that galvanize the local talent in going beyond the ‘call of duty’ and demonstrating their unflinching commitment to excellence as valued team members of a progressive organisation. The key to achieving comprehensive success in the respect context is the enabling of graduation from ‘aspirational’ (extrinsically-driven) engagement to ‘inspirational’ (intrinsically-driven) engagement.
Consolidation (System Focused)
This refers to the measures institutionalized for strengthening and integrating the various processes/policies/procedures that enable the successful lifecycle of local talent during their stay with the organisation. It takes a ‘Systems Approach’ coupled with suitably-spaced frequency of comprehensive audits to assure that the interlinking processes/policies/procedures are capable of delivering on the intended objectives and utilizes periodic senior management reviews to benefit from the ‘lessons learnt’ while taking timely and effective corrective/preventive actions.
Compliance (Regulation Focused)
This refers to the applicable laws that govern the key aspects of hiring, employment lifecycle and exit of local talent. Generally, astute organisations have lawyers available to shift through the maze of legal implications for formulating the best approach to comply with the stated requirements. However, it is more prudent to have an accommodating organisational culture bolstered by an astute talent management strategy that incorporates local talent in as ‘natural’ a way as possible to safeguard against the extremities of incurring a legal infraction which can be an unnecessary and inconvenient drain on precious resources, painfully time consuming and potentially detrimental to the Employer brand.
Connection (Alumni Focused)
This refers to leveraging the network of previous local employees who have had a great experience of working with the organisation for attracting the next crop of local talent. It entails establishing/supporting a vibrant alumni network, maintaining cordial relations with them, heeding their advice on the most suitable approach to hiring new local talent, inviting them to speak and engage with prospective candidates during recruitment drives, etc. This will ensure that the ‘cream’ of local talent can be ‘sighted’, ‘approached’, ‘attracted’, ‘recruited’, ‘selected’ and ‘inducted’ before the competitors get a chance to poach them away.
The aforementioned elements can only be successful if the senior leadership is fully on-board and provides the necessary ‘talent space’ for the locals to demonstrate their ‘true’ value to the organisation and become integral members of the organisational hierarchy without being adroitly sidelined/benched through assignment of non-essential/low-risk roles to satisfy the inevitable ‘optics’ needed for the government regulators. This is critical for organisations who are looking for a long-term footing in a country/region that is prone to high growth and substantial revenues as it ‘localizes’ them at a competitive level and provides fertile grounds for earning goodwill of host nation(s) that can come in handy for cashing ‘rain checks’ during precarious times.