Global migration the new management challenge

Sep 24 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

As the working populations of the major Western economies shrink and age over the next decades we are likely to see a global migration of workers from developing and emerging nations – a population movement that will in turn store up its own set of staffing and management problems for the future.

Research by consultancy KPMG has argued that managers will need to be prepared for a completely new, international management environment over the coming decades as the flow of skilled and unskilled labour between the developing and developed economies increases.

What we are going to see as the Baby Boomer generation retires and is replaced by fewer Generation Y workers (those born after 1976) is a "global skills convergence", it has argued.

"Increasing globalisation, combined with the effects of what we call the 'demographic faultline' will present challenges for multinational corporations unprepared for the change," explained Bernard Salt, a partner with KPMG in Australia and author of the report.

This convergence, or a net flow of skilled and unskilled workers migrating between the developed and developing worlds, will mean companies will need completely to rethink how they manage their workforces, he argued.

"Multinational corporations can and should begin preparing for this new environment by establishing leadership groups, exposing staff to international cultures and drawing on local staff to manage country offices," Salt said.

"These and other steps have proven to be effective strategies that have eased the transition in several global corporations," he added.

At the same time, Africa, Asia, Latin America and India, countries with a surplus of labour, may start in years to come to experience significant economic migration of their own workers.

"The face of the international workforce is changing. Labour and talent will flow between countries. Generation Y already has a global perspective thanks to the Internet and the relative affordability of international travel," said Salt.

"They are taking this mindset into the workplace and are looking for global opportunities for migration and career advancement," he added.

If senior managers wanted to mitigate theses issues associated with managing a global workforce they needed to establish a future leaders group, transfer management of local offices to local staff, expose staff to global cultures, pursue a policy of workplace diversity and develop tailored career plans, he recommended.

However, if UK research by HR consultancy Penna is anything to go by, British firms, at least, are going to find this new global environment a distinct challenge.

In July, it reported that just a fifth of British firms had a multi-lingual recruitment and assessment process and six out of 10 had no means of effectively assessing workers across country borders.

Earlier this year, too, an International University of Monaco academic, Professor Boris Porkovich, argued that the development of a "global generation" of business leaders brought with it unique challenges and problems for employers and business schools around the world.