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Tackling tough challenges for talent in Taiwan
30 September 2015
In Taiwan, more global brands such as those in luxury goods, hospitality and retail are gaining a foothold and breaking through in the market. Significant growth is also seen in industries such as technology, that are developing ‘Centres of Excellence’ in order to drive research and development. A visible push towards innovation is underway rather than manufacturing and assembly in Taiwan as companies attempt to move up the value chain.
Another indicator of Taiwan’s strengths comes from the most recent Global Information Technology Report by the World Economic Forum, which places the island among the wealthiest, most innovative and most digitised nations in the world.
However, in an interview with Financial Times, Bill Wiseman, American Chamber of Commerce Chairman and Managing Partner at McKinsey, observes, “Taiwan is running out of talented managers and engineers … human capital in Taiwan is going to be a constraint on growth.”
The brain drain
A research report by Oxford Economics, highlights that Taiwan will face grave impediments in its future development as its best talent is leaving for opportunities abroad and there are no clear reasons persuading high-calibre talent to come the other way.
These reports call upon Taiwanese companies to retain their best performers and to train and develop talent to handle challenging growth markets.
Information technology (IT) has been at the core of Taiwan’s economic success, as the country established itself as a major manufacturer of electronics and high technology products. The country then turned into an innovation hub later, with the Taiwanese government playing an instrumental role in the transformation. The rapid development of these industries leads to a thriving demand for skilled professionals who are able to create value, manage uncertainty and lead change.
Difficulty with developing careers
Despite the abundance of growth, there remain key challenges that hinder the development of career paths and the retention of talent. In Taiwan, the wages are less than even lower tier cities in Mainland China and there are more promising and varied opportunities in vibrant cities like Hong Kong or Singapore.
Taiwan appears to have deep reserves of quality talent, but is faltering in keeping them satisfied enough to pursue opportunities in the island-state. A survey by Taiwan’s job market 1111.com, indicated that more than 70% of the workforce are keen to work abroad. The primary recurring reason for leaving is to seek better pay.
The lure for foreign talent
It is often the case that foreigners relocate to Taiwan with the company that they are with rather than seeking new opportunities, which can prove to be a challenge. Foreign talent may be called upon to serve as overseas ambassadors for Taiwanese firms as they attempt to globalise, making strides in widening their networks, market development and technology transfer.
Moreover, some jobs may have specific requirements that are difficult to match and locate among candidates. Some engineering and technology positions may have specific technical requirements and it could be hard to find foreign professionals with skill sets relevant to Taiwan.
Infrastructure as well as transport and logistics have the potential to welcome more foreign entrants as the expertise of foreign consultants is highly sought after in laying out best practices in these areas. In addition, there exist niche and obscure areas, such as synchrotron radiation and polymer nanotechnology, both of which are faced with the evergreen issue of inadequate suitable manpower regardless of the employment climate.
Hunting for the right talent
As Taiwanese start-up firms and technical businesses continue to grow aggressively, the quest for qualified technology talent will likely be strong. Professionals with the right skills and experience in application software, e-commerce and digital marketing will be sought after to fill competitive positions.
To raise the bar of talent, Taiwanese companies will have to focus on hiring and developing talent in particular industries by working closely with the government for subsidies to raise wages that will rival international standards so as to help Taiwanese companies attract talent.
Efforts in investment relaxation and immigration reform encouraging innovative and entrepreneurial-minded foreigners to stay in Taiwan should also be nurtured. On a broader scheme, the island must develop value-added industries to remain competitive globally and implement incentive schemes to show recognition of its quality talent.
For Taiwan, the cultivation of internationalised talent who are responsive to change and developing global skills can create opportunities. Taiwan will need to create an environment that is advantageous to world-class enterprises and homegrown companies looking to internationalise. The East Asian tiger should also encourage Taiwanese companies to return and reward international ones to establish their branches and factories here.
By giving the workforce global exposure, individuals with world-class skills will feel compelled to move to Taiwan for work and a wave of outstanding talent could come flooding in.
Sources: Taiwan Government portal, National Statistics Republic of Taiwan, World Economic Forum and the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.