Cultivating your workforce for the ‘Asian century’

With the rise of Asia in the global economy, how can HR ensure employees have the skills for these different markets and cultures?

Cultivating your workforce for the ‘Asian century’
A l
eading workplace diversity body has spoken out about the growth of Asia and how businesses can develop staff to better benefit from the rising dragon.
Diversity Council Australia’s (DCA’s) Leading in the Asian Century report looks at what’s known as ‘Asia capability’ (or A-Cap) and examines why this is essential for organisations and the HR teams within them.
“Asia capability is defined as individuals’ ability to interact effectively in Asian countries and cultures and with people from Asian cultural backgrounds to achieve work goals,” Lisa Annese, CEO of the DCA, told HC.
While the study found that 10.8% of all Australian workers have excellent Asia capability, 34.7% have none or very little. This shows that there is definite room for growth.
The council’s research uncovered seven key indicators of Asia capability, Annese said, such as having:
  • Cultural intelligence
  • A working knowledge of Asian culture (eg of cultural, legal, economic, political and business systems)
  • Asian cultural experience (eg having lived, worked, studied, travelled in Asia or managed or worked in culturally diverse teams including Asian individuals)
  • Proficiency in an Asian language
  • Asian social capital (eg regular contact with Asian networks, clients, family)
  • An Asian people management lens (eg valuing Asian professional experience or knowledge of Asian employment practices)
  • An (Asian) multicultural identity
A-Cap is considerably higher in certain groups, Annese said. This includes the 16.7% of Australian workers who have an Asian cultural identity, the 15.9% who have lived and worked in Asia and the 20.9% who can read, write and/or speak an Asian language (at least basic proficiency level).
It makes sense for organisations to leverage this talent, she added.
In order to improve this capability amongst the workforce, there are a number of strategies open to HR.
“A good starting point is to review your organisation’s business strategies to ensure you are making the most of the Asian opportunity and Australia’s multicultural society. Measuring and benchmarking the Asia capability profile of your workforce is also key.”
During recruitment, promotions and remuneration review, place a higher value on candidates with Asian experience, an Asian cultural identity, or experience working in or managing culturally diverse teams, she told HC.
“Research shows that people with these experiences and characteristics have higher cultural intelligence and can generate positive outcomes for the business.”
HR can also offer Asian cultural capability and intercultural awareness training, immersion experiences such as overseas placements, and access to in-depth information on Asian markets and environments, Annese said.
Related stories:
Australian businesses need to "groom" Asian workers
Australian businesses lack ‘Asia capability’
Why you should be actively seeking a diverse workforce

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