Finding and keeping talent in Asia: The challenge explained | Man About Asia

"Talent by far will be your biggest challenge, and while it may be a recruiter’s dream, it’s going to be a manager’s nightmare,” Wayne Arnold.

Marketing as a profession is relatively new in Asia, and the talent pool can be both limited and idiosyncratic. In the fifth episode of The Drum’s series Man About Asia, Wayne Arnold explains why it is remarkably difficult for western companies to find and keep talented staff in the region.

“Take China as case in point, until the opening up of controlled capitalism where you’ve got brands like Louis Vuitton or Prada coming down the high street, there was no need for mass consumer choice so no need for marketers. As a result the profession did not exist,” says Arnold, who also claims the profession is typically not seen as a desirable one for young Asians, who are likely to favour banking, accounting, law or medicine.

Arnold goes on to explain that most Asian education systems do not foster what he calls ‘diagonal thinkers’, “people who feel as comfortable looking at a spreadsheet as they are judging a creative idea”.

“The problem here, like many markets, is that the education system is almost quite victorian, based on principles of learn, recite and repeat, and that produces linear thinkers not diagonal thinkers,” adds Arnold, who then suggests tried and tested recruitment solutions.

The last section of the episode tackles the problem of retention, and the unique challenges that marketers face.

“It’s not uncommon for example in China, for companies to complain of an 80 per cent, churn-rate of their talent,” says Arnold, who then touches on the issue of what he terms 'people loyalty' over 'brand loyalty’, a symptom of which being when whole creative teams leave an agency when the creative director moves on.

In the next episode, Arnold takes a look at the diversity of creative cultures across Asia.

Each of the videos, along with their corresponding marketer vox pops, will be available on the Man About Asia hub, in association with Lowe Profero.

To catch the entire series, subscribe to The Drum YouTube channel

The Episodes

  • Episode one, 'What Is Asia Anyway’, breaks the vast and complex region into chunks, focusing on the scale of the opportunities across Asia.
  • Episode two, 'Avoiding Air Miles Disease’, takes a closer look at the opportunities each sub-region presents and the issue of where to invest.
  • Episode three, ‘Same Same But Different’, tackles arguably the greatest opportunity, that of China.
  • Episode four, 'Social Asia’, explores the wonderful, staggering and sometimes bizarre world of social media in Asia.
  • Episode five, ‘The Talent Game’, explains why finding and keeping talent is a ongoing challenge for marketers in the region.
  • Episode six, 'Creativity & The Power of Celebrity', takes a look at the diversity of creative cultures across Asia.
  • The final episode, ‘Lost In Translation’, offers up some tips and hints for those adjusting to Asian styles of business.