Sunday, March 15, 2009

Diaspora Economic Geography

Despite the economic contraction, the search for top-notch talent continues. Regions might learn something from the scouts, who use innovative methods in order to stay one step ahead of the competition:

So, this summer, Gensler is bringing a new twist to its internship program. A major goal involves hiring students from United States universities who grew up in Brazil, Argentina, India, China or the Mideast and might eventually want to return to their native countries later in their careers. The hope, says Diane Hoskins, one of three executive directors running Gensler, is that these interns can eventually play important roles in helping Gensler build its overseas offices.

Historically, Gensler has expanded in a gradual, impromptu way, opening most of its 31 offices when major clients want work done in new locations. But Gensler’s new effort to nurture transnational architects reflects a more deliberate matching of future talent and future strategy, by clustering gifted people together.

This approach pays homage to one of the firm’s most successful hires. In 1991, an American-trained Chinese immigrant, Jun Xia, joined Gensler’s office in Denver and thrived there, winning awards for a regional airport job. He had planned to settle in the United States, but after a visit to Shanghai in 1998, he urged his bosses to open an office there, so Gensler could play an important part in China’s building boom. The firm did so.

Mr. Xia is now Gensler’s design director in Shanghai. Last year, he and his team won an architectural mandate to create Shanghai Tower, a 2,074-foot colossus that is expected to be China’s tallest building when completed in 2014. Finding young architects with the potential to do something similar for Gensler has become a strategic priority, Ms. Hoskins says.

This approach to talent management is another version of the Google Diaspora, but in reverse. When exporting your best talent, I suggest targeting growth markets that should benefit your region thanks to greater connectivity with a boomtown. Economic synergies between the two locations is also ideal. Furthermore, try to attract superstars from that area and increase brain exchange.

How do you send your talent to a preferred destination? Use your regional diaspora network. Of course, you'll have to organize it first.

No comments: