Researchers at the St Petersburg University Graduate School of Management have examined how Russian and Chinese corporations work with employees who are talented.  The researchers took a close look at 120 companies in these two countries with emerging economies and found that the introduction of talent management practices has a positive effect on companies’ ability to acquire, assimilate and exploit knowledge – and, in the end, on their performance.  

“There are several approaches to deciding which employees should be designated as talented,” said Marina Latukha, Doctor of Economics and Senior Lecturer at St Petersburg University.  “According to one, it is those who, taking into consideration various criteria, are the most productive.  According to another, it is all people who have potential, including recent graduates with no work experience.  A third states that it is game changers, people who are ready to accept innovative solutions.  Every company adopts one of these approaches, or combines them.  All practices for managing talent can be divided into three components:  attracting people to the organization, developing them (discovering their potential and encouraging them to achieve it) and keeping them with the company (using an incentive system and career planning).”

The primary objective of the research, in which Anna Veselova, Ph.D. in Economics and Senior Lecturer at St Petersburg University, also participated, was to see to what extent talent management influences companies’ “absorptive capacity.”  This is a business term that denotes the degree to which an organization is capable of attracting, retaining, assimilating and exploiting knowledge, in the broad sense of the word.

This research has been published in the top-rated academic journal Human Resource Management.

All told, in each of the two countries the researchers analysed sixty companies, in which there was an average of around 9,000 employees.  Representatives of the companies took part in surveys that consisted of three parts or sets of questions:  one about the use of specific business practices with talented employees, another about the companies’ absorptive capacity and a third about the companies’ performance results.  It took the researchers around two years to collect and process the data.  In the history of management and business journals included in the Association of Business Schools (ABS) Journal Quality Guide, this study is the only one to have been authored solely by Russian researchers. 

“Our research has shown that a talent management system has an impact on all four aspects of ‘absorptive capacity’,” Ms Latukha pointed out.  “But the link between the management of talented employees, the ability of a company to attract, retain, assimilate and exploit knowledge and the company’s performance is stronger in Chinese companies.  This has come about not only because they take a more vigorous approach to the absorption of knowledge than Russian companies, but also because they have moved on to the stage of knowledge transformation, which allows them to develop knowledge that is uniquely their own. That being said, Russian companies are continuing to invest in the development of their employees at a furious pace by absorbing knowledge, but not as aggressively as their Chinese counterparts.”

There has been yet another major work presented this year by a research group of the St Petersburg University Graduate School of Management, Talent Management in Global Organizations: A Cross-Country Perspective.  It was released by Palgrave Macmillan, a global academic publisher.  Each of the chapters devoted to an exploration of talent management practices in the Asia-Pacific region, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was co-written by either a member of the faculty or a young researcher at St Petersburg University.

The underlying idea of the work is to examine talent management practices in these regions and in companies within the regions.  Although researchers often fail to notice them for various reasons, it is precisely such companies that are uniquely qualified to develop and apply managerial know-how, since they are forced to create a unique competitive edge in order to survive in a global environment.  This comprehensive work allowed University researchers to identify several key trends that are becoming relevant to businesses all over the world today. 

In virtually all of these regions, companies are on the lookout for such potential talents – they are working with universities and business schools, trying to entice people who have yet to enter the open job market.  Preference is given not to those who can show immediate results here and now, but to those who have the potential to achieve such results. 

Marina Latukha, Head of the Research Group, Doctor of Economics and Senior Lecturer at St Petersburg

Another trend that caught the attention of the researchers was the extensive use of methods to retain employees.  “Practically all companies realize that if a talented employee turns up at their company, it does not mean that they will stay there for evermore,” one of the researchers noted.  “The company’s mission, then, is to do whatever it takes so that this employee will want to work for this organisation and none other, and, in so doing, help shape the company’s culture and values.  Potential employees think like this:  ‘If this company is saving the world, I want to do it with them.”

A third observation:  since the majority of talent management practices are very similar, companies must come up with their own, unique system for managing talent today, so that they will be able to compete for the talented workers tomorrow.  You can find the answer to the question of how to do this in the book Talent Management in Global Organizations: A Cross-Country Perspective.