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September 2012 Talking Points Newsletter

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According to the 2012 Harvard Business Review report, “Taking Measure of Talent”, Fortune 500 executives are more than just a little concerned about filling their talent pipelines... and for good reason.

Given the pending exit "en force" of baby boomers from the knowledge economy (historically a major human capital resource), coupled with a lack of experienced high-skilled labor to take their place, 60% of today's business organizations report that developing talent is their greatest and most immediate challenge.

Talent Development: Why Accent Reduction?

Why do global organizations from financial services to manufacturing to NATO provide English pronunciation training for their non-native English speakers? It's partly because accent reduction programs provide essential communication skills that help people move into leadership positions that narrow organizational talent gaps. It's also because these talent development programs address issues that are key to program participants themselves: creating more inclusive environments, increasing the level of confidence needed for collaboration and engagement and, perhaps most importantly, supporting career advancement.

By way of example, let's look at the business phenomena experienced, sadly, as 'The Bamboo Ceiling'. Asians make up roughly 20% of the workforce but hold less than 2% of executive jobs at Fortune 500 companies. And, according to the Alliance for Board Diversity Census, Asians hold just 2.1% of all Board seats in Fortune 500 companies. This is a tremendous loss of potential growth and opportunity for both corporations and their professional experts. The consensus seems to be that these numbers are due in part to the relationship between language and culture. In many cases this directly leads to requests for English pronunciation training. Consultant Jane Chang of Global Novations (A Korn Ferry company) explains:

Asian-Americans don't grow up promoting ourselves; our parents do that for us...We are not accustomed to speaking up. Thus, we are seen as lacking leadership skills...Add together an accent and lack of confidence to speak out loud and it's easy to see the reasoning for the feedback...We can't lead if we don't offer our opinions.

In addition to supporting leadership development that's essential for both individual and organizational growth, English pronunciation participants receive CPE, CME, and other learning credits that demonstrate skill acquisition.

Developing Talent to Move from Strategy to Execution

In January, Deloitte issued the results of its longitudinal survey series, Deloitte's Talent Edge 2012. The survey showed that executives of world-class organizations are accelerating talent development programs to increase the probability of achieving their desired outcomes for business growth. In fact, roughly one-third of the executives surveyed ranked developing leaders and succession planning as today's top talent priority. These executives realize that without investment in human capital, they cannot continue to achieve the high level of competitive performance needed to maintain their positions in international markets. As a result, they're investing across the board on critically important talent priorities and initiatives referenced in the charts below.

Organizations' increasing focus on core talent management priorities over the next 12 months
Organizations' increasing focus on core talent management priorities over the next 12 months

Investment in priority area is "high": World-class talent programs vs. non-world-class talent programs
World-class talent programs vs. non-world-class talent programs

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. The statements in this report reflect our analysis of survey respondents and are not intended to reflect facts or opinions of any other entities. All survey data and statistics referenced and presented in this report, as well as the representations made and opinions expressed, unless specifically described otherwise, pertain only to the participating organizations and their responses to the Deloitte survey conducted October 2011.

About the Survey

Talent Edge 2020 is a follow up to the Managing Talent in a Turbulent Economy longitudinal talent survey series. This survey explores the changing talent priorities and strategies of executives at global and large national companies. This report features results from an October 2011 survey that polled 376 senior business leaders and human resource executives at large businesses in the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. For more information see

Developing Talent Pays

Why develop internal talent, and not just hire it from outside the organization? The reasons are many, performance being one of the most critical. In his article, "Paying More to Get Less: The Effects of External Hiring vs. Internal Mobility", Matthew Bidwell makes the case against external hires and for internal development and succession planning. External hires:

  • get paid 18% to 20% more than internal employees do for the same job
  • get lower marks in performance reviews during their first two years on the job
  • were 61% more likely to be laid off or fired from that position and 21% more likely than internal hires in similar positions to leave a job of their own accord
  • tended to have more education and experience than internal workers, but those credentials didn't always result in strong performance—especially in a new company culture.

As important as these factors are, they don't include the additional costs for the time and financial output it takes to screen, interview and onboard new hires. In fact, studies put the cost of losing a single position to turnover anywhere from 30% -150% of a person's yearly salary. That’s a hefty price to pay, and employers recognize it.

Delivering Training to a Global Audience

Trainers at global corporations have a critical need to ensure they're maximizing learning transfer to native and non-native English speakers alike. Not only does this level the playing field for all training participants, it ensures that investment in human capital is optimized to its greatest potential. Last week I presented "Best Practices: Designing Training for a Multinational Workforce" at the 2012 NATO eLearning Forum. Delegates from NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) member nations are keenly aware that excellence depends on addressing "mission critical" talent development needs, the training experience itself being one of them. (To learn more about implementing "Best Practices" for an international workforce, please email Providing accent reduction, combined with training practices designed specifically for global learners, helps meet these needs.

When investment in human capital translates into real value for organizations, and their people, everyone wins.

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