Article: What prompts talent to migrate?

Talent Acquisition

What prompts talent to migrate?

There are pull and push factors that drive talent migration in a globalized economy
What prompts talent to migrate?

Organizations will need to draw these lessons from immigration patterns of countries to learn what they need to do to become attractive


The annual migration of wildebeest and zebras is one of the most fascinating sights in Africa. Every year, one-and-a-half million wildebeest and 300,000 zebras undertake the 1,800 mile journey with their calves to go from Serengeti to Masai Mara. They cross torrential rivers filled with crocodiles and dodge the big cats that are forever ready to hunt them down. Yet, the migration continues every year even though almost 250,000 wildebeests do not survive this journey. Migration is a natural phenomenon that affects every species, including humans. Talent migration is inevitable in a global world. When talent migrates out, it can start as a trickle and then become a torrent.

What drives migration across countries?

Push Factors

While threats to survival are some of the most common push factors that lead to migration, it is usually driven by a lack of freedom and the threat to one’s freedom. Immigrants often talk about the lack of fairness in finding a job at home as the primary reason for immigration. Lack of high quality education and healthcare are powerful reasons for people to leave. Food and environmental scares are driving out a lot of people in China to countries with clean air. In 2013, 8.5 million mainly middle-class Chinese were living abroad, while only 848,000 people had moved to China, according to a report by the Center for China & Globalization.

Pull Factors

The prospect of gain creates the biggest pull factors for talent migration. The likelihood of better job opportunities and living conditions, the freedom to pursue one’s choices and in general, a better life for the families marked by good quality education and medical care are the most common pull factors. According to UNESCO, almost 200,000 students from India go to study abroad. Almost 70 per cent of them go to US, UK or Australia.

Other than wealth preservation, people will go to a place where their skills are better valued. Migration is then simply a process by which skill gaps draw in people from a diverse geographical base. Eventually some skills become critical for businesses to continue. These locations then become talent hubs. Silicon Valley in the US or Bengaluru in India has for long been the hub for people skilled in technology. In 2012 almost 51 per cent of Silicon Valley’s population spoke a language other than English compared to 21 per cent in the rest of US.

What does it mean for organizations?

Organizations need to draw lessons from countries. Every time the organization gets featured in the list of Great Places to Work, it becomes branded as a talent hub. Organizations will need to draw these lessons from immigration patterns of countries to learn what they need to do to become attractive to the talent pool they wish to have.

Value Diversity: Talent hubs are all melting pots of culture. They make it possible for people of all origins and backgrounds to find a little piece of home. Do the same in your organization. If your teams are not diverse in every way, you are not yet a talent hub.

Become a Talent Hub: The opportunity to grow and learn from a talented peer group is a huge attraction in the new world. The people who are seen to be thought leaders are the best brand ambassadors the organization has. Leverage them to attract top talent from across the world.

Opportunities to Collaborate: Talented people like to tinker and experiment with new ideas. Getting them to collaborate across work teams can be a powerful way to unleash new ideas and keep people engaged.

There was a time when the products and services brands were what built organizations. Understanding and then benchmarking what makes a city attract talent from across the world can be a great way for organizations to learn how to do this well.

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, #GlobalPerspective

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