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Leadership interviews from
Arcadier’s Inspire Summit

Managing and Retaining Top Talent in your Teams by Clarence Tan

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Recruiting, let alone retaining the right people for your company can be fraught with difficulties. With his twenty years of experience managing, developing and leading global teams as the former Vice President for New Hotels and Development for Asia, the Middle East and Africa at Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), Clarence Tan has had his fair share of tough calls to make when it comes to hiring top talent. Now the Managing Director of Southeast Asia and Korea at IHG, Clarence has continued to lead teams with diverse backgrounds, all while keeping an eye out for budding talents. In his Arcadier Inspire summit talk, Clarence speaks candidly about his experiences and gives advice on managing top talent and embracing change.

What is Top Talent?

Clarence believes that given a level playing field, everyone is a talent. In order to let a person’s talents shine through, you need to ensure that he/she is “in the right place at the right time, at the best fit job that he/she can succeed in regardless of race, educational background or diversity”. Clarence stresses that everyone has to be given a chance. This is where leadership comes in. As a leader, you need to make the right calls to let talents blossom. Sometimes, you may need to take risks to get the people who are best-suited for the job. At the same time, keep in mind that no one is irreplaceable, no matter how talented they are. Clarence states bluntly, “If we don’t start taking risks on young talent, we ourselves face a very vicious spiralling cycle. We all need to be replaced. Young talent needs to come up. The future belongs to the young talent and we need to give them the space to learn, grow and make mistakes.”


How do you Engage your Talents?

Don’t underestimate interns, says Clarence. According to him, they can very well be the new leaders of the future. Engaging them thus becomes paramount. Internship programmes these days are more structured and include several deliverables which need to be completed within the internship period. Internship programmes can be as rewarding for the intern as they are for you. To engage your interns, entrust them with tasks that can actually add value to the company. Gone are the days where all interns did was make coffee and file paperwork. When only trivial tasks are piled on their plates, you can be sure that they won’t have a high opinion of your company and by extension, the industry.

Humans are social animals, and talents are no exception. When hiring interns, Clarence advises hiring a group from different backgrounds so that you can rotate them within your company. By doing so, not only will they be able to share their experiences, but you will also be able to attain feedback on what worked for them and what didn’t. Clarence further points out that it is necessary to have like-minded people working together to enable the team to perform at its best. Engage these talents, and embrace them because one day, they will reach the top.


How do you Manage Cross-Country Teams?

Thankfully, social media has made it easier than ever to communicate with people from all over the world. Social media has opened new channels for you to get to know and communicate with your global teams. Clarence notes that sometimes, it’s the small things that matter. Something as simple as wishing your team member a happy birthday on Facebook speaks volumes to your sincerity. With messaging applications such as Whatsapp, chatgroups have also become commonplace and they have become the medium of choice for disseminating urgent information. Clarence shares that he manages a crisis by creating a Whatsapp group with all the relevant parties and posting updates in the chat to keep everyone informed. The group members can also upload on-time, real-time data which Clarence can use to determine his next course of action.

Besides maximising his use of social media, Clarence also suggests having regular catch-ups whenever possible with teams you rarely work with. While we are in the digital age, don’t underestimate the power of traditional face-to-face communication. To be an effective communicator, you should harness the strengths of both social media and traditional forms of communication.


How do you Retain Talent?

Face it, retaining talent is hard and Clarence admits that despite your best efforts, you are bound to lose some talents along the way. It doesn’t help that the workforce of today tends to be fixated on the industry of their choice and are less open to dabbling into new fields. In the real world, everything is a variable. Furthermore, “technology continues to disrupt the way we work, and the way we think, eat, behave and live,'' says Clarence. In this volatile environment, it is highly likely that you will lose talent along the way. The company may change, the individual may have a change of heart or he/she may have different aspirations.

Nevertheless, to retain talent, it comes back to engaging them. As a leader, you need to put yourself out there and talk to people. Be authentic and embrace new talent, technology and diversity. If you build a conducive and pleasant working environment for your talents, even if they leave your company for a while, they will come back in the future and assume senior positions. It’s all about creating that positive experience. As Clarence quips, “life is about gaining new experiences, about letting that talent go elsewhere to gain new experiences and become better professionals to come back to your company.''

Watch the full Arcadier Inspire summit talk here



Watch it right here.

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