This year’s 2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index places Switzerland at the top. In addition, the study by the business school INSEAD, with input from the Adecco Group and the human capital leadership institute, puts Switzerland at or near the top on all six measures that make up the overall ranking of 118 nations.
Switzerland excels in areas such as labour-employer cooperation (1st), ease of hiring and firing (1st), and government effectiveness (2nd). In addition, its education score is outstanding. particularly job related learning. It ranks number one for employee development, lifelong learning and relevance of its education to the economy. These things together add up to high brain gain and high brain retention.
The one area where Switzerland lets itself down is its low number of female graduates (83rd). At the same time Switzerland had the lowest gender pay gap. Gender equality falls under the heading of attracting talent. Despite the poor score on female graduates, Switzerland still manages to rank 5th out of 118 on this overall measure, behind Singapore, Luxembourg, Qatar and the UAE.
The top ten nations in the overall index are:
118 countries were included.
Small is beautiful
The study looks beyond countries to cities. Switzerland does well here too. Zurich, the only Swiss city in the study, ranks second, behind Copenhagen. With the exception of Paris, Madrid, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the cities in the top ten have an average population of just below 400,000. According to the authors, this confirms that the trend for highly educated individuals to gravitate to large cities is a thing of the past. Although size brings many advantages in terms of jobs and connectivity, the highly educated can now operate from well-connected smaller cities and enjoy a higher quality of life.
In eight of the top ten cities English is widely spoken, another key factor for attracting global talent.
The top ten cities were:
4. San Francisco
8. Los Angeles
46 cities were included.
Job killing technology
In addition, the report contains a section on how technology is replacing people, not just for routine manual jobs but also knowledge jobs in professions such as law, medicine, education, and consulting. While new jobs are being created, the skills required for these new roles don’t necessarily exist today. A board member of a major European bank who was interviewed said that our chairman wants 10,000 people out of this bank, and 10,000 people with new skill sets in.
The concept of a linear career “find your ladder and climb it”, fits poorly with rapid change. Fifty years ago people could stay in a single career for their entire lives. Now jobs may only last a few years. Human longevity also undermines this linear way of thinking of life and a career. Most people will be working for longer to provide for underfunded pensions. The idea that people will continue working into their 70s and even 80s is no longer improbable. It is hard to imagine people maintaining high levels of performance without redefining careers.
One study cited points out that long term corporate jobs only became the norm around 60 years ago when manufacturing companies created them to control quality and maximise production and sales. Before that, big companies outsourced virtually everything. In 1910 more than half the workers in production jobs were independent contractors.
So what could the future look like?
One path could be the spiral career described by Lynda Gratton in 2011. For example, an engineer could spend ten years in a lab that she ultimately heads up, then get involved in quality improvement projects, spiral to become a sales manager. At this stage, given her sense for people and talent, she becomes a candidate for a position as talent director for a global corporation, moving to third career in HR leadership.
Such a career path requires plenty of ongoing training. Last week’s Economist looks at this challenge and those who risk getting left behind. The best qualified people are often those best at retraining. Differences in capacity for (and access to) retraining could further exacerbate economic inequality, according to the Economist’s Deputy Editor Edward Carr.
British educationalist Ken Robinson talks about the need to reform education in the animation below. He argues that the current school system was designed for a different age. He likens the current system to manufacturing, a poor design for a rapidly changing world.
Switzerland’s strengths play well to rapid technological change. Strong cooperation between labour, employers and government should help to keep education relevant. Its high score for job related lifelong learning will also help. However, even top-scoring Switzerland will need to keep retraining itself.
2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index (in English)