On May 8, 2017, Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker and political outsider, was elected France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon. His victory over Marine Le Pen, a far-right economic nationalist, represented not only the start of a more centrist policy agenda for France, but a sigh of relief for many throughout the globe.
On the heels of Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union and Donald J. Trump’s surprising presidential election victory in the United States, Macron’s win signified a respite from the nationalist and protectionist sentiments that swept the globe last year. Not only is Macron pro-EU — unlike his opponent, who vowed to exit France from the currency bloc — but he is a staunch advocate of economic globalism, a concept that has come under intense scrutiny in recent years as pro-nationalist political leaders rose to power.
In the U.S., President Trump’s early efforts in office to renegotiate international trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and curtail immigration visa programs in certain sectors are viewed as fundamental moves needed to implement his economic nationalist agenda, one that calls for a “Buy American, Hire American” approach. As Trump tells it, American workers have long been undermined by the promises of globalization, a claim not entirely untrue; his agenda calls for limiting immigrant talent in the country and potentially putting import tariffs on foreign goods. Similarly, in Britain, exiting the EU is an effort to control the flow of immigration into the country and promote a more nationalist approach to its economic and business agenda. As a result of the leave vote, London, long considered the financial capital of Europe, is at risk of losing such an honor as firms consider moving their headquarters elsewhere. Had Le Pen defeated Macron, it’s likely she would have led France with a similar nationalist outlook.
As our cover story shows, beneath the political nature of the economic globalist vs. nationalist debate are significant implications for the global business of talent. Limits to the flow of immigration across the globe, especially in the EU, have profound implications for multinational corporations. Moreover, with a rapidly expanding technological landscape and unemployment in the U.S. nearing historic lows, executives are struggling to source talent, particularly in burgeoning sectors like technology. Restricting the flow of immigrant talent throughout the world only makes this struggle more difficult.
The debate over immigration is sufficient enough to advocate for a more welcoming approach to globalization — all while ensuring that its downsides are limited — but there are other ways executives should consider a more global mindset when it comes to how they manage talent. For instance, as profiled in our cover section, many countries have developed unique labor market identities thanks to their cultural norms and geography. Our brief profiles of these regions represent an effort to showcase their fundamental economic strengths and weaknesses as well as an overview of the talent their institutions and industries are able to produce. Having a more intimate window into these areas will provide executives with potentially new sources of talent across the globe. Furthermore, these countries’ unique economic challenges provide executives with insights into how their firms might tackle some of their own roadblocks when it comes to sourcing and developing talent strategies.
Finally, in our cover spread’s final section, we examine the cultural norms other countries bring to business and how executives based in the U.S. might apply them to their own corporate cultures.
Even as the complexity that globalization brings to business and economics is likely to persist indefinitely, the phenomenon itself isn’t going away. Executives intent on maintaining a competitive advantage in such an environment should deeply consider the effect to which today’s political forces regarding globalization will influence their talent strategies — while at the same time embracing markets whose unique but underrepresented labor force might be a powerful source of talent for decades to come.
Frank Kalman is Talent Economy‘s managing editor. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. This issue originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Talent Economy‘s quarterly Journal. Click here to view the complete digital edition.