UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


And the Winner of the Talent Competition Is...


Companies that create a genuinely healthy culture reap the rewards 

When it comes to creating a healthy culture to attract and retain high-potential talent in emerging markets, Doug Ready does the math.

“A healthy culture is the product of a company’s articulated values divided by its observed behaviors,” said Ready, a former leadership professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “If you attract talent by saying you are a collaborative company but turn out not to be, you have an unhealthy culture, and people will be disenfranchised.”


He cites the example of a Uruguayan software engineer applying to work for an Indian company in Brazil in “Winning the Race for Talent in Emerging Markets,” published by Harvard Business Review. The engineer was attracted by compelling promises that Standard Chartered Bank made about:

  • Brand – It had a reputation for excellence that might lead to personal advancement.
  • Opportunity – It would provide challenging work, training and competitive pay.
  • Purpose – It had a meaningful mission and values.

By keeping its promises, Standard Chartered Bank reduced its attrition rate by three percent at a time when its rivals showed an increase in attrition.

“Purpose attracts, opportunity attracts, brand attracts and so does culture,” Ready said. “Yet if a company’s culture isn’t authentic, then the very thing that served as an attraction device will now be a strong factor in driving your high potentials away.”

To keep a company’s culture authentic, Ready advises:

  • Beware of exporting your domestic talent strategy to emerging markets. What works at home might not succeed in the developing markets.
  • Have the patience to establish a core of local talent that can guide you in understanding the region.
  • Avoid insisting that English be the official language. Some of the most promising talent might not speak English fluently.
  • Promote local talent. Bright, young recruits want to see people like themselves in positions of power, particularly in hierarchical societies where getting ahead means relying on family or other connections.

Companies committed to developing a healthy culture – and delivering on it – will win the contest for recruiting and retaining talented employees in fast-growing emerging markets.


Doug Ready is a former professor of the practice of leadership at UNC Kenan-Flagler and founder of International Consortium for Executive Development Research.