Daniel MacDonald, MILR '06
Talent Development and Economic Growth in Russia
Every minute in Moscow, I am reminded of the enormous socio-economic changes Russia is experiencing. Over the past year, the Ruble became increasingly stable relative to the dollar and in response Multi-National Corporations have increased their commitment to gain market share in the largest country in the world. Russia has projected growth in almost every sector: oil and gas production, telecommunications, IT infrastructure, and business outsourcing just to name a few.
After graduating from the MILR program in 2006, I have been extremely lucky to find myself working as an HR specialist in IBM Russia, a leader in global business and technology services in the post-Soviet market. This is an exciting time to be involved in Russian HR because of the fact that our profession was, until recently, only considered to be an administrative function. Today Russian businesses are looking to HR to be more of a strategic partner, similar to the way Western companies currently define the role.
As a result, there are many opportunities to make advances in how Russian businesses recruit, develop, and retain top talent to address the rapidly changing market realities, such as hyper competition for resources within the Russian labor market. Because most companies project growth in Russia in 2007, skilled Russian labor has many choices between a wide range of employers. Consequently, corporations are working hard to brand themselves as the ‘employer of choice’, and they are placing more emphasis on climate and employee development more than they have in the past.
One of the most surprising aspects of working in Moscow has been the overwhelming scale of construction projects due to increased foreign investment. IBM is located in the center of an international business hub known as “Moscow-City”, located about 2 miles west of the Kremlin and still being constructed. This small area is representative of the changes in labor relations throughout the country, as capital flows in and jobs are created, attracting a large labor pool from all over Asia. I tell my family about the excitement I often feel while sitting in meetings that discuss regional growth, and when I look out the windows of our office the buildings are literally growing in front of my eyes!
Although Russian culture has shifted dramatically over the past 15 years, there are still a lot of cultural obstacles to creating an organization that relies heavily on Western leadership norms. My job in particular is focused on talent development and retention, and I am working on a number of projects that seek to promote IBM culture through internship programs and post-graduate training. In the process I am discovering the challenges associated with implementing talent management programs in the region due to the fact that post-Soviet management styles, in general, place more emphasis on employee compliance to authority and process outcomes over career growth and individual opportunity.
I believe my degree work in MILR prepared me well for my current role as a talent manager in Russia, because my research focused on the ways post-Soviet cultural values contrast ‘Western’ philosophies in regard to labor/management relations, conflict resolution, and leadership development. For example, Russian cultural values tend to encourage vertical leadership structures as well as discourage independent development and calculated risk taking. As a result, corporate leadership values are often in direct conflict with Russian leadership norms, and inhibit the implementation of effective talent management programs on a regional level. So far this has made for an exciting challenge!
Although my time in Russia is only beginning, it is clear that over the next 10 years this region of the world will re-define its own cultural approach to labor relations, and it is fascinating to be a part of it. Although Russia will draw many well defined ‘best practices’ from the West, it will also adapt them to fit into their own historical perspectives and cultural needs. Moscow is on the verge of a new century, and it is hard for me not to relate to the energy that must have been present in cities like San Francisco during the early 1900’s. Opportunity feels like it is around every corner, and everything you do as an HR professional has the potential to impact many working lives for the better.
- Daniel MacDonald, MILR '06