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Dell Reboots Recruitment For International Approach

Dell is trying to upgrade its skill at attracting top talent.

April 12, 2006
Related Topics: Managing International Operations, Global Business Issues, Workforce Planning
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Dell is known for its effectiveness at snagging the parts that make up its computers. Now the company is trying to upgrade its skill at snapping up talent.

   Within the past year, Round Rock, Texas-based Dell has launched a major effort to look worldwide when it bolsters the ranks of its roughly 600 directors, vice presidents and senior vice presidents.

   The company has broadened what were once local or regional searches to an international scale. It also created a staffing position to coordinate global executive searches. Steven Helmholz, who was hired for that role last summer as director of executive talent acquisition, reports weekly to CEO Kevin Rollins about the top searches.

   A recent snapshot: Four of the company’s eight most critical openings were in Asia, including a co-general manager for China.

   Dell already has one co-general manager for China from the United States. The firm is looking for a teammate steeped in the local business climate, though the person could be anywhere on the globe currently. What makes this search tough, Helmholz says, is that veteran executives in China often have a Confucian mind-set that views hands-on management as reserved for lower-level workers. Dell wants a seasoned leader who is not only familiar with Chinese business culture, but is also willing to dig into daily operations.

   "In our world, the roles are blended," Helmholz says.

   Dell is among a minority of firms regularly recruiting globally. Just 10 percent of U.S.-based recruiters normally look globally for U.S.-based positions, according to a recent survey by consulting firm Global Learning Resources. But 53 percent of respondents consider it important to recruit from other countries to meet recruiting goals, and 35 percent expect to do more global recruiting this year.

   Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, says a global hiring perspective is becoming critical. "Over the next decade, most organizations will face the need to look for people beyond their local environments," he says. "This is partially because people locally may lack the needed skills or experience, but also just because organizations can."

   Wheeler says Dell overall has had a reputation as being a "tough place to work at as a recruiter," partly because of high volumes of work. Helmholz counters that on his global executive recruiting team, three of the nine full-time members in North America have been with the company at least eight years.

   Dell also is sharing the load when it comes to the new global recruiting effort. To accomplish executive search goals in China, Dell relies partly on external search firms. Homegrown executive search firms in China have yet to mature, Helmholz says, so he’s using both well-known search firms and niche outfits based outside the country.

    Building relationships with Chinese executives--including those who turn down Dell--is crucial, Helmholz notes. "There’s a Chinese saying: Stay in one place long enough, and the whole world will pass by you," he says. "That person who said no to you a year ago could well become a key source for you on a search tomorrow."

Workforce Management, April 10, 2006, p. 24 -- Subscribe Now!

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