The Global Talent Battle

In this Q&A, Susan Cartledge, senior vice president of human resources for New York Life International, talks about how her organization attracts and keeps talent in markets as diverse as Argentina, China and Hong Kong.

June 20, 2008

Susan Cartledge, who joined New York Life in June 2007, oversees all HR activities for the 6,000 employees in the company’s eight markets: Argentina, China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Cartledge recently spoke to Workforce Management New York bureau chief Jessica Marquez about what her team is doing to make sure the company attracts and keeps its best talent in these markets.

    Workforce Management: China and India are obviously hot markets right now for U.S. companies. How is New York Life International going about attracting and retaining talent in these countries?

    Susan Cartledge: We have 800 employees in China and 2,000 in India, with significant growth plans. We anticipate growing our agent and employee base around 45 percent in India and 43 percent in China in 2008. We are trying all sorts of new ways of attracting talent, from the core programs like employee referrals to making sure we are advertising in the right places to attract good people. Through our joint ventures, we opened 93 new offices in India and expanded into six new cities in China. Part of it is people see we are growing and investing in the market, and that is attractive.

    WM: How do you go about creating an aligned performance management system while being sensitive to the various local cultures?

    Cartledge: We have an interesting situation where we have eight different markets at eight different levels of maturity. So in some markets we have very established performance management processes. We have other markets that are growing so quickly, so we step back and say, "Here are fundamental processes that are key to us regardless of the market." These are things like making sure business goals and individual goals are cascaded and that every employee has goals communicated in the first quarter.

    WM: Does New York Life enable employees to move from market to market?

    Cartledge: We are trying to encourage that. Clearly, that’s what the employees and leaders want. In terms of attracting talent, that is a key lever.

    WM: Outside of competing for talent and retaining good employees, what are the other main challenges New York Life is facing in China and India?

    Cartledge: The other main challenge is that the pace of change in these markets is extremely quick. We are growing significantly year on year and our number of employees is growing year on year, and it can be challenging to keep up. So we need to make sure we can support the leadership and talent and can keep track of the pace of change.

    WM: How do you do that?

    Cartledge: One tactical way is by having learning programs that can be very flexible and evolve quickly over time. But it’s also looking at our talent pool and taking risks on individuals earlier than you traditionally would. It’s providing the learning initiatives and saying, "How can we speed up the development of the organization?"