IMD International

Switzerland tops world ranking of business talent

IMD’s World Competitiveness Center releases 2nd annual World Talent Report

November 18, 2015

The country that often gets its reputation through the commercial successes of watches, cheese and chocolate has been named the best in the world for business talent. A position that shows there’s a lot more going on throughout its industries.

Switzerland leads the way in developing, attracting and retaining talent to satisfy corporate needs, according to a study by IMD.

The research ranks Denmark second and Luxembourg third, with Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Canada, Belgium and Singapore completing the top 10.
A host of major economies fare less impressively, with the US languishing in 14th place, the UK 21st, France 27th and mainland China way down the list in 40th position.

Professor Arturo Bris, Director of IMD’s World Competitiveness Center, which carried out the study, said: "Pure economic power and talent don’t always go hand-in-hand.

“The key attribute among all the countries that rank highly in our standings is agility, as shown in their capacity to shape policies that preserve their talent pipeline.

“In this regard none is more agile than Switzerland, which has shown itself to be the most talent-competitive country in the world for nine of the past 10 years.

“Other countries, many of the world’s leading economic powers among them, could learn valuable lessons from understanding how the Swiss manage their talent pool.”

The findings are contained in IMD’s World Talent Report, an annual assessment of how countries sustain talent for the businesses operating within their economies.

Rankings are based on 20 years’ worth of competitiveness-related data, including an in-depth survey of more than 4,000 executives in the 61 countries covered by the study.

The research focuses on three main categories – investment/development, appeal and readiness – which in turn are derived from a much broader range of factors.

These include education, apprenticeship, employee training, brain-drain, cost of living, worker motivation, quality of life, language skills, remuneration and tax rates.

The main categories are aggregated into a yearly overall ranking. In addition, each country’s evolution in the various aspects is assessed over the course of a decade – in this instance from 2005 to 2015 – to identify the most talent-competitive countries.

Other than in 2006, when Austria took top spot before slipping back into the chasing pack, Switzerland came first overall in every year of the period examined.

Its pre-eminence conclusively overturns long-held popular notions that the country’s business acumen is limited to just a handful of specialist niche markets.

Professor Bris, an expert in finance and in the field of global competitiveness, said: “Switzerland has shown itself to be a leading performer right across our range of factors.

“The fact is that it has consistently achieved a positive balance between encouraging local talent and tapping into top talent from other countries.

“This is a quality all the high-ranking economies have to some extent, but only the best constantly update and refine the required competencies to truly sustain their talent pipeline.”

Overall, the research suggests Northern Europe boasts the greatest concentration of business talent hotspots in the world.

Singapore supplanted Malaysia as the Southeast Asian economy best equipped to develop, attract and retain talent, with Hong Kong also performing well.

But in Latin America even Brazil, the region’s most powerful economy, was found to have suffered deterioration across a range of relevant performance indicators.

Other Latin American economies also struggled, with Chile 43rd, Mexico 49th, Colombia 50th, Argentina 53rd, Peru 59th and Venezuela 60th. Although Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Colombia have slightly improved their positions this year, all Latin American countries in the study place in the bottom third of the ranking.

Access the report

More information

• This is the second edition of IMD’s World Talent Report. The first, published in 2014, produced a top 10 of Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Malaysia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden and Norway.

• The IMD World Competitiveness Center also publishes the annual IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook released every May. The 2015 edition’s top 10 consisted of the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany. The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook has been published since 1989 and is widely acknowledged as the leading annual report on the competitiveness of countries.

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