Future of Talent Attraction and Retention with Dual Career – Kavitha Varathan, Expat Spouses Initiative

Future of Talent Attraction and Retention with Dual Career – Kavitha Varathan, Expat Spouses Initiative, at the Creative Ring Sum-It, on October 23, in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Talent drives the economy around us. Companies seek and move talent to fuel growth. Cities want companies that grow, and therefore want to attract and retain talent. Eindhoven region, responsible for more than 40% of the Netherland’s R&D, is on a mission to double the number of its international bright minds in the next three years.

However, they will leave if the spouse is not engaged. The case of ‘unhappy spouse’ is the number one reason an international assignment fails, costing large companies anywhere between 250,000 to 2.5 million dollars. The human cost is deeply troubling – nearly 60% of international assignments are said to end in a divorce or separation. Companies mostly want their employees to stay, and so far has looked at spouses as a problem.

We see it upside down. Today, the typical accompanying spouse is highly-skilled, highly educated and often gives up a significant career to enable her partner’s move. Also, the scale of knowledge migration now means we represent a rich international talent pool, who go under the radar because they come in as spouses. We are a community of 1000+ professionals – all university-educated and more than 70% with more than 5 years of past experience. We estimate there are at least 9000 highly-skilled professional spouses in just this region of the Netherlands. We represent a latent talent pool that is a game changer for local companies.

Long term, we want to eliminate the “problem” of the expat spouse and prevent it from happening in the first place.

What drives you?
The opportunity to make a change and impact in the world drives me.

What are the three things you would take with you on a deserted island?
My husband and three kids will be my first choice.
If not allowed to take people along, a colossal book, a notebook, and a pen.

What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
1. Global mobility of people/ talent where man-made boundaries of country and place seem to have no meaning anymore, with every city becoming a melting pot of culture and ideas. Cities and environments that can embrace the rapid and stark change, will be pioneers who lead the rest of the world. The key is not to contain people but to create environments that ‘enable’ a seamless inflow and outflow of smart people of tomorrow.

2. Artificial Intelligence. Just like machines helped us replace manual labor, while outdoing us, artificial intelligence will outdo us in effectively and easily vast amount of data available, to make error-free, unbiased judgement. We will have a large amount of ‘truth’ at our disposal. The challenge and opportunity lies in building societies, environments and organizations that take qualitative decision based on facts. We will see a re-emergence of humanities, creative arts, ethics and values, which will not be at odds at all with technology.

3. Emotional Intelligence, meaning and purpose. Somewhat related to the rise of artificial intelligence, I imagine mankind will find itself asking the question ‘What’s the point’ more often and may even to find the answer!

What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
What will stand in the way, is human prejudice, habit and capacity to adapt, which always resists as well provide the necessary friction for true change to come about.

What do you hope people to learn from your presentation?
I hope my presentation can help the audience rethink global mobility as they know it, and help imagine new infrastructure in their cities, which creates a more human and fair environment for international talent.

About Kavitha Varathan
Kavitha Varathan is one of the founders and CEO of Expat Spouses Initiative. She moved to Eindhoven in 2008 with her partner and experienced career difficulties of an international spouse personally. She set-up the initiative to make a difference. She was awarded the Marina van Damme Grant for women achievers in 2014, in collaboration with TU/e, to support the cause. Her experience in design thinking, participatory design shapes the initiative in adopting a creative, collaborative, community or network-based approach.

About Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI) 
Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI) connects internationals, especially spouses of international knowledge workers to local professional opportunities in a community-driven way. We focus on building local international talent communities that redefine what it means to be an international resident of a place and enable global mobility of talent.

About Creative Ring Sum-It!
In October 2018, during Dutch Design Week, Creative Ring organizes its first international Sum-It!

A one of a kind event, where creative communities find the tools to shape tomorrow’s urban narratives.

Sum-It! takes you beyond inspiration-by-example and provides you with actionable tools, ready to be implemented in your daily practice.

A must-attend for smart-city stakeholders & policy makers, digital innovators, community- and ecosystem builders, public libraries, grassroots initiatives.

The main event takes place on Tuesday 23 October, with a prelude on Monday 22 October and a business tour on Wednesday 24 October.

Sum-It! is a collaboration between Creative Ring, Stichting Cultuur Eindhoven and other relevant partners.

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