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Dr. Tan See Leng: 3 Kingdom Reference, Liu Bei and today’s war for talent sourcing

Singapore must build a world-class talent pool because this is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation’s success – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore is not the only country trying its best to attract top talents to join its workforce. A global surge of hunting talents has been going on as more and more countries realize the importance of having a world-class talent pool.

A simple way to understand the circumstance is through the account of the extraordinary ruler Liu Bei through his strategies in amassing his commanders and counselors in the romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Ministry of Manpower, Tan See Leng addressed the nation in Mandarin the reason why:



“In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei is good at making friends with all heroes under Heaven. He swore an oath of brotherhood with legendary generals Zhang Fei and Guan Gong in the Peach Garden. He personally paid the master strategist Zhuge Liang three visits to his cottage to recruit the latter.


Liu Bei used his exceptional knowledge and talents to field a team par excellence. At the pivotal Battle of Red Cliffs, Liu Bei and Sun Quan joined forces, defeating Cao Cao’s mighty army.”

Three lessons, then, from this story: 


1) Attracting top talent from different fields will require deploying different pull factors, 

2) Small powers, strategized well together, can defeat a larger one.

And importantly, 

3) Top talents benefit everyone on their teams. Because the story is not just about superheroes like Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, Zhuge Liang and Sun Quan. 

It’s about the team of more everyday people benefiting from their skills, and working together to accomplish great things.

Minister Tan proceed to mention:



“If we are to have a place on the international stage, we must adopt a two-pronged strategy: on the one hand, accepting top talent from various countries; on the other hand, continuing to develop and support local talent.

Local talents can expand their professional knowledge and networks through exchanges and mutual learning with top international talents. This creates more and richer employment opportunities for other people. Here, our country keeps prospering and our people share in the rich fruits of economic growth.”

As our country progresses to retain and attract top talents in Singapore, it is important to learn the necessary strategies to retain and attract talents in your company.

“Indeed, some SMEs could benefit from directly hiring the ONE Pass holders, while others could tap on the Pass holder’s expertise through consulting services, or inviting them to join their Boards,” said Minister Tan.


“Just as importantly, a vibrant, growing economy will create more business opportunities or build a new eco-system for our SMEs who may be partners, contractors, suppliers or service providers. This may be in up-and-coming sectors like the green economy or FinTech, where there will be new cheese for our SMEs,” he added.

The Government’s nod back to Romance of the Three Kingdoms for informing the search for new possibilities and forward horizons is wise: the book is very much a story about how to manage talent for a nation’s best benefit.

At @ASK Training, we provide courses & seminars using the context of the Three Kingdoms, learn how you can utilize strategies and knowledge from Generals such as Liu Bei, Cao Cao & Sun Quan in your conquest to attract and retain top talents in your company.  

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