Asia-Pacific Companies Have Problems Attracting Critical-Skill Employees

A vast majority of companies in Asia-Pacific continue to struggle with attracting and retaining the high-potential and critical-skill employees necessary to increase their global competitiveness, according to a new survey conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson.


The Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, a study of 1,605 companies globally, out of which 796 were from Asia-Pacific found that 79% of employers in Asia-Pacific said they have problems attracting critical-skill employees, while more than seven in 10 employers (73%) have difficulty attracting high-potential employees, compared to global figures of 72% and 60% respectively.  


Talent attraction was found to be even more challenging in fast-growing Asia-Pacific economies, where 84% of employers are finding it difficult to attract critical-skill employees, with the figure being 80% for high-potential employees.


Employers also encountered retention challenges with close to three quarters of respondents experiencing difficulty retaining critical-skill and high-potential employees at 70% and 67% respectively.


“The demand for key talent is as strong as ever, in spite of challenging economic conditions and heightened global competition. We find that many employers are not taking advantage of opportunities to attract, retain and engage key talent by offering a value proposition, work environment and the total rewards programs that are most important to them,” says Dhritiman Chakrabarti, Asia-Pacific Leader of Rewards at Towers Watson.


In fact, there appears to be a mismatch between what employers are offering and what employees are looking for. According to the survey, employees in Asia-Pacific are more focused on competitive base pay, job security and convenient work location. Employers, on the other hand, are emphasising other items, such as career advancement, challenging work, and the organisation’s mission, vision and values. 


When it comes to retaining talent, employers seem to have a better understanding, and are more aligned with the employee views, with the top three drivers being base pay, career advancement opportunities and relationship with their supervisors/managers. However, employers underestimate the impact of trust and confidence in senior leadership in retaining employees.


In today’s volatile global economy, where organisations face intense pressure to rein in cost while driving performance, it is not surprising that organisations are expecting higher levels of performance from their employees. However, the survey revealed that rewards have not kept pace with higher performance expectations – with 96% of employers indicating that individual performance expectations have increased and / or stayed the same but bonus levels – as a percentage of on-target – is at 79% for the most recently completed fiscal year (2011) and is projected to drop to 76% for the current fiscal year.


The study also found that employees continue to experience high levels of stress at work. Close to half (45%) of Asia-Pacific respondents indicate that employees often experience excessive pressure in their job. This is slightly lower than the global average of 48%.


“Employers are essentially aspiring for higher levels of performance while at the same time depleting the fuel that powers the engine of the organisation. Asking employees to continue in this mode is unsustainable for individual employees as well as the organisation itself," says Chakrabarti.


Chakrabarti cites a recent Global Workforce Study which revealed that only 39% of employees in Asia-Pacific are highly engaged at work.


"This signals a critical tipping point and employers need to take concrete steps and strike the right balance between employee preferences and employee needs, and in crafting an employee value proposition that helps to attract and retain talented and critical-skill employees while also engaging the broader workforce."


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