Multi-Pronged Approach Needed to Tackle Hong Kong's Skills Shortage

The Hong Kong SAR Government is set to tackle an uncertain future against a backdrop of a potential future structural deficit and a mainstay labour problem; a shortage of manpower that may hamper development across industries.


“While Hong Kong embraces an ageing population and competition for top talent in Asia Pacific, we believe a multi-pronged approach is required to address the problem of a skills shortage," Jeffrey Tang, Director of Talent and Rewards in Hong Kong for Towers Watson, a global professional services company, said in response to the 2014-2015 Budget Address. "Towers Watson advocates continuous learning, vocational training and encourages a mindshift towards long-term thinking of Hong Kong companies' talent strategies."


Tang notes that a singular approach in dealing with a workforce that spans four generations with a continued structural change towards value-add economies is too simplistic.


Tang says that what Hong Kong needs is a long-term solution that addresses the needs of different generations of workforce, a clear path or roadmap to allow our young generation to have a stake in the growth of a company and Hong Kong, and the access to top talent that will help to propel Hong Kong forward.


"Towers Watson has always seen the most highly successful companies adopt an integrated approach and long-term view in the development of their employees by having a structured development programme, such as technical/vocational training and effective management skills that are tailored to the growth of employees in an organisation. This long-term approach, along with a total rewards programme that addresses the needs of the different employee segments, will provide employees with the overall picture of the company’s value proposition."


Being innovative and agile is part of the bedrock of Hong Kong’s success, and companies should embrace this spirit in formulating the solution going forward. Companies need to think of ways to attract segments of the population who are no longer part of the workforce, such as mothers and “retirees”, through flexible working arrangements and benefits programmes that address their needs.


These segments of the population bring an immense amount of knowledge and experience that would address some of the talent and skills gap issue, according to Tang. 


For a growing younger workforce, there should be continued heavy investment in training including vocational training and internships to address the mismatch in skills and employment.


"We believe that a clear and well-defined employee value proposition is a critical factor to attract the best talent in Hong Kong," notes Tang.


Tang explains that a well-defined employee value proposition includes, what a company stands for; its rewards philosophy; career development; company culture; work environment; and an integrated rewards programme that addresses different profiles of the workforce.


"Rewards go beyond compensation and investing in workplace health and wellbeing is gaining traction for many companies that focus on sustaining a healthy and highly engaged workforce," says Tang.


Uncertain economic prospects, intense cost pressures, an ageing multi-generation workforce, and global competition to attract and retain top talent calls for an innovative, integrated and multi-pronged approach to propel Hong Kong forward.


"Organisations operating in Hong Kong need to take a long-term strategic view and demonstrate commitment to address the city’s workforce issues,” says Tang.

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