Talent Management in 2013: Hong Kong and Singapore

Asia’s two leading financial centres may be seen as having rather subdued GDP growth prospects next year, but employers in Hong Kong and Singapore will still not have an easy time recruiting and retaining people, especially finance professionals.
“Employee retention is a priority for 2013 regardless of hiring plans, with our research showing local candidates are still happy to move jobs within a year or two of joining an employer to gain a new title or more money,” says Marc Burrage, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong. The labour market remained in a state of ‘full’ employment in 2012 – the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 3.4% in October.
Singapore’s jobless rate is even lower, at 1.9% in the last quarter of 2012. “The economic forecast for 2013 is more subdued, but this is unlikely to alleviate talent shortages in key areas,” says Chris Mead, who is Hays’ Regional Director in Singapore and Malaysia. “While Singapore’s relatively young population is the envy of many countries grappling with an aging workforce, it does make it harder to source sufficient local talent to fill roles in a number of areas of skill shortage including senior roles."
Hong Kong: Managing Job Hopping
“Employers in Hong Kong need to focus more attention on defining their culture and hiring for cultural fit to help them secure people willing to stay and build their career,” says Burrage. “Another trend developing is the need for employers to test ethical behaviour as part of the candidate screening process, particularly in the finance sector.”
The top talent management trends in this Chinese special administrative region revolve around the finance sector (Hong Kong is forecast to become the world’s leading financial services employer), procurement and supply chain, ethics and job-hopping.

High turnover: A Hays survey in 2012 revealed that 63% of those employed in Hong Kong change jobs every one to two years while 21% do so every two to four years. Only 16% stay with an employer for five years or more.


“Staff churn has a negative impact on productivity so staff retention needs to be a priority for employers in 2013,” says Burrage. “At Hays we recommend employers use performance reviews, career pathways and learning opportunities to engage staff.”


Finance sector demand: According to the UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), Hong Kong is on course to overtake London and even New York as the leading financial services employer. CEBR estimates there are currently 249,500 financial services jobs in London, 254,100 in New York, and 207,000 in Hong Kong.


By 2016, CEBR projects the order will be 262,000 financial services jobs in Hong Kong, 252,500 in New York and 239,000 in London.


Procurement and supply chain: Demand for mid-level to senior supply chain and procurement professionals was so strong in 2012 that Hays opened specialist recruitment divisions to help employers connect with talent. Hays Supply Chain and Hays Procurement expect demand from employers for senior executives in these roles to continue in 2013, particularly in the retail and banking sectors. 


Ethics a ‘must have’: “New counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering guidelines for financial services firms in Hong Kong mean candidates should expect to be screened even more closely to ensure they have the ethical values, honesty and professional integrity employers are looking for,” says Burrage.


Social media recruitment tool: Savvy candidates in Hong Kong are setting up a LinkedIn profile or even starting a blog that reflects their professional personal brand. However, research carried out by Hays reveals that there are still candidates yet to realise that employers are searching online to check them out, including viewing their social media pages.


On the flip side, employers still prefer traditional recruitment methods over using social media when it comes to actually finding new hires.


Testing cultural fit: “Employers need to use their Employee Value Proposition to define the company’s culture, goals and ambitions and then use this information to help define the ideal candidate,” says Burrage. “By being clear on who they are, employers can get clear on who they want and use this information to inform their hiring and candidate screening process to ensure they are getting the right person on board.”


Onboarding focus: Like many employment markets around the region and the world, Hong Kong employers need to focus more attention on getting their onboarding strategies right. This is the stage where staff retention begins and a new employee forms a relationship with his or her manager. Research shows most people leave managers, rather than the job itself.


Training and development:With low unemployment and upward pressure on salaries, it is vital that employers are able to offer non-financial rewards that still add value to the personal bottom line of an employee, and this will be increasingly important in 2013,” says Burrage. “Having a good internal training program will also give employers greater flexibility to hire candidates who are a good cultural fit but that might have a skills gap that needs to be filled.”     


Paternity leave: The Hong Kong Government introduced five days paternity leave for eligible government employees in April 2012 and started drafting legislation to provide all working men with access to three days paternity leave. The new legislation is expected to be introduced in 2013. This is an opportunity for savvy employers to get ahead of the curve by embracing the change and advertising it to employees. Working mothers currently receive 10 weeks parental leave in Hong Kong.

Singapore: Crackdown on Foreign Staff
Foreigners comprise about a third of Singapore’s workforce but in the face of rising social disquiet, the Singaporean government took several steps in 2012 to slow the intake of foreign workers. Says Mead: “A focus on staff retention and labour market flexibility is needed in 2013 as well as openness to inward migration, so employers can react swiftly to signs of stress in the labour market.”
The talent management trends in Singapore revolve around restrictions on foreign workers, skills shortage, salary pressures and retention strategies.

Foreign worker restrictions: The rules for acquiring employment passes have been revised, making it more difficult for ‘top-tier’ foreign workers to gain the necessary papers. From January 2013 a pass to work will be valid for three years instead of five and the eligibility criteria will be harder to meet. Companies who contravene the laws can be prosecuted, fined or barred from hiring foreign workers.


Skills shortage: A skills shortage exists in the manufacturing, oil and gas, IT, accountancy, sales and marketing and the services sector. With restrictions being placed on hiring from overseas, competition for candidates in these sectors will be intense in 2013.


Salary pressure: Hays expects wage and salary pressure to increase in 2013, especially for high-skill industries and high-skill occupations as shown by the Hays Global Skills Index. However, Singaporean organisations are definitely looking to contain salary budgets as much as possible.


According to Bloomberg, Singapore experienced the fastest inflation growth among the developed world’s biggest economies. With rising local prices, workers here are looking for a wage boost and candidates have a choice of jobs. 


Nurturing new hires: Onboarding is a process designed to help an employee make the transition into a new organisation, from the time they became aware of the job through to their first day in the workplace. “However, it remains a relatively new concept in many companies and, in some cases, the full procedure has been neglected in the most senior and important appointments,” says Mead.  


Retention strategies: Hays research in 2012 indicated that up to 46% of Singapore workers change jobs as often as every one to two years and 31% every two to four years. Only 23% stay with an employer for five years or more. Skill shortages and restrictions on hiring from overseas make it harder to replace those that move jobs.


“Using a range of strategies to retain staff will be vital in 2013,” says Mead. “While money is a key reason people leave a job it is not the only reason. Our research shows people are also moving jobs to gain better career development opportunities and work/life balance options.”


Training and development:Given the changes taking place in Singapore, it is vital organisations improve the skills of their existing employees,” Mead says. “Training and development programs can also allow organisations to hire candidates who are a good match for the culture of the organisation even though they may not meet the hiring criteria 100%. There is also a strong need to develop programmes that build talent over a longer timeframe.”


Financial services growth: As noted earlier, CBRE expects Hong Kong to have more financial services jobs than London or New York, with Singapore close behind. However, Singapore’s position could be threatened if not enough financial services candidates are available.


Social media: According to research released in November 2012, approximately 68% of Singaporeans use social media in their day-to-day life. A separate report by IDC Enterprise Social Survey, sponsored by Microsoft, found that 52% of companies in Singapore have an enterprise social network in place while another 23% plan to have a network in place in the next 18 months.


Given the young population of Singapore and their early adoption of mobile tools and technology, Hays believes there is an opportunity for organisations to harness the power of social media to build their employment brand and enhance recruitment campaigns.

About the Author

Hays is a global specialist recruiting group that operates across the private and public sectors and deals in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. It was voted as Best Finance and Accounting Executive Recruiter at the CFO Innovation Awards 2012. 


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