Most Asian CEOs Are Directly Involved in Shaping Their Workforce

Ninety-percent of CEOs across Asia are personally and strongly involved in developing strategies to secure talent who have an adequate mix of soft and hard skills, according to research from the Economist Corporate Network (ECN), sponsored by Hays. Only 10 per cent of the 500 CEOs surveyed leave strategic decisions about recruitment and skills development to the HR department.

The ECN report, ‘Skills 4.0: How CEOs shape the future of work in Asia’, reveals most CEOs are spending increasing amounts of time identifying current and emerging megatrends to ensure their organization has the right people and skill sets to face these opportunities and challenges.

The report found 70 per cent of CEOs are concerned that the current shortage of skills in Asia is a hurdle to developing their local management pool to help tackle ‘megatrends’. Specifically around technological progress and digitization of the economy – regarded as opportunities - and climate change and industry convergence – most often viewed as threats.

Other megatrends include demographic change, including an aging workforce in some places, increasing urbanization and globalization.

More than 80 per cent of CEOs believe megatrends strongly affect their organization and most believe new skills are required to ensure their business responds effectively.

“Having the right skills on board is essential to success for any company in the knowledge economy so it’s not surprising to learn most CEOs in Asia are taking an active role in shaping recruitment and people strategies for their organization,” says Christine Wright, Managing Director of Hays in Asia.

“The report also found leaders want flexibility in tailoring the best approach for their company with 63 per cent of CEOs preferring to use a combination of buying in and developing their existing talent pool to meet the skill requirements of their organization,” says Wright.

“However, the report also validates what we are hearing from our relationships with major employers as the key challenges for many leaders is developing a successful skills strategy – not least of which is the incredible time constraints experienced by CEOs.”

“Other challenges include communicating the skills management strategy to the rest of the organization and putting in place the right structures for skills development,” says Wright.

While climate change and industry convergence are most often seen as threats, only four per cent of CEOs feel totally prepared to tackle industry convergence and six per cent to deal with the challenges presented by climate change.

The report also shows that 72 per cent of CEOs feel soft skills are more important than hard skills for their business. Certain hard skills such as data analytics were seen as important but possessing adequate soft skills are now seen as critical.

When it comes to skills management, more than 60 per cent of those surveyed believe they are keeping up with their peers or are even ahead of the curve while 40 per cent feel their company is struggling or still at an early stage.

Only five per cent of CEOs surveyed have absolute confidence in the skill training structures in place at their organization with a quarter unsure if their company has the right frameworks in place.

5 recommendations

Hays shares these 5 recommendations for leaders making strategic talent and skills management decisions:

• Provide soft skills training even to the organization’s most senior managers: 72 per cent of the CEOs surveyed feel that soft skills are more important than hard skills for their business currently. Research and thinking in this area is ever-evolving making ongoing training tailored to time poor executives worth the investment.

• Assess the soft skills capabilities of candidates: All recruitment processes should test soft skills capabilities through job interviews, formal testing and reference checking for all levels.

• Conduct regular skills reviews and audits: Companies should make use of their relationships with expert recruitment consultants to identify trends around skills in demand, and audit their own workforce against these on an annual or even quarterly basis. The results can then be used to inform development programs and determine strategies for attraction and recruitment.

• Set people management KPIs for managers and leaders: Working to the old business adage of ‘what gets measured gets done’, organizations would benefit from setting specific targets for managers and people leaders around skills development of their teams.

• Communicate and report on people management targets and challenges: CEOs should report in ‘all staff’ communications how the company is tracking on talent management and skills development in line with business goals.  This will help staff view skills as a hard business issue rather than something only dealt with by HR. The survey found 20 per cent of CEOs still lack confidence in their ability to articulate their company’s skills management strategy.

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