Hong Kong’s infrastructure and transport industry faces external threats such as increasing competition from alternative gateways into China, including Shenzen and Guangzhou. At the same time, the industry must conquer human capital challenges such as the drain of highly skilled workers and a surplus of unskilled employees.
This industry in Hong Kong must compete with cities in the region such as Singapore and Shanghai for highly skilled workers. Problems with pollution, high rental costs and a poor living environment are deterring many skilled expatriate and home-grown workers from living in Hong Kong. There is also a surplus of low-qualified or unskilled workers across the city state.
Executives must now pursue a more comprehensive human capital strategy across these interrelated dimensions—talent, leadership, culture and organization structures. A human capital strategy helps put in place the right leaders to source, develop and direct the right workforce talent, supported by the right culture, organization and operating model. We believe they should:
Create a more strategic HR organization. New success factors for HR have arisen in recent years. Managing talent across national borders is especially important, given the global nature of most large companies today; this includes enabling the businesses to operate consistently around the world, while also satisfying the legal requirements of individual nations. It’s also essential to have better metrics, which now means more than simply monitoring administrative costs. To be industry leaders, executives now must understand and measure the value of human capital itself—the total costs and investments in people.
Plan the workforce in the context of a human capital strategy. Whether they call it HR, talent management, workforce planning or something else, industry leaders have always had some means of putting in place the people and skills needed to run the business effectively. Indeed, by 42 percent to 36 percent, leading companies in our workforce study were more likely than laggards to have increased their use of workforce planning over the past year. This finding supports the belief that business effectiveness depends significantly on better planning about the workforce capabilities needed to execute strategy.
As with a business strategy, an effective human capital strategy informs many of the company’s most important decisions about where and how to compete, and supports the enterprise as it balances short-term decisions with longer-term imperatives. In this way, it can meet today’s business needs and still be agile enough to reposition itself to support an enterprise’s ongoing market competitiveness and growth.
Grow Skills. An “academy” approach to learning is one highly effective way to get extended workforces up to speed faster, and to ensure a more consistent skill level across a particular functional workforce, while providing the flexibility to accommodate the needs of other workforces and individuals. An academy’s curriculum generally is developed with the help of outside experts—leaders in the various fields covered by the academy’s courses—and is designed to build competencies critical to the effectiveness and productivity of specific employees and their jobs.
A key focus for companies in the Hong Kong infrastructure and transport industry is to build their ability to optimize the value of their human capital, in part by eliminating workforce strategies and efforts that are not aligned with business value. They will achieve better productivity and better retention of top performers, as well as improved business results that include faster product innovation, higher sales and better customer service leading to increased market share. As they also find untapped value with less redundancy and waste in workforce performance—and in managing that performance—organizations will be able to redirect those savings into new resources and capabilities focused explicitly on new business needs and to find the talent to grow.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Won-Joon Lee is Managing Director at Automotive, Industrial Equipment, Infrastructure and Transportation (AIIT) - Asia-Pacific.