Hong Kong’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate currently stands at 2.8% the same as it has done for fourteen quarters. This, together with a shrinking talent pool and skills shortage, has meant that the HR sector as a whole has become adept at initiating creative strategies to identify, recruit, nurture and retain talent. All this whilst fending off other companies eager to hire staff away in a market driven by the job-seeker.
Today, the Hong Kong jobs market is awash with vacancies. A low unemployment rate and a surplus of vacancies means the market is driven by job-seekers who change jobs frequently in the hunt for new experiences, greater work-life balance or for better compensation package.
In a bid to overcome this imbalance, some employers see technology as a means to solve their recruitment woes by automating processes to negate the need for taking on more staff. This viewpoint comes at a time when the world stands on the cusp of Globalisation 4.0, where technology, politics and environmental concerns will shift workplace models.
These workplace models will require companies to embrace automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, and there is a line of thinking that employees in some roles will become redundant.
This viewpoint that the introduction of advanced technologies in the workplace will increase unemployment and lead to staff retrenchment is misguided. If anything, Hong Kong employers, as they have many demonstrated many times before, stand to carve out and create brand new opportunities to aid business growth through the mix of advanced technologies and ongoing creative HR strategies.
Co-existence in Hong Kong’s commercial property sector
An example of how Hong Kong has forced change, would be the emergence of shared or co-shared offices in the commercial property sector; a business model once dominated by serviced offices but even then there was limited supply.
In the last five years, Hong Kong, often cited as having the highest office rental rates in the world, has seen a tremendous wave of affordable and flexible office space come on stream. This has disrupted the old way of working and was driven largely by the startup community before being embraced by SMEs, large enterprises and property developers alike.
The emergence of this new way of working has done little to dampen demand for new office developments; for proof, just take a walk through the business districts of Kwun Tong and Quarry Bay, to see the commercial property sector’s ongoing impact with new office buildings sprouting up everywhere. This shows that there is room for old and new ways of working – in this case, the commercial property sector – to co-exist.
Robots and humans
Elsewhere, some industries are exploring new technologies as a solution to existing challenges. Hotels in China, Singapore and other countries are trialling the usage of robots to provide on-demand guest services. These robots are intended to assist rather than to replace staff and demonstrate how new technologies can work alongside humans rather than replace them.
Significant investment by Hong Kong
The HKSAR Government has to date invested $100b on encouraging R&D, promoting re-industrialisation, promoting technology to bolster Hong Kong’s competitiveness, and also to create more opportunities for local enterprises and rising talent. Added to this is a fast-track arrangement designed to allow technology professionals to come to Hong Kong and work alongside locally nurtured talent.
With the great strides being made to upskill and reskill employees, Hong Kong businesses have an even greater incentive to harness and integrate these very same skills into their workforces. Rather than look to technology as a means to shrink staff numbers, advanced technologies are the Holy Grail for recruitment and retention strategies in growing workforces.
2019 should be the year when businesses look to reskilling and upskilling their workforce in preparation for an influx of new technologies into the workplace. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, behavioural analytics are here and making their presence felt by helping enterprises uplift into Globalisation 4.0.
Hong Kong employers have demonstrated great resilience in a job market that is notoriously hard to operate and where HR professionals are continuously creating, identifying and pivoting to new recruitment strategies.
Advanced technologies will go hand in hand with an employer keen to upskill the current workforce to adapt to a changing business world. Those that invest in both stand to gain more business opportunities and reap greater returns as they digitally transform ahead of Globalisation 4.0.
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.
Do you know more about this story? Contact us anonymously through this link.
Janet Yeung is the Head of Human Resources & Administration at JOS Hong Kong.
Devoted to the field of Human Resource Management for over 15 years, Janet is an expert in human resource management and administration. Her experience includes the initiation and execution of corporate re-branding, system transformation and company culture revolution.