Competing for the best talent in Hong Kong’s shrinking talent pool

About 85% of employers are concerned about the talent shortage.

Companies racing to fill roles—this has been the state of Hong Kong’s job market as its talent pool continues to shrink year by year.  In 2022, the struggle to reel in employees remains to be felt by 85% of companies, according to the Digital Salary Survey 2022 by Robert Walters and Walter People.

The shrinking talent pool, however, can be broadened, and employers can even net the best in the workforce if they dive into different strategies, according to analysts.

Capitalising on the new normal

Based on the Digital Salary Survey, 78% of professionals would likely join a prospective
employer if they offer a hybrid working arrangement.

“In Hong Kong’s extensive corporate and financial services sector, firms with hybrid working and modern agile workplaces combined with the most cutting edge and mobile suite of technologies will get ahead of other employers that have been slower to invest,” Michael Page Hong Kong’s Managing Director Mark Tibbatts told Hong Kong Business.

The flexible working arrangement also allows employees and employers to “cut out waste” be it “wasted workspace, resources, time or money,” according to the Michael Page analyst.

“The big opportunity is in harnessing greater productivity across a whole suite of areas, which is helping companies be leaner, greener, and better performing employers, whilst at the same time, enabling people to balance work and family/personal life better making for happier employees,” Tibbatts said.

Last year, Randstad found that two in five Hong Konger reported higher productivity by working remotely, whilst three in 10 felt less stress under such a work setup.

In another survey by Microsoft, it was found that 66% of Hong Kong employees want to retain flexible working arrangements and about 65% of business leaders in the city are already planning to redesign offices for hybrid work.

“The new normal has highlighted the importance of physical and mental wellness and I believe that employers who truly get behind this will see big gains in terms of culture and employee retention... and output,” Tibbatts added.

Reviewing hiring process

As the world moves under the new normal, 89% of organisations globally have already moved to virtual interviewing for recruitment, a 2020 research by Gartner revealed.

Tibbats suggested that companies should also take advantage of this and maximise the use of video technology in terms of their hiring process.

“Employers who adopt this will open themselves up to greater applicant traffic as there is less of a burden or commitment or risk to job-seeking where virtual meetings are part of a process,” he said.

“Face to face interviews require longer planning and time commitments that may deter some qualified candidates,” the analyst added.

Kate Kwan, Team Lewis’ General Manager for Hong Kong, echoed the suggestion, saying companies should simplify and shorten their hiring processes.

A PwC survey said 49% of employees would turn down job offers because of poor recruitment experience, including a long hiring process which was experienced by at least 67% of job seekers.

Carly Adams, director of Walters People Hong Kong, warned that time delays between interview rounds or non-essential interview participants will very often mean that companies “will miss out
on their preferred candidate.”

Growth opportunities

Kwan said Hong Kong candidates are leaning towards companies that emphasise learning and development and growth opportunities.

This was echoed by Tibbatts, saying that “investing in training and development, plus providing clarity and scope for appealing career progression is also still important.”

According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent trends, 53% of employees in Hong Kong are actively identifying new skills and capabilities needed for post-COVID operations, whilst 39% are expanding their talent and learning eco-system.

Purposeful work

Candidates now have the desire to be part of a bigger purpose, according to Kwan.

“We know that candidates are paying more attention to company values and culture, making it a big part of their decision-making process,” Kwan said.

Tibbatts, for his part, said: “People today want to play a part and make a positive difference in the world. Taking bold positions in areas such as service quality, [equality, diversity, and inclusion or ED&I, and environmental, social, and governance or ESG] amongst others and making a tangible impact through action is a must (sic)—those employers that do will attract and retain the best talent.”

A global survey by Gartner said 56% of employees want to contribute more to society because of the pandemic, whilst 52% started to question the purpose of their day-to-day jobs.

Overall, for Kwan, the key to not sink in the job market where the talent pool has been constantly shirking is by staying relevant in the labour market.

“With Gen Z entering the labour market, we must be more creative and innovative in terms of talent acquisition.”

Tibbatts, for his part, said companies can use data to “make decisions, drive outcomes, innovate and enhance” their businesses.

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