Employee retention is critical to the long-term health and success of any business, even more so in today's work environment where the need for cost containment is greater than ever. However, in competitive labour markets in Asia, conventional retention strategies are no longer as applicable as they once were.
Gary Tok, Asia-Pacific sales leader for health and benefits with consultancy firm Mercer, is well aware of this phenomenon and keeps a close eye on the changes.
"People tend to think Asian organisations are all about money, but we are seeing a move away from this with Asian markets becoming more sophisticated and differentiated," Tok says.
To attract and retain good staff in such cost-managed environments, he suggests employers should highlight broader benefits. Making these attractive helps organisations stand out and means attention is not just focused on basic salaries. "Salary is always going to be important, but [if that] is more or less in the ballpark, other benefits become the differentiator," Tok says.
Indeed, a recent Mercer survey found that employers perceive pay and brand as factors that rank low in terms of engaging employees. And other feedback from Asia-Pacific countries showed that both multinationals and regional organisations consider the introduction of total rewards schemes.
"We are starting to see a move away from a focus on pay only, with employees now looking for total care benefit packages," Tok says. "These include things such as insurance, wellness programmes, and a better work-life balance."
Therefore, the challenge for firms is to leverage existing brand development, recognition and benefit programmes to engage employees in a more meaningful way. They must remember that successful engagement does not just depend on rewards and compensation packages.
Highlighting this, Mercer refers to a Chinese proverb which states that "the tongue can paint what the eyes cannot see." In other words, managers should take the time to explain the full scope and likely longer-term benefits of what is on offer. "Employers need to have louder and [clearer voices] when it comes to remuneration packages," Tok says. "They need to be transparent about what they offer, so employees can see their career development path."