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Loyalty: out of fashion but still a virtue

Published on Saturday, 16 Aug 2014
Peter Yu, director, Randstad
Justin Leung, associate director, Ambition

People once aspired to work the same job for their entire careers until they retired with a pension package and a gold watch. The times, however, have significantly changed. 

While staying with the same employer for decades might be seen as a sign of loyalty, it could also be viewed as a lack of ambition. Some employers also look for workers with adaptable skill sets who have proven they can work in different environments.

The changing times are reflected in the results of Randstad’s Q2 Workmonitor Survey, which revealed that loyalty wasn’t on the agenda for many Hong Kong employees. With 74 per cent of respondents seeing their current jobs merely as a way to make a living and 58 per cent thinking they can switch careers at any moment, the survey concluded that employers need to rethink their human capital strategies. 

It also found that 83 per cent would change jobs if they could make more money elsewhere, while 77 per cent would do so for better opportunities. 

Peter Yu, director of Randstad Hong Kong, says the city’s extremely low unemployment rate – the lowest in 16 years – has led to this trend. “It is not surprising that Hong Kong employees feel enabled to be mobile at a time when unemployment remains low at 3.2 per cent,” Yu says. “Hong Kong employees recognise it is an employee’s market and feel enabled to change jobs until they find one that meets all of their needs.”

 Regularly switching jobs can lead to swifter career or salary progression, and this job-changing tendency is set to continue as the population ages. “Hong Kong is facing a stiff war for talent and the manpower shortage will only intensify as the city’s ageing population will see one in three people aged 65 years or older by 2041,” Yu says.

 Employers need to engage and retain employees by investing in their best interests through clear career paths, training opportunities and other benefits aimed at improving well-being, he adds. “To fully understand why Hongkongers are less invested in their jobs, and address this issue, employers need to invest in communicating with their workforce, rethink their human capital strategies and implement measures to engage and retain employees.”

According to the survey results, employees are also adding greater value to the importance of new employment dynamics such as a pleasant working environment, better work-life balance and a strong management.

Justin Leung, associate director at Ambition, says while employers need to place a heavy emphasis on pleasing and maintaining employees, the situation is not as drastic as it seems. “The unemployment rate is near a historic low and, while there seems to be a large number of people looking for a new job, I don’t believe many are genuinely looking to make a change. Many are simply testing the waters to see if they are getting paid a fair price in their current jobs,” he says. 

 Leung adds employees should not overlook the positive recognition that loyalty to an employer can bring. “Having stability in your career is often highly valued by potential employers. Many of the clients I work with prefer to recruit candidates who have shown consistency, loyalty and a track record of success in their careers.” 

Yu says loyalty can indicate a number of virtues employers look for, such as adaptability, time-tested contributions and dedication, while job-hoppers may be viewed as fleeting, disloyal and likely to jump for money alone.

Leung agrees, but adds it is more than money that makes people jump ship, and employees often discover the grass is not always greener on the other side. “Many candidates fight tooth and nail for a great salary package, however very few people leave their jobs [just] because of money,” he says

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