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Despite market uncertainties, Hong Kong employers continue to invest in training and development, says HKIHRM

Published on Saturday, 05 Sep 2015
Despite market uncertainties, Hong Kong employers continue to invest in training and development, says HKIHRM

According to the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) 2014 Training and Development Needs Survey, investment has reached a 10-year high at 3.5 per cent of staff salaries. The survey also indicated that leadership skills, staff management, corporate culture and ethical training contribute to organisational success.

Barry Ip, the institute’s learning and development committee co-chairman, says that the ongoing commitment by employers to invest in training and development reflects the mature mindset of the management in Hong Kong companies who champion human capital during both good and bad times. Ip was speaking at the HKIHRM 2015 Annual Training Needs Seminar, and notes that, in a talent-squeezed environment, training programmes can help to address attraction and retention goals and support strategies for improving leadership and driving growth.

“One of the areas where Hong Kong can compete strongly with our regional competitors is customer service delivery, which requires investment in employee training,” Ip says. Of the sectors covered in the survey, the highest training budget percentages were in retail, construction, real estate, property development, wholesale, import and export trading, transport, logistics, banking and financial, and the insurance sector. 

While the average number of training hours per employee per annum was 17.5, more than two-thirds of the responding companies offer up to 20 hours of training.
Conducted annually since 1999, the survey is based on responses from 117 companies representing a spectrum of industry sectors that employ about 48,550 full-time staff. The survey aims to identify the training and development needs of Hong Kong employees, as well as the key areas at different job levels. 

“Our survey provides valuable insights into training and career development trends and allows employers to validate and compare their organisation’s training and development programmes and plan their future training budgets,” says Ip, who expects budget growth to continue. 

To help achieve business and talent management objectives, 84 per cent of respondents reported they have programmes in place for the development of high-potential employees. Meanwhile, 66 per cent say their programmes focus on succession planning, and 57 per cent report that they run graduate and management trainee programmes. 

According to the responding companies, competency-based training in areas such as strategic management, corporate governance and compliance were generally more important to employees at senior and middle management levels, while functional and skill-based training were important to supervision level and frontline staff. 
In the age of digital dependence, survey respondents reported an increase in the use of e-learning to enhance employee training. Preferred types of tech-enabled training programmes include videos (66 per cent) followed by webinars and virtual classes (38 per cent), and gamification (14 per cent). Hong Kong’s high penetration of mobile usage is reflected by the 11 per cent increase, from 2013, in employers’ use of mobile technology to facilitate training programmes. 

Tech-enabled training programmes were prevalent in the transport and logistics sector (73 per cent), banking and financial services, insurance (69 per cent), business and professional services (67 per cent), and statutory bodies and non-government organisations (67 per cent). Across the surveyed spectrum of industries, retail is the least likely to provide tech-driven training platforms, with 21 per cent of employers using e-learning.

HKIHRM learning and development committee co-chairman, Chester Tsang, says that, while instructor-led training is still the mainstay for most companies, there is a growing trend of using mobile technology such as apps. “We can deduce from the data that an increasing number of companies across business sectors will continue to invest resources in mobile-enabling technology for course delivery and training purposes,” Tsang says. 

Also speaking at the HKIHRM’s seminar was Lim Shih-hsien, the head of information security at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. He outlined strategies for motivating employees using non-financial incentives. “Research shows the carrot and stick concept of motivation is not always the best method to inspire employees and in many cases purpose-motives achieve better results.” For instance, Lim says, once a task exceeds rudimentary level and requires cognitive skills, financial rewards no longer drive performance. As an alternative to financial motivation, he suggests that managers and employees set goals based on achievements that are important to the individual and the organisation. 

Fellow guest speaker Karen Blal, regional director for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in Asia, stressed the important role human resources professionals play in aligning training and development programmes with current and future business objectives. Blal says that, like many other aspects of managing a business, HR is not immune to rapid change. 

“People in the HR profession need to constantly keep up to date with trends within and outside their organisations,” says Blal, suggesting that employees do this is by joining professional organisations and pursuing industry-related qualifications. As the UK-headquartered CIPD expands its activities in Asia, they have an agreement with HKIHRM to offer training. She says it is also important for HR professionals to use big data as a tool to improve strategies for recruitment, employee engagement, learning, and development.

Offering perspectives on the globalisation of business, Andrew Dorai, senior client director at the Forum Corporation, pointed out the need for companies to embrace cultural diversity in their workforce. While some firms do this successfully, others struggle to leverage the benefits of a diverse workforce. “By training your leaders to be culturally-sensitive and embrace diversity and inclusiveness, they can add greater value to an organisation,” advises Dorai.

In his opening remarks, HKIHRM president, David Li said employers, human resources professionals and the media value the annual training survey. 
The event was supported by lead sponsor First Finance Institute, Cliftons, E-quip, Infocan, Lumi, and media partners Classified Post and Jiu Jik.

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Train talent to drive growth.

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