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Employees in the driving seat

Published on Friday, 28 May 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung
Workers are being encouraged to stay loyal to their employers through incentives, such as training and more leave, as the economy recovers.
Photo: Bloomberg

As the economy picks up, hiring activity across most sectors has significantly increased in Hong Kong, with employees calling the shots in a candidate-driven market, according to human resource and recruitment professionals.

The latest Michael Page employment index shows that 53 per cent of companies surveyed in Hong Kong and southern China have been increasing their employee numbers this month. Also, 65 per cent of employers will raise salary levels this year, while 76 per cent say staff retention is becoming an important issue. 

Elsewhere, the latest pay trend survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) shows that the level of pay rises has almost returned to that of 2005. Of the 125 companies surveyed, 30 offered an average pay rise of 1.7 per cent - 1.2 per cent higher than last year.

Job-seekers can be increasingly picky in a market where more firms try to have reward strategies to retain and attract quality staff. Recruitment professionals believe that a flexible incentive system can motivate employees. "Reward strategy is a powerful tool to shape the performance culture of an organisation and communication of the reward principles is essential to driving employees towards common business goals," says Lai Kam-tong, co-chairman of the remuneration committee of the HKIHRM.

Genevieve Wong, manager for human resource recruitment at Robert Walters, says many companies have rolled out talent management strategies, such as internal training and retention incentives, or salary increments. A talent management programme should also include talent sourcing, developing skill sets for top performers and grooming future talent for senior roles, she adds.

Some reward strategies go beyond short-term monetary benefits. More companies are offering long-term health care benefits to employees.

Mercer, which offers human resources and financial advice, says many big firms are revolutionising the way they package health care benefits. Its public relations director for Asia, Michelle Shao, says the goal is to contain health care costs, engage employees and foster loyalty, while maximising rewards and benefits in the long term. She says companies need to rebrand themselves as "caring employers of choice" to attract the best staff.

Albert Chau, a senior consultant at risk and management consulting firm Towers Watson, suggests firms set up a performance management system so that, "your staff feel they have a future with the company. Succession planning ensures long-term survival".

Job sweeteners

  • Build up a company's brand as an "employer of choice"
  • Develop leadership programmes and career advancement courses
  • Increase annual leave
  • Involve staff in formulating staff policies
  • Allow staff on business trips to travel in business class on long-haul flights
  • Award incentive/performance-based bonuses
  • Develop motivation and long-service recognition schemes

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