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Executives seek job, will travel

Published on Friday, 04 May 2012
Christine Raynaud
Chief executive officer, MRIC

Human resources executives working in Asia often flag talent retention as an area of concern, and findings from the latest MRI China Group (MRIC) survey underline why. The results show that a significant percentage of professionals and prospective managers in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore regard themselves as willing to relocate.  

Diverse factors, of course, come into play. Motivations include new career challenges, better personal prospects, the promise of higher compensation, and simple desire for a change. But as the financial crisis recedes, a clear subtext is that well-qualified employees are on the lookout for opportunities and see international mobility as one of the keys to getting ahead.

Indeed, the latest talent environment report – which analysed feedback from close to 5,000 respondents – found Taiwan leading the way in this respect. There, 50.8 per cent of replies indicated keenness to relocate, compared with 44 per cent in China and Singapore, and just 29.4 per cent in Hong Kong.

Overall, Shanghai ranked first among cities in Asia to which professionals would like to move, though other interesting preferences emerged. Given a choice, Hongkongers put Singapore as their first alternative, and Shanghai was well ahead of possible destinations such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Taiwanese respondents showed marked interest in Beijing, Tianjin and North America. Singaporeans were generally more inclined to further their careers in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The top pick for mainlanders thinking of a move was Shanghai, followed by North America and Hong Kong.

Reviewing the findings, Christine Raynaud, chief executive officer of MRIC, suggested employers should take due note, since there are clear implications for talent retention. She predicts this will be a core concern in 2012. Hence, employers should become more adept at facilitating staff moves if they hope to hold on to the best and the brightest.

Respondents did not simply assume the grass is greener elsewhere. They were clear-sighted, with a good appreciation of the pros and cons of their current station and of what they aim to achieve.

For example, professionals based in Hong Kong know the benefits of a low-tax environment and higher take-home pay, but are increasingly conscious of issues such as work-life balance. If moving, they want positive gains in some areas – lower housing prices, a cleaner environment, and school places – without giving up too much in others.

“Hong Kong respondents are the most focused on money and, paradoxically, also rate work-life balance much higher;” Raynaud says. To a certain extent, they “want it all”. That is a common trait among people building a career and looking to take full advantage of what is available for themselves and their families.

In Singapore, for instance, issues of job security may still predominate, according to BL Seah, country manager for MRIC Singapore. But on an individual level, there is increasing impetus to shake off restrictions imposed by the downturn and initiate a next career move.

Raynaud says location is not the key driver in job moves – opportunity and compensation are. Business people’s natural instinct is to gravitate towards places where their ambitions can be fulfilled. Easier internet access to information about jobs and conditions overseas has opened up these possibilities.

“People know that an international posting is a risk in terms of lifestyle, family situation, the job, and the unknown,” Raynaud says. “But it is still surprising that very few companies embed international programmes as part of their career planning. If this appetite for relocation is so high, it should be included as part of the career conversation, rather than have leaders ignoring it and then losing talent and skills from their organisation.” 

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