Career Advice HR Focus

How to ensure staff loyalty in shifty world

The demand for international and domestic banking and financial services professionals has continued to increase. However, as business leaders know only too well, Hong Kong is unique in that there is almost full employment with its current 3.3 per cent jobless rate.

With Hong Kong being a major global financial hub, the city's insurance and private banking sectors, in particular, are enjoying an uptick in growth. For example, there is a strong demand in the insurance sector for frontline sales specialists who can speak English, Cantonese and Mandarin, and have the strong social skills required for client engagement.

Private banking continues to show healthy growth. The recent enactment of the Volcker Rule and the coming Basel III and other regulations means that there is continued need for compliance professionals, especially those with sanctions and anti-money-laundering skills.

Considering the pressure to ensure operational efficiency and drive workforce productivity in the face of a talent crunch, high staff turnover and the cost of attrition is forecast to increase. The world of work is going through a seismic shift, requiring a renewed approach to sustainable talent attraction and retention strategies.

Hong Kong is widely regarded as one of the world's hardest-working cities. Work hours and professional demands are taking a toll on employees, who report the lowest job-satisfaction figures in the region, according to the Randstad World of Work Report 2013-2014. Job satisfaction typically ranks lowest in booming finance and business hubs, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, where skilled talent is in short supply and workloads are piled high.

Can this help to explain why a staggering 65 per cent of employees surveyed intend to leave their jobs in the next 12 months? Against this backdrop, it's understandable that many HR and business leaders get caught in a web of salary-driven incentives. Yet the Randstad report shows employees are more motivated to perform well and remain in their role due to a strong feeling of being valued and recognised (29 per cent), compared with a generous remuneration package (17 per cent).

The research shows employee engagement has declined over the past 12 months as cost-conscious employers cut back on engagement and development forums, while satisfaction surveys and exit interviews have fallen in priority for stretched HR teams.

The good news is that 60 per cent of employers are ready to respond, with plans to strengthen employee engagement and collaboration as their primary strategy to improve productivity in the next five years. Companies are also steadily deploying sophisticated talent analytics and utilising "big data" to inform their talent strategy, as having the ability to analyse internal and external employee data is crucial in sourcing, acquiring and retaining talent.

Markets may change, but people fundamentally don't. For the 51 per cent of HR and business leaders who say employee turnover is a significant or business-critical concern, our findings demonstrate why it's imperative to keep communicating, educating, recognising and creating career paths for employees - in both good and challenging times.

Attraction may seem all about salaries in a hot talent market. After all, opportunities for career growth and advancement (67 per cent) and better remuneration (51 per cent) are the two biggest drivers that fuel a decision to leave an employer.

But this shows retention is not just about having the right mix of cash and non-cash rewards. It's about providing an integrated and tailored retention strategy focused on the right mix of career planning, learning and development opportunities, flexible work options, and rewards matched to an individual employee's life stage and career cycle.

Designing a more diverse retention, reward and recognition programme may therefore pay off in both the short and long term and, most importantly, drive higher levels of workforce engagement, productivity and performance.

Peter Yu is the director for Randstad Hong Kong and has over 10 years’ experience in the recruitment sector in both the UK and Hong Kong. Randstad is the world’s second-largest recruitment and HR services firm, specialising in temporary, contract and permanent staffing across the widest range of specialist industry sectors and professions.