Career Advice Job Market Report

How to adapt to rapid changes discussed at Classified Post and Willis Towers Watson breakfast seminar

For many years, the issues of recruitment, engagement and retention have topped employers’ priority lists, but finding solutions in a landscape which is being drastically reshaped by technology and changing employee expectations is no easy task. Various surveys show that, globally, employee disengagement from their jobs is increasing, and Hong Kong is no exception.

At the same time, attracting and keeping high-quality talent is also proving to be a challenge as companies struggle to understand and effectively address the issues important to their staff.

“We have to face it: the traditional concepts of the employer-employee relationship have dramatically changed,” said Wen Wan, Willis Towers Watson senior consultant, speaking earlier this week at the “Future of Talent Acquisition” breakfast seminar, co-organised by Classified Post and Willis Towers Watson. In her address, Wan said the dominant or singular model for the way work has traditionally been carried out is fast eroding as digital technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and professionals with specific skills provide the expertise needed on a part-time or project basis.

According to Wan, for companies to remain sustainable, employers need to rethink how they get work done, the skills needed to accomplish it and the way they engage with employees to ensure they have the right talent and skills available. Wan believes that, to find the best-fit solutions, employers need to dissect the various components of a job.

“They need to ask themselves can this piece of work be done by an employee, software, or a robot,” she told the seminar. When it comes to hiring the right talent, many companies struggle to define the actual work criteria, which can lead to misalignment and misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, in an increasingly transparent online world, employers need to ensure their internal practices align with their online brand and value propositions. “While employers assess job candidates, these days, candidates do online research on employers, which includes what is said about them on social media,” noted Wan.

To boost employee engagement, she emphasised the importance of relationship building, which can begin when jobseekers are still at the candidate stage. For instance, many employers require jobseekers to complete an online skills or personality assessment, but fail to follow up if a candidate is rejected.

“It really annoys them when they spend time completing the assessment, but don’t receive any feedback,” Wan said. Even if a candidate is rejected, an acknowledgement of appreciation can make a difference, and might encourage a candidate to apply for a different position in future.

Wan also suggested ways that technology can be used for onboarding fresh recruits and elevating the level of engagement with existing employees. For example, the use of relevant data can personalise training and job opportunities. “Employees, particularly millennials, want to find meaning and purpose in the work they do,” said Wan.

She pointed out how talent platforms not only provide a rapidly expanding number of professionals with freedom, flexibility, options and new possibilities, they also offer employers new ways of getting work done efficiently in a cost-effective way. Wan described how using a “squad” approach to work can provide the meaning and purpose millennials look for.

 Using specialist software to identify skills, experiences and competencies, squads are formed with five or six employees with a spread of abilities to accomplish a given task on a project-by-project basis. “The concept is similar to forming a team except that, rather than someone thinking of him or herself as a marketing person, they focus on the final outcome,” explained Wan. “Think of the concept as forming a squad from an internal talent platform, a sort of LinkedIn on steroids”.

Wan pointed out that, though some predictions suggest that 65 per cent of current jobs will be replaced by technology, this will also create new job opportunities and add dimensions to existing jobs. She cited the example of seminar participants who unanimously agreed they had used their smartphones to check emails and other functions prior to the event.

“It’s an example of how people interact with AI and technologies through their smartphones, which in some cases can be more than 50 times a day,” said Wan. Noting a World Economic Forum report, she said most people agree that technologies improve professional lives, make it easier to find work, do work, expand professional relationships, and aid collaboration.

Another speaker, Elaine Chan, Zurich Insurance (Hong Kong) chief health officer, explained that second to salary, employee benefits are key influencers when jobseekers evaluate their options and potential employers. “There is plenty of evidence that indicates group employee benefits have a big impact on recruitment and retention,” Chan said.

Through the use of technology, Zurich is able to offer a “flexicare” plan that provides employees with benefit options which enable them to structure a protection package that caters for their own circumstances. “Employees can indicate their preferences by using an app on their phone,” said Chan.

Fellow speaker Max Szeto, senior solution consultant with Workday, outlined how personalised workplace and employee profiles, accessed through a smartphone, can help with onboarding new recruits and strengthen employee collaboration across a company.

 “Employees are easily able to set up a profile of experience and abilities that link them with other people within the organisation,” said Szeto. He added that managers can also use the system to give tailor-made support to employees and identify those skills to work on specific projects.

Separately, Tim Darton, Workday’s general manager for North Asia, said a major part of engaging employees is understanding what motivates each individual and working with them on clear and direct career paths aligned with their goals and interests.

“Yearly evaluations are not enough in today’s workplace,” said Darton, who suggests that employers need to continuously re-recruit staff with feedback and new opportunities to keep them engaged and invested in the business. He said this is an area where predictive analytics can make a difference.

“With richer data and better analysis, managers can make better informed decisions on the steps to take and proactively engage with employees before they leave for more attractive opportunities,” said Darton.