Upbeat January trade-performance figures from the mainland and positive signs that Hong Kong enterprises could benefit from a strengthening global trade environment during 2014 are prompting employers to boost their middle-management capabilities.
Matthew Bennett, managing director of Robert Walters Greater China, says pressure to control wage costs over the last few years, combined with skills shortages, have created a middle-management talent gap in many organisations and industry sectors.
“We have seen capable middle management promoted internally to more senior levels, but in many cases, these people have not been replaced, either due to a lack of a talent-replacement pipeline or cost savings,” Bennett says. With employers facing a shortage of mid-ranking talent, he adds that some employers are looking to recruit from other industry sectors or from overseas, but this can create onboarding challenges such as familiarisation with different industry cultures and company processes.
Bennett also says that companies looking to hire middle-management talent need to ensure that their methods of attraction go beyond remuneration. “Having experienced accomplishments in their career, candidates at mid-management level seek other avenues of job satisfaction than pure monetary gratification,” he says. “They look at career-development opportunities, how they can fit in with the hiring company’s growth strategies – even the corporate culture they need to work in.”
With 2014 hiring confidence appearing to have kicked off on a positive note, Bennett says that in his opinion, the general employment outlook for the year is tipping slightly towards the glass half-full. “I think we will see hiring activity remaining similar to last year – cautious, but looking forward,” he says.
According to the 2014 Robert Walters Salary Survey, Hong Kong job movers able to secure positions at new companies can expect to receive an average salary rise of 10 to 15 per cent. With stronger trade performance expected, this could lead to an increase in local consumer spending, leading in turn to recruitment. Job movers within sales and marketing, with the desired experience and industry-specific knowledge, will be able to secure salary increments of 10 to 20 per cent.
The report also says that due to new central government regulations, the number of mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong is likely to level off this year, which may hit recruitment in the retail and luxury sectors. In supply chain and procurement, hiring managers are likely to prioritise cost control by seeking professionals who are able to multi-task, such as demand and supply planners with strong Microsoft Excel and analytical abilities.
High on the list of professionals in hot demand, Bennett says, are project managers, solution architects and pre-sales individuals with technology and digital expertise. They are eagerly being sought by companies aiming to improve efficiencies through technology.
“Companies are turning to digital technology and social media to transform their businesses, reduce costs, advance growth and become more efficient,” Bennett says.
As banks continue to hire risk professionals to meet regulation guidelines, Bennett says demand for people with experience in trading-risk control, anti-money laundering, and credit and market risk are in particular demand.
The 2013 Manpower Survey conducted by the Vocational Training Council says that 145,783 individuals were employed in the banking and finance industry last year. Of these, about 24 per cent were managerial staff, 38 per cent supervisory staff, 31 per cent clerical staff, and 7 per cent supporting staff.
With banks continually on the lookout looking for talented staff, Carrie Leung, CEO of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB), thinks that more people could be attracted to the banking industry if they are aware of the career opportunities. “People often overlook the fact that bank work covers a wide area of business activities, so there are chances for those who don’t necessarily have a banking and finance background,” she says.
For those looking to join the banking and finance sectors, Leung says the HKIB’s Accredited Banking Practitioner (ABP) programme, which can be completed in about six months, offers a good introduction to the industry, covering areas such as products and risks. “The ABP covers the nuts and bolts of banking and acts as a good stepping stone to the next level,” Leung says.