Despite concerns about the current health of Hong Kong’s economy and business environment, the HR profession and the organisations they work for still face the common challenge of how to attract, recruit, on-board and retain top-talent to remain competitive and sustainable
Organised by Classified Post, as part of its ongoing commitment to support Hong Kong’s HR community and the wider business environment, themed “2020 Recruitment Outlook”, today's HR Conference taking place at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui, is the first HR conference event of 2020.
Designed to inspire and inform, distinguished conference keynote speakers will provide fresh points of view relating to the hot topics and best practices currently shaping recruitment and talent management trends. During presentations and a panel discussion, influential speakers will outline various ways that recruitment and talent management practices can be aligned with strategic business objectives and offer insights and advise that conference attendees can take away and adapt to their own organisations.
Opening today's conference with a keynote presentation focusing on “Global Talent Trends”, Brian Sy, principal, head of total rewards at Mercer, Hong Kong says it is important to highlight while socio-economic, geo-political and demographic forces are at play locally and globally, companies still need to focus on the fundamental need to recruit and retain the best talent. “There is no let-up in the perennial 'war for talent',” says Sy who cites the shortage of experienced and skills-specific talent across a diverse range of Hong Kong's industry sectors.
As an international business and trading hub, Sy notes that the majority of Hong Kong companies have thriving business activities outside of the SAR, which requires recruiting employees to sustain and grow the business. As a general trend, Sy says, where feasible, employers are hiring generalists instead of specialists who are able to apply their skills where they are most needed. “Agile companies are looking at flexible options,” Sy says. These include flexible work strategies which bring employees with specific skills together to work on a short-term project basis. Job rotation, which enables employees to upskill, is another option increasingly being deployed by employers who realise the importance of training from within. A strategy that Sy says can help an organisation remain competitive, while providing employees with career motivation incentives. Meanwhile, looking ahead to 2020 recruitment landscape, Sy believes while employers are keeping their graduate recruitment and management training programmes in place, they will continue to look for new ways to capitalise on employee mobility and flexibility. “Basically, it's a wait and see situation,” says Sy.
While many HR professionals may feel they have only recently worked out the work-life balance options favoured by millennials, it is time to turn their attention to Generation Z (Gen Z), who present a new set of workplace challenges, according to Dr. Felix Yip, associate director (Consultancy Service), Centre for Human Resources Strategy and Development at the Hong Kong Baptist University. During his “Engaging Talent of Gen Z" presentation, Yip will outline how, as the oldest members of Gen Z — those born between 1996 and 2010 — enter the workforce, understanding their emotional drivers is going to be key in effectively managing the younger generation of employees.
“Just because they are young, employers should avoid making the mistake of assuming that Gen Z employees are the same as their millennial counterparts in their work motivation and career aspirations,” cautions Yip. For example, he says the driving force behind Gen Z is financial security and career advancements. Yip explains the “salary first” attitude is fuelled by Gen Z employees entering a less stable job market compared to when millennials entered the workplace, which is responsible for creating a feeling of job insecurity. Because of job insecurity, Yip believes Gen Z employees are less likely to be “job hoppers” between employers, but look for “job hopping” opportunities within the organisations they work for. “Providing employers offer the right workplace environment and give them the right career opportunities, they have a chance to build connections with Gen Zers, and hold on to them,” says Yip.
To avoid high turnover while elevating engagement and connection, Yip suggests offering Gen Z employees management trainee-type rotation programmes. “The work needs to be purposeful and employees need to feel they are making a worthwhile contribution,” advises Yip. He adds that, because Gen Z employees have grown up in a more tech-focused and collaborative environment, training programmes and on-the-job experiences will need to be adapted for the incoming workforce. At the same time, despite being the most tech-focused generation to date, Yip believes mentoring and coaching are valuable tools that can be deployed to engage and support Gen Z employees. Pointing out while members of Gen Z are the ultimate technology natives, Yip says they appreciate feedback and expect it frequently, but preferably through digital channels.
With big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies collectively known as industry 4.0 rapidly reshaping workplace practices, Akina Ho, The Great Eagle Company's head of Digital Transformation and Innovation says now is the time for the HR function to re-imagine, re-invent and re-tool its talent management strategies. During her “You Are the Force to Transform What HR IS For the Future”, Ho says she will use examples of previous industrial revolutions to illustrate how workers, workplaces and employers have adapted to new challenges.
Citing the familiar financial disclaimer that “past performance is not an indication of future results”, Ho says in the era of digital transformation the HR function need to adapt, and adapt quickly to the many changes that digital transformation poses. “HR professionals must develop a digitally focused mindset to keep their organisations ahead of competitors,” Ho says. In order to be a driver digital transformation process, Ho says it is vital that the HR function is also part of the digital transformation process. By doing so, the HR function can play a more strategic role in aligning recruitment and talent management practices with business needs and objectives. Equipped with digital knowhow, Ho believes the HR function can play a more strategic role in talent procurement and workforce planning such as talent forecasting, succession planning and talent assessment and development. “The HR function needs to be more closely involved in all the phases within the employee experience journey,” says Ho.
During a “Key Challenge to Engage and Reward Talents in 2020” panel discussion, moderated by Winnie Lee, associate director, Learning Academy at PERSOLKELLY Consulting (HK), featuring the three speakers from the morning session, the experts will look at ways the HR function can keep employees motivated and engaged, during a difficult period for the local and external economic environment.
Observing the Chinese maxim of turning challenges into opportunities, Lee says while uncertainty exists about the current Hong Kong recruitment landscape, the HR function can place focus on developing an agile learning environment — usually defined as the ability to learn from a variety of experience and use those lessons to perform in new and different situations. With the rapidly changing skill demand of job roles, in particular, Lee believes soft skills development including problem solving, communication and emotional intelligence also known as EQ — a key skill associated with leadership — are prime candidates for developing. “Every organisation is different,” notes Lee, “Consequently, the HR function needs to identify which skills areas should be prioritised,” she adds.
Like many Asian countries and jurisdictions, Hong Kong is not alone in experiencing significant demographic changes including a rapidly ageing population, declining birth rate, and uncertainty about digitisation in the workplace, says Raymond Ng, vice president and head of Employee Benefits at Manulife Hong Kong. During his lunchtime “Evolution of Retirement Planning with Innovation” presentation, Ng will highlight how HR practitioners and the organisations they work for can translate challenges into opportunities. For example, in today's increasingly technology-driven business world, while digitisation transformation is inevitable, Ng says, the HR function can identify ways that technology can be used to increase employee understanding and engagement with their benefits programmes. “By reviewing the way employee benefits are offered and adding flexibility and variety, benefits packages can be used as useful tools for attracting and retaining talent,” says Ng.
Ng believes the proposed eMPF Platform could provide employees with more autonomy in handling their MPF investments, and could add another channel for employee engagement. Ng adds that, while many of the MPF initiatives such as tax deductible voluntary contributions are aimed at individual MPF members, HR practitioners can play an important role by initiating programmes that provide employees with MPF and saving for retirement education. The HR function can also play a strategic role in helping senior management to select MPF providers that offer services aligned with their employee's needs. To drive positive outcomes, Ng says, HR teams must keep a positive mind-set and be prepared to demonstrate a certain amount of risk taking. “By using problem-solving capabilities to spearhead talent acquisition and retention strategies for their companies that create a competitive edge, HR teams can be a value-generating function instead of a ‘spending’ function,” explains Ng.