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Are you ready for the bounce?

Richard Letcher, Managing Director of Profile, A WilsonHCG Company, discusses candidate's thoughts and intentions to leave their organisation post-COVID-19.   As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out across Asia Pacific, are companies across all sectors ready for the post-pandemic job market pick up?   In certain segments of the market we have already seen an uptick in hiring regionally, starting from Q4 last year (and even before in certain areas) for strong candidates, notably across financial services, digital and e-commerce, healthcare, education and supply chain. Overall, although there is a long way yet to reach the level of past boom years, things are certainly healthier now than the second and third quarters of 2020.    China is somewhat of an anomaly within APAC as the job market there started to bounce back in June last year. It has been gathering momentum ever since, particularly in the technology space (notably internet and 5G-related firms), healthcare and health services, as well as FMCG and luxury.   Over February and March this year, we conducted a follow-up survey to the one we did in April last year on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on our working lives in Asia Pacific. Just under 2,000 people filled in the survey, ensuring a robust data set. The majority of people who responded were in Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, mainland China and Australia. Level-wise, respondents were in mid to senior roles, with 52% working in non-human resources positions. The information gleaned will form the basis of a series of blogs, of which this is the first. Below is a summary of who filled it in:          ​Currently, we are at a crossroads as we enter Q2. More firms are hiring, as evidenced by numerous data sources published by governments and job boards alike, with most job markets across the region having shown signs of life towards the end of last year.    That’s demand, but what about the supply of prospective candidates to fill this increasing number of roles?   In April 2020, we asked survey respondents if they intended to leave their organisation within six to nine months, and the results were quite marked. In fact, the response was the lowest we have seen to date, from several years of asking the question in our annual surveys.   This was mainly due to two main factors. The first was the (correct) perception that there were not many job opportunities out there, with many thinking, “why even bother to look?” The second was a real fear of being “last in, first out” if they were to join another company.   Fast forward nearly a year to March 2021 and people are still slightly reticent to make a move compared to the historic averages of 60-70% shown in the graph below, but it is clear that times are a-changing as more confidence seeps into the job market, and potential candidates take calls from headhunters more seriously.          There are also other forces at play leading to higher retention rates. We asked those respondents who did not intend to leave their organisation their reasons for staying in our most recent survey:        Within the top four, three are factors related to the people-element of work, such as culture and professional relationships. Could the pandemic have magnified these? In times of hardship, could it be that organisations have become akin to a family for many, enhanced by the benefits companies have rolled out (e.g., wellness allowances, reimbursement of childcare costs, “no computer screen” afternoons)?    For those content in their roles, Gen Y was the most vocal about what made them happy at work. “Working arrangement changes work well for me” and “I feel appreciated” were the top reasons for staying. Gen Y also identified other reasons which did not make the top six above, such as “job security”, “strong career growth and development opportunities” and “strong leadership from line manager”.   For those who do intend to leave their organisation, their reasons for leaving are remarkably similar to the results of a pre-COVID-19 survey we conducted in January 2020. The top six are the same as early 2020, with the “lack of career growth and developmental opportunities” as the top reason for leaving. However, “insufficient financial rewards” has been replaced by the more altruistic “lack of opportunity to make a difference”, which perhaps is not surprising.        Interestingly, from the March 2021 data, the survey respondents who intend to head for the exit door tend to be junior to senior-level managers, and not the C-suite or non-managerial staff. Not surprisingly, Gen Y is particularly concerned over their “lack of career growth and developmental opportunities”, as well as “insufficient financial rewards” and “risk of burnout”, the latter two not making the top six overall.    Those working in Financial Services had more gripes than respondents in other sectors, with particular pain points being “lack of career growth”, “politics”, “poor leadership” and “insufficient financial rewards”. In Singapore, respondents were more vocal than other countries, especially when it came to “lack of career growth”, “lack of opportunity to make a difference” and “lack of appreciation”.   As the job market pickup gathers momentum over the coming months, we expect that there will be a short-term dearth of potential candidates willing to take the risk and jump ship to another firm.   However, as populations in Asia Pacific are vaccinated over the coming months, the risk of additional COVID-19 waves will dissipate – in turn, as the positive cycle of economic growth continues, we expect prospective candidates to get wind of the fact that there are more opportunities out there, and also the fear of joining a new company, to be made redundant soon after, will fade.   That paid-for subscription to Headspace or the online gym may soon be forgotten and people will start to hanker after a bigger role with less politics and a higher chance of making a difference, with the result that the job market will head in a more northerly direction and we will see far more movement than there is now.   In some companies, this might come suddenly and pose an awkward problem to which they are ill-prepared. The perception of some employers that “staff have nowhere to go to if they did want to leave” has led to weaker retention initiatives and guards have been let down. Now is the time to start thinking about this, if it is not too late.   Although the number of candidates open to a move is expected to grow, demand in some areas will outstrip supply sooner than people potentially think. Things will undoubtedly become tighter, exacerbated by some expatriates moving back home from places like Hong Kong and Singapore. If growth is on the cards, with an accompanying increase in headcount predicted, firms need to put in place a robust talent acquisition, as well as retention, strategy sooner rather than later before cupboards become bare. 
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5 ways to build social capital in the workplace

With working lives continuing to operate virtually, many people are becoming increasingly distant to their coworkers. As employee engagement has a significant impact on business success, the absence of the people element of a workplace requires consideration. The most efficient businesses are those with employees who trust one another. When coworkers trust each other, projects are completed more effectively, time is used productively and employees are more engaged. People who felt highly trusted at work reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy, 50% higher productivity and 76% higher engagement at work than respondents at low-trust firms, according to a study published in the Harvard Business Review. This concept of mutual respect and trust is often referred to as “social capital”. What is social capital? Social capital is a set of shared values that encourage and allow people to work together to achieve a common goal. It’s all the positive aspects which come from humans interacting. In the workplace, social capital helps a business achieve success by creating and fostering a sense of mutual values and respect, trust and a safe space for ideas and innovation to thrive. This concept applies to employees within your organisation as well as to clients and partnerships. While this may seem like a straightforward approach, building social capital can be increasingly difficult as we continue to adjust to the new way of working. So, how can an organisation foster social capital amidst a global pandemic? Promote open communication. Encourage employees to engage with each other freely. COVID-19 has altered how we communicate, so pivoting to find productive new ways of developing these internal networks is crucial. Even asking others to share something informal about the weekend before jumping into the order of business can encourage more significant relationships to build and allow colleagues to identify connections that may not have been evident previously. Particularly as many companies continue to work remotely, consider developing a virtual buddy program. By creating matches based on mutual interests, employees can build relationships with their colleagues outside their team, department or even country. Find a shared identity. Establish employee resource groups (ERGs) and forums for employees to encourage relationships beyond their business line or team. These ERGs and forums can focus on anything from hobbies or themes surrounding diversity and inclusion. For example, such a group would be ideal for introverts (and their allies) in which to engage. Discussions around these interests build a shared identity and united values that contribute to strong social capital beyond initial connections. Don’t forget to promote ERGs through recruitment marketing to show candidates that they’ll belong.  Give feedback. Encourage 360 feedback or go bold and consider scrum teams. Trust and shared identity are key to building strong social capital, so removing hierarchy wherever possible can rapidly increase this sense of shared community and goals. And remember to act on the feedback to make positive changes.   Have honest conversations. Create space for employees to collaborate, help each other and share gratitude as a common occurrence. While some competition can be healthy, encouraging honest conversations with teams and being forthcoming with praise draws people together. Perhaps consider a peer-to-peer recognition programme so colleagues can reward each other for going the extra mile. Meanwhile, the typical performance review process can do more harm than good for building social capital as it encourages teams to pull apart from each other to be at the top. Social capital moves away from this concept and helps support business success through common goals, where all play a critical part. To boost social capital in the workplace, an increasing number of organisations have implemented a team-based bonus structure by rewarding employees for successful teamwork. Set your employees up for success. Empower your employees, whether client-facing or not, to have the tools to confidently represent your business outside of work. It’s easy to assume all employees can give a quick two-minute pitch on your business and it’s surprising how many will struggle with this in one way or another. Incorporating this knowledge as part of onboarding will help ingrain this idea from the get-go, making each employee an informed representative of your organisation which will help to create positive networking opportunities.  Can you measure social capital? Measuring social capital can be challenging, as much is subjective and plays out in different forms. Regular pulse surveys and check-ins can gauge how employees are feeling and in general, these scores will continue to improve as the social capital within your organisation grows. With positive steps, social capital will lead to improved business success, a broader client pool which is highly engaged and strong attraction and retention of employees who are both happy and engaged in their work. 
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Working in Asia Pacific 2020

Our annual survey of nearly 3,000 professionals in APAC provides a pulse on working life in the region. This year, we share data from before and after the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Managing Director and Profile co-founder Richard Letcher provides insights into the impact it has had on flexible working, mental health, our confidence in leadership, and more.  Background to the report This year, following our annual Working in Asia Pacific survey on talent and human resources trends, the 5th edition of which we carried out in January pre-COVID-19, we conducted a second survey in Q2 as a result of the dramatic change in the world. The latter focused exclusively on the impact of COVID-19 on our working lives. This report is based on data from both surveys, which we conducted in conjunction with The Next Step, a national boutique HR Consultancy firm in Australia, and Roffey Park, a global leadership consulting firm.  Data is also provided for North America by our parent company, WilsonHCG.          The respondent demographics for the two surveys were almost identical - mid to senior professionals located in predominantly Singapore, China, Hong Kong SAR and Australia, and evenly split by gender. In all, 2,600 people filled in each survey, leading to a particularly robust dataset. Respondents predominantly worked in Industry & Commerce (46%) with 31% responding Financial Services and 23% Professional Services.     COVID-19: Have leaders & human resources stepped up?​ How would you rate your leadership's effectiveness with respect to dealing with COVID-19 within your organisation? For the most part, respondents felt leaders performed okay (during the initial crisis), although their performance was rated much higher in Australia and North America.  This geographical inconsistency may be due to the fact that leaders in Australia and North America were not the first to deal with the crisis, as they were in Asia, so there was time to react, prepare and take heed. Also, the survey in APAC was done in April at which point conversations in Asia were starting, or indeed had happened in some organisations, around job and salary cuts, so perhaps respondents rated their leaders lower because of this, particularly if they fell victim.​ ​ How do you feel the standing and reputation of your HR function, within your organisation, has been affected by the work it has done over the last few months with regards to COVID-19 How about HR – have they stepped up? Over the last few decades we have seen HR functions excel in the face of crises and as such, they have been rewarded with more credible, high profile positions within organisations. Has the work done by HR during the last few months enlarged this seat at the table The simple answer is “yes”.  In total, 41% of respondents thought their HR function had enhanced their reputation, but nearly a fifth thought HR's reputation had actually been tarnished by their handling of the crisis. In Australia particularly, HR’s good work has been very much appreciated and noted.  ​​ ​When we slice the data further by level we see that senior respondents are more likely to have bought into how HR has stepped up, perhaps as they have been working more closely with the HR team, and as a result, they are more acutely aware of the complexity of the situation. ​ ​ ​ Working from home – the future? Which flexible working options are the most important or appeal most to you? As a result of the data from our January survey pre-COVID-19, we can see people’s expectations of flexible working options ahead of the crisis. Our COVID-19 survey data then showed what the impact was when some of those remote working arrangements came into play.  Just before the COVID-19 crisis started, we asked respondents what they wanted when it came to flexible working options in the future. Prior to COVID-19, certainly not all of us had wanted to work entirely away from an office environment. From the graphic above, respondents were keen to have the freedom to arrive and leave work when they wanted, work from home on occasion and perhaps work the hours they chose. All of these were more important to people than ‘flexible vacation time’ (unlimited paid time off).  "My organisation offers the right level of flexible working options". For the most part, pre-COVID-19, respondents actually rated their organisations favourably when it came to flexible working options. ​ "Because COVID-19 has led to most people working from home, I feel my organisation will adopt a more flexible and agile way of working  even after COVID-19 is under control.” We are currently working in the biggest flexible working experiment we have ever known. So, who thinks it’s the future? It would appear that the majority of respondents, particularly in Australia and North America, where flexible working programs were more prevalent pre-COVID-19, believe flexibility is here to stay.  However, the data suggests comparatively less think so in China. It seems there is a greater expectation to return to the office in China or perhaps there was a greater pull back to the office and to see work colleagues. ​ The buy-in to work more flexibly seems particularly strong at the senior end, which is not necessarily what you might think. Could it be that younger professionals are keen to return to the “old norm” of the office environment as they think they are learning and developing more effectively there? If you have been working from home because of COVID-19, how productive do you feel you’ve been in comparison to if you had been working in an office environment? Is working from home actually working? From our COVID-19 survey data, it appears “potentially not” if you look at productivity, cultural differences, work-life balance and the issue of trust. Let’s examine these further. We asked respondents whether they felt more productive working at home compared to the office. A third say they are indeed more productive but an equal number say they’re about the same and the final third say they are actually less productive (citing children running around, unstable internet and small spaces shared with other family members). In Asia, particularly in China, respondents felt markedly less productive working from home than in Australia and North America.    ​ If you have been working from home, how do your number of working hours compare to if you were working in an office? Ironically, all this working at home has meant less work-life balance. Fully 60% of respondents in APAC and 57% in North America say they work a lot or a bit more in terms of the number of hours they’re working at home versus the office.     Other global surveys carried out over the last few months point to the fact that on average, we are working fifty more minutes a day working from home. A factor here is that we are not commuting so we are using that time wisely but we might be working longer hours because we are worried about losing our jobs. Only time, and future post-COVID-19 studies, will tell whether that is an issue.​ To what extent do you feel your co-workers, who are working from home as part of the COVID-19 contingency plan, are taking advantage of their flexible arrangement and not fulfilling their responsibilities as expected? A very large issue less discussed within organisations or the media is one of trust. We are obviously working longer hours when we have worked from home this year but 53% of respondents think their colleagues are not working as hard as we are! If the perception is that others think we are bunking off, can working away from the office be as viable an option going forward as many think? So, with these various barriers to working from home, could we end up with not quite what Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has done in giving up most of his company's real estate leases in order to work from home “forever”, but what The Economist has referred to as the “optional office” which meets working in an office/at home halfway? Our mental health – how are we faring? In short, not overly well. COVID-19 has created a lot of stress for everyone; not only is there the fear of our loved ones, or ourselves, catching the virus but also the dark clouds of being let go from our jobs or having our salaries cut. Working from home has also created stress as has the way the crisis has been dealt with in some of our organisations.  Just under half of the respondents in APAC mentioned they have been adversely affected in recent months due to the pandemic, with the figure being just under 60% in North America, and many of us feel that our colleagues are suffering too.  "COVID-19 has adversely affected my mental health."    When we break it down by geography Hong Kong is markedly worse off with regards to individual respondent’s mental health. Economically the territory has not been doing well and mental health had already been adversely affected by the uncertain political situation and the protests last year. Add in a pandemic and additional economic woes and it isn’t surprising.  Generation Y reports a higher negative impact, which might be due to their greater propensity to talk about and be open about mental health issues, a point backed up by previous research we have done.    ​"I feel that COVID-19 has made it more acceptable to discuss mental health issues with my colleagues/manager." As more people are experiencing higher levels of stress in their personal and work lives, there now appears to be a greater openness to talk about mental health issues with colleagues and managers compared to before which, beyond COVID-19, may prove to be beneficial in the campaign to encourage discussion about mental health issues. How has the response by your leadership to the COVID-19 crisis affected your levels of stress? Our data points to the response of leadership, within some organisations, being the cause of elevated stress levels through lack of communication and direction leading to uncertainty for many. For this topic we had an open field within the questionnaire - these are four responses that encapsulate what people have been going through.    Regarding mental health, what support does your organisation offer? How are organisations tackling mental health? We asked respondents, in the pre-COVID-19 survey in January, to “tick all that apply“ from seven options and here are the results.     ​​Employee assistance programs was the number one tool of choice in 2019 as well. It is worrying that a third of respondents thought that nothing is offered. It will be interesting to note how this changes post-COVID-19. Retention – the COVID-19 effect Are you considering leaving your organisation in the next 6-9 months? Every year our survey asks all respondents whether they have an intention to leave their current organisation in the near future. With the poor economic outlook in January this year, fewer people were open to move given the risk. But COVID-19 has caused people to be even more cautious of making a move with the lowest percentages we have seen since we started the survey five years ago. The perception is that there are far fewer jobs to go to and there is also the risk of being “last in first out“. (Note: we only have Australian data starting from 2019). ​ But when the job market bounces back across the region post-COVID-19, points of frustration for all employees will undoubtedly return. These are the top six pain points for professionals across APAC according to respondents who filled in our January survey. “Lack of career growth and developmental opportunities” is always the main motivator to leave from previous surveys we have carried out, but there are three other trends which are worth noting. The first is that weak leadership is key in people’s decision to stay or go. The second is that money is never as important as you think, and the third is that politics is a key driver for people leaving organisations.  ​ What do you consider to be the major stressors in your working life? Politics is the key contributor to high-stress levels at work and also inhibits teamwork. It appears to be a hidden enemy as it doesn’t seem to be a topic of conversation within companies currently and is rarely given as a reason for leaving a company. From the data, it is a big factor especially within financial services, large companies and for Generation X and Baby Boomers. ​Key Contacts For more information or individually tailored advice, please do not hesitate to contact our regional Human Resources team: Hong Kong office - Richard Letcher, Managing Director Singapore office - James Rushworth, Managing Director Shanghai office - Shelya Zhou, Associate Director
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Workplace Stress in COVID-19 – Can Any Good Come from This?

This article first appeared in the 2020/21 HR Service Providers Directory (HRSP), published by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM). As the challenges and uncertainties of COVID-19 continue, workplace stress is on the rise. In a recent survey of more than 2,700 business leaders across APAC, the majority of respondents agreed their mental health, or that of their colleagues had been negatively impacted. Conducted by Profile Search & Selection (“Profile”), the survey provided insights into many of the critical challenges organisations currently face.  Interviewed in Q2 2020, nearly half (45%) of the respondents felt that COVID-19 had adversely affected their mental health, and 60% felt that it had negatively impacted their colleagues’ mental health.    Interestingly, those suffering the most seemed to be in Hong Kong (58% compared to 39% in Australia, 41% in China and 44% in Singapore). Perhaps Hong Kong, a city already coping with issues related to mental wellbeing from workplace stress, has been further impacted by recent political uncertainties.    Pushing accountability to those at the top of the corporate tree and understanding that leaders in organisations are responsible for communicating messages of change, the survey also asked respondents if their leadership team’s response to the pandemic had affected their stress levels. While 42% felt no change, 43% suffered additional stress. These results may well be reflective of the continued uncertainties, and the outcome of employees asked to take pay cuts or unpaid leave (35% of those surveyed), or even staff redundancies and some business closures (20%).    At the time of writing, and in the midst of Hong Kong’s third wave of COVID-19, another study, designed by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong, found that among 801 employees interviewed across the city, 87% showed symptoms of stress, with 43% reporting signs of anxiety disorders. Not only are the numbers alarmingly high, but they point to a worsening problem as the year progresses. With job insecurities and personal challenges mounting, the question looming is how can we tackle this, and what response measures have we, and can we, put in place. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many companies have adjusted their working arrangements to fit the HKSAR Government’s social distancing requirements, but are these measures supporting individuals’ mental health and helping to reduce workplace stress? Looking back over the last six months, 80% of those surveyed by Profile said their company had all, or at least some, of their staff working remotely or from home. While this has been beneficial to many, others have struggled to work in isolation or with several people in the house, children to home school, parents to care for, and no appropriate space to work in.    Surveyed employees were also asked how productive they have felt since working from home. While nearly a third said they were less productive, 64% said they were either more productive, or just as productive as being in the office.    Unfortunately, nearly 60% said they have been working longer hours. Despite this, over half said they felt their colleagues were taking advantage of their flexible arrangements or not fulfilling their responsibilities.    Therefore, it is clear that flexible working has had a positive impact on many individuals, but there is still some way to go in terms of learning to trust and effectively manage staff remotely. Furthermore, as remote working continues, leaders will need to better communicate changes and company directives to their teams to keep them on an even keel. If there is one positive to come out of COVID-19, it is that people are more comfortable talking to their colleagues about mental health (65% of those surveyed, up from 59% from Profile’s Working in APAC survey in January 2020) and a number of firms have either upgraded or put in place an employee assistance programme. Furthermore, firms are looking at new and creative ways to improve employees’ wellbeing – these have included subscriptions to meditation apps, online gym sessions and reduced working hours/compressed work weeks, demonstrating proactive measures taken to combat some of the current issues.    Looking ahead, there are strong signs that as organisations work through the pandemic, employees will want the option to continue working remotely and flexibly, and to be able to control when and how they work – in other words, be truly ‘agile’. For this to succeed, managers and employers will not only need to implicitly trust their staff, but also learn to rate their performance in a whole new way. In so doing, employers are recommended to invest time and money into ensuring their technology supports remote and flexible working. Moreover, such advances will need to support real time interaction and video/virtual connectivity among staff, to maintain and build rapport across business units. Employers should also carefully consider workplace setups at home, to make sure remote and flexible working can offer employees a safe and productive environment. Organisations who prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff will not only help improve their productivity, but in the longer term, will better attract and retain them. Prospective candidates will focus on companies with supportive and trusting environments – and in turn those perceived to be the most reliable in the face of challenges, will become the go-to employers of choice.  As a result, COVID-19 will not only change the way people work, but will redefine what employees look for in an organisation. As the post-COVID-19 workforce seek out firms who can provide a wholesome workplace, they may even prioritise this over a higher salary offered by a more traditional organisation. In fact, we have already seen candidates make these career choices, so it won’t be long before these requirements are the norm for job seekers. One thing is for sure – however we all decide to move forward in the new normal, it is undeniably a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine working life and be part of the foundations of a very different world (of work). While this may seem overwhelming at times, perhaps with the right support, there is the chance to channel that stress into enhanced productivity, and ultimately better working lives. 
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Virtual Onboarding and the Candidate Experience

The daily commute is now a thing of the past for many office workers. Remote working and video conferencing are staples in the workplace as the pandemic shows no immediate signs of abating, and many tech giants – Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Apple included – are changing long-term plans to permanently move their staff to working remotely. According to our recent COVID-19 Impact survey, 73% of respondents in APAC agreed that due to changes to remote working policies, their companies would be more likely to adopt flexible and agile working practices after the pandemic is under control. While flexibility has increased for working professionals globally, how are these policies affecting new hires? Starting a new job can be nerve-racking; adding the stress of a global pandemic can make it even worse. Companies are now having to rethink their talent management strategies to deliver positive experiences for their new starters. In September, we spoke with candidates across the region who have had first-hand exposure to a remote onboarding experience this year. Based on these conversations, it seems that many companies are adapting well to this ever-changing environment; however, there are clear areas for improvement. This article delves into the various challenges facing new hires today and the potential opportunities to help companies shape their virtual onboarding procedures.  CHALLENGES  Meeting New Colleagues  Starting a new job with a new – and completely virtual – team can lack the personal touch that face-to-face meetings provide. Many of the candidates we spoke to expressed difficulty integrating into the culture of their new companies and the various working styles of their co-workers. Often, these employees felt they were unable to form relationships with colleagues outside of those on their team.   "The only part I miss is the face-to-face meetings. It takes a lot more time to build relationships without those in-person interactions. Coffee meetings and corridor chats are the biggest loss." Discipline A common challenge we frequently hear from remote employees are the distractions that come with working from home. Whether it’s helping your kids with their virtual schooling, caring for elderly parents, or finding the space for a temporary home office, family and home demands can affect productivity.  Particularly for new employees who are unfamiliar with the role and their team’s expectations, a strong work ethic is required to remain productive while working from home. "To keep myself disciplined and organised, it is up to us to manage our work, and we must know what to do; otherwise, we are easily distracted." Communication Styles Video calls have replaced face-to-face meetings. Although Zoom fatigue may set in, facilitating a professional and comfortable digital environment can help new employees feel as though they are in a face-to-face office setting. Another notable change in communication styles is the switch from email to direct messaging apps for faster responses, such as WhatsApp, Slack, WeChat and Microsoft Teams. These apps provide a quicker and more effective method of collaboration among teams. However, with almost every conversation happening online, some candidates expressed the need to be extra polite and considerate when communicating as their tone is often hard to convey via email. The number of both video and audio calls have increased, mostly to avoid the misunderstandings that can often happen over email. "I proactively reach out to arrange video calls, which is closer to face-to-face interactions. If someone wants to do a call, I suggest a video call instead." Distance​ Though the number of video calls with managers and colleagues has increased, many candidates expressed feeling distant and alone. Many reported their conversations with colleagues are often entirely work-related and lack the office "chit chat" that helps build relationships. "When company policy dictated that we work from home, daily team calls were instituted in the mornings, so we felt a connection to others in the firm. One-on-ones with my manager, which used to be weekly, were also increased to twice a week." "I don't feel looked after because I feel every interaction and conversation is very work-based. I have nobody to speak to about how I feel, and I do feel a bit distant and alone." OPPORTUNITIES Buddy/Mentorship Programs Engaging in regular one-on-one check-ins with new employees can help maintain effective communication. Overcommunication is particularly important to help facilitate a sense of belonging and inclusion in those first few weeks. Larger, more informal get-together sessions can help integrate new hires. Several candidates reported feeling more connected after virtual coffee meet-ups and get-to-know-you calls. Kim Pope, WilsonHCG COO, recently offered her insight as part of the Forbes Human Resources Council: “Match new hires with seasoned employees who can answer questions and provide advice. Because it’s virtual, you can make matches based on interests rather than just putting two people together because they’re in the same office. Encourage communication by video so new hires get to see a friendly face. And screen sharing can help mentors talk through new processes.” Structured Training Platforms In order to put your company’s best foot forward, organise training sessions that set your employees up for success. By creating an orientation schedule and setting up video introductions with relevant team members, managers can help foster excitement among new hires as well as helping them feel more prepared and welcome. "A proper detailed orientation plan and training schedule would have helped to understand the company better. Information was delivered in bits and pieces, and I had to initiate and reach out to relevant people to seek information myself." Increased Empathy Onboarding is one of the more important processes for retaining and maintaining talent. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we think and function as a society, and it’s critical to understand the challenges facing new hires today. Particularly during these tough times, a little bit of empathy will go a long way. "Show empathy towards employees, remind managers to understand the personal challenges, don’t push employees too much. Try and delay deadlines if you can." CONCLUSION Effective onboarding in a time of crisis takes more time and effort; however, it seems we are quickly adapting. Even in these unprecedented times, the shift to remote working shouldn't prevent new employees from having a positive experience when starting a new role. One thing to take away from these conversations is that employers cannot possibly overcommunicate. Ask for qualitative feedback and make sure you document and refine the process to keep managers informed. This is, after all, an interactive evolution.  An additional advantage is that managers will also benefit from the experience by learning new skills that will serve them well as remote working becomes the norm. For additional resources on virtual onboarding, check out these articles from WilsonHCG: Forbes HR Council: Tips for effective virtual onboarding Onboarding and mentoring virtual employees Tips for optimizing your virtual workspace Virtual Coaching Solutions: Setting Up A Mentoring Program
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Spotlight on China 2020

ASSET MANAGEMENT IN THE "NEW NORMAL" Six months ago, our “Spotlight on China” report focused on “Preparation, Perseverance & Flexibility” as the key ingredients for successfully growing in the onshore China asset management market. Since then, much has changed. As we adjust to this new reality of the global pandemic, rising political tensions, economic uncertainty and endless Zoom meetings, the question remains – how are companies navigating the human capital challenges of the onshore China asset management market in this new normal? In this report, we seek to combine our observations of this space with the direct insight of leading asset management professionals operating at both regional headquarters as well as onshore in China. We focus on the current market sentiment and try to decipher the formula for successfully acquiring, managing and retaining the best talent in one of the few busy recruitment markets today. As some firms advance to the next stage of development with their full Fund Management Company (FMC) license applications, others are staying focused on the Private Fund Management (PFM) license and others are seeking different routes to tackle the market. There are a few things that remain constant – there is a shortage of talent, a rising number of employers are chasing the same pool of candidates, and human capital remains the key element to success or failure.  Areas covered in this report include: The impact of COVID-19 on the corporate ambitions of international managers moving into or expanding onshore How those firms who are already well established in China are pivoting to the new market conditions, some thriving, others hardly surviving The Four-Lane Highway of the firms pushing ahead with the FMC, consolidating PFM, pushing ahead with new market entry, or pausing their activity Key observations around the candidate market, how it has matured and evolved, and what factors are driving the career decisions of the best talents onshore What’s next in the coming 12 months, and what the challenges and opportunities might be in this ever-changing landscape in China. This report focuses entirely on the human capital side of the Chinese asset management market. We intend for this to be an observation piece and to spark debate and further conversation. Please reach out to us if you wish to discuss any of the content. PFM ACTIVITY Below is a snapshot of the PFM market and fund launches chronologically. Please note that several of the product names are direct translations from Mandarin. We have not addressed the FMC market as, although license applications are in process, there are no funds launched as of yet. Source: AMAC Website (11.08.2020) THE FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY For some firms, business building during COVID-19 has created a whole new set of challenges for what is already a very tough and competitive Chinese market. Those with existing onshore infrastructure and teams are in a significantly better position to take advantage of the ongoing travel restrictions and logistics around hiring remotely. The other COVID-19 challenge is the impact at the global head office, as some firms are more cautious with more pressing issues domestically. Below we review the different groups and the human capital challenges observed. Previously, we spoke of the three groups: Fast Movers, Consolidators and New Entrants. In this edition, we split it into four lanes, from firms who have accelerated towards FMC, to firms who have stepped on the brakes. TAKING THE MARKET'S PULSE WHAT IS THIS? We conducted an anonymous survey into what is driving hiring and other human capital decisions for international firms.  WHY THE SURVEY? We wanted to produce a section based entirely on your views and those of your colleagues and peers. WHO CONTRIBUTED? We contacted onshore and offshore professionals. Please see below for a breakdown of contributors. To what extent has COVID-19 influenced the commitment of your head office to further expand your China business? ​ HEAD OFFICE SUPPORT How would you rate your global leadership’s effectiveness with respect to dealing with COVID-19 within your organisation? I have received significant support from my global head office during COVID-19. COVID-19 has negatively impacted the decision of the global head office to apply for PFM or FMC licenses. KEY TAKEAWAYS • China staff feel well supported by global management, and head office commitment remains strong  • The majority of companies have not deviated from their China expansion plans  • China is a bright spot in a challenging global marketplace  LOCAL LEADERSHIP How do you feel the standing of your HR function has been affected by the work it has done with regards to COVID-19? How would you rate your local leadership’s effectiveness with respect to dealing with COVID-19 within your organisation? HIRING OUTLOOK What is the talent outlook for the second half of 2020? KEY TAKEAWAYS • On the whole, the HR function has done an excellent job during COVID-19 with a few exceptions  • Chinese management has communicated well with staff during a difficult time  • The hiring outlook is still positive for 2020; however, the focus is on critical hires for the short term SHORT TERM HIRING IMPACT For the remainder of 2020, which specific areas of your business would you anticipate seeing the biggest impact in terms of hiring plans being slowed down? (Please note respondents were free to choose more than one area.) KEY TAKEAWAYS • Critical hires continue to focus on the core compliance and infrastructure areas  • Sales hires are the most likely to be pushed back to Q4 2020 or Q1 2021  TALENT ACQUISITION Some talent acquisition challenges remain unchanged in the WFOE space, and there is still an abundance of roles with a limited supply of candidates. However, the market has evolved to some extent over the last six months, both from an employer’s and employee’s perspective. Employers are starting to focus on candidates with more in-depth domestic experience as the market matures, and the opportunity for long term success becomes apparent. Employees, on the other hand, continue to develop a keen sense of what they want, and more importantly, what they want to avoid. KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE Companies who have been the most successful when seeking to employ the best talent, and to retain them long term, have spent time developing a proper strategy in advance. The candidate pool has matured compared to 2019 and continues to develop apace. The golden TA rule that “the best candidates ask the toughest questions” is global and is not a new concept; however, it is becoming more important than ever before in this highly competitive landscape. China Strategy – The ability to firmly articulate a clear commitment to growth in China is a simple but crucial element. A few years ago, it was acceptable to be vague about licenses and partnerships. Now, however, it is not, and the best candidates will drill down to ascertain that a deep level of thought has gone into the coming months. Local Leadership – The importance of stable, locally-based leadership is vital, and often more important than the actual corporate brand itself. In China, the pull factor of local, well-respected leaders cannot be over-emphasised. The reverse holds true should a company make a misstep with a senior hire, resulting in constant turnover at GM/CIO/CCO level. Respecting Experience – Strong local candidates with strong local market knowledge and understanding want to ensure that they are hired for their experience and that they will be listened to. They will not expect total autonomy or a free reign; however, the most significant negative for locally-based candidates is that their advice will be ignored by regional HQ, and they land in a more execution type role. THE THREE Cs Hiring quality talent in China is always challenging. Variables to consider are plentiful, and different firms attach different priorities. Bridging the gap between language and culture is hard, and many fall foul of this until they have learned by making mistakes. We advise clients to keep things simple, and we often speak of “The Three Cs” as a guide; however, the most important thing is to realise that some skillsets outweigh the others. Communication – The ability to speak English. Communication is the smallest “c”, but firms often make the error of assigning greater significance to a Chinese candidate’s English language skills. Capability – The technical ability and track record of delivering success onshore in China. Although this seems obvious, the key words here are “onshore in China”. This is a reasonably large “C” and needs to be validated by your onshore partner’s input. Culture – The ability and, more importantly, the desire of the candidate to adapt and build trust. Assessing a candidate’s cultural fit takes more time; the employer needs to invest more in the process than usual and spend longer validating via references and market feedback. Culture is the largest “C”, making it the most difficult, but most important.  TALENT RETENTION & MANAGEMENT In our last report, we made the following statement:  “China is different” is a phrase sometimes overused – and often as an excuse when hiring goes wrong, or retention is poor. What remains clear is that whilst China is different, the much larger influence on talent retention is the same as elsewhere: good management, strong communication, keeping promises and respecting other people’s opinions. While China may be different 25% of the time, the remaining 75% relies on good management. Despite COVID-19, the onshore asset management market continues to grow and mature at a pace unseen in other markets across Asia. We are well past the three-year mark from the first PFM fund launch, and the level of competition for market share continues to exert pressures on companies to try and retain their best talent. Added to the maturity factor, there is now the logistical challenge of hiring remotely for critical senior positions, which COVID-19 has introduced, should the company fail in their retention efforts. The comments below are a distillation of the recurring views we hear day to day from the “employee/potential candidate” cohort. We feel that the tone of these takeaways underlines the absolute need for a global gold standard of professional management to take place in China, as much as London or New York. The need for regular, empathetic and consistent communication during these challenging times is paramount to success. China is different, and the market is tough, but retention of the best staff is within the sphere of influence of local, regional and global management. TALKING POINTS Below are four areas of discussion which keep coming up. While they are not necessarily human capital related, they will all have an impact on the challenges and opportunities in the years ahead.  THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK These past few years, foreign firms setting up in China have been grabbing the headlines. However, we are currently witnessing a resurgence of Chinese asset managers and JV asset managers. They are hitting back and are hiring strong senior talent in an attempt to meet the challenges from foreign companies. Mainland giants such as E Fund, Bosera and China AMC may not have seen the PFM as a threat to both business and top talent retention, but the FMC could be a different story. In a pre-emptive strike, we have observed that the Chinese funds, as well as the well-established JVs, are making moves to secure their talent and add leaders to the management team in the face of anticipated competition.  TO JV OR NOT TO JV Strategic changes, U-turns and pivots are expected when a marketplace goes through regulatory transition and opens to outside entities. These changes are evident in the China asset management space. While some firms are seeking to take control of existing JVs, such as the mega-deal rumoured around China International Fund Management Co Ltd, others are trying to exit. Some have seen a distribution JV with strategic banking/private banking or insurance partners as a good entry point into the market, taking the view that it is a lower risk approach. There is much speculation over the long-term upside for the foreign majority “owner”. Many feel that 51% sounds like control in international markets; however, when speaking about the Mainland, it can be far from “control” in the day-to-day. SHOW ME THE MONEY 2020 compensation is already a topic of quiet discussion as bonus speculation has started in earnest. The conundrum is apparent: most of the world is under severe financial stress. However, the China asset management space continues to grow, firms continue to have needs, and high calibre candidates continue to be in demand. Bonus expectations at global firms outside of China have been actively managed throughout the pandemic. We believe employees’ expectations, while hopeful, are realistic. However, the market dynamic in China is different, and it has nothing to do with a rising market or recovery from the pandemic. It is a simple supply versus demand inequality created by a combination of regulatory change and the desire of foreign firms to build a long-term sustainable presence in the world’s largest untapped market. The result is the natural conflict of different circumstances across global HQ and locally in China.  PASTURES NEW Shanghai has enjoyed an unrivalled dominant position as the WFOE asset management hub in China. Will this continue? The influence of the regulators, the need to form wider distribution partnerships and the increased aggression from the rival local government seem to suggest otherwise. Beijing could be the obvious challenger with a strong existing local asset management industry, the power of the central government and the HQ for numerous potential partners (banks and insurance). However, Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area could also offer a robust alternative with world-class modern infrastructure, a thriving financial services sector and proximity to Hong Kong as strong draw cards. The message seems to be clear – it is a question of when, not if, this diversification and decentralisation takes place. WRAP UP & WHAT'S NEXT As the world struggles to adapt to the new normal of a COVID-19 disrupted workplace, one thing remains clear. The onshore China asset management market will continue to march forward in an unrelenting fashion, and global companies remain focused on being part of this enormous business opportunity.   COVID-19 has impacted human capital and organisational development around the world with the move to remote working, the vastly increased investment in and use of technology, virtual engagements and meetings with internal and external stakeholders. The world’s leading companies are seizing these changes as an opportunity to be best in class and not merely reacting in crisis management mode.  This is evident in the way companies are responding to human capital challenges in China. For structural and regulatory reasons, the China asset management market is expanding and not contracting. Elsewhere around the world, most asset managers are operating under a different set of circumstances. When responding to the needs of a country or division operating differently to the rest of the company, management needs to recognise this and act accordingly.  Some key takeaways from our observation of how the best firms are operating are below: Strategy – people in China want the strategy to be defined, positive and aspirational. However, if the plan changes, explain why, how and what the benefit will be Communication – given the potentially remote location of leaders, it is impossible to over-emphasise how important communication is today; it should be constant, consistent and high quality Execution – company leaders need to follow through on promises, stick to the plans for their staff and make sure the management of their employees’ careers does not get lost along the way Empathy – we all work with empathetic leaders and those who are not; in the new normal, empathy is highly prized. When lacking, it can be highly detrimental to culture Since the onset of COVID-19, leaders and their human resources teams are coming into their own, adding significant value, and guiding employees through an uncertain and callous time. The feedback we received is highly optimistic about the impact the HR teams have in this space. A successful build onshore in China needs HR to be the closest business partner to the company’s leaders. Good people are always the key to business success. However, the new normal means this is amplified; first-class talent acquisition and talent retention strategy will either be the bedrock of success in 2021 and beyond or the Achilles’ heel which undermines the business success for years to come. The market holds vast challenges. However, within these challenges lies huge opportunity. As the China asset management market continues to develop and mature, the human capital opportunity and ability to positively impact business in 2021 will be enormous. OUR ASSET MANAGEMENT TEAM For more information on recruitment trends, please contact Profile's Asset Management team: Hong Kong Office - Andrew Oliver Singapore Office - Stanley Teo Shanghai Office - Andy Zhi / Yao Xiong Beijing Office - Winni Wei Click here to download the full report.
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Accounting & Finance Market Update 2020

With the continued spread of COVID-19, growing trade tensions, and uncertain global economic conditions, firms in Asia remain cautious in regards to their business outlook.  The Accounting & Finance recruitment sector faced a challenging first half of 2020, but the good news is that we are beginning to see some organisations starting to fill headcounts that were put on hold earlier in the year. We anticipate a cautious building up of demand for Accounting & Finance professionals as businesses look to hire talent to drive business recovery.  Candidates in the industry are cautious about changing jobs as well. Their willingness to move jobs from pre- to post-pandemic has reduced. However, that is not to say potential candidates are not interested in new opportunities. To attract and retain the best talent, hiring managers need to understand their candidates’ expectations and what matters to them.  From soft skills and technical ability to big data and digitalisation, we see common themes when hiring for Accounting & Finance professionals across the region. In this report, we will explore hiring and industry trends across the industry in Asia, as well as the candidates’ response to the current market landscape. ​ CHINA In one of the first signs of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, China’s GDP grew 3.2% in the second quarter of 2020, rebounding from a 6.8% drop in the first quarter.  Although 2020 saw China’s weakest growth in decades, we have seen a relatively fast recovery from the pandemic across some sectors. This recovery is expected to continue due to more aggressive policy support measures. However, this growth may be adversely affected due to the re-escalation of trade tensions with the U.S., the prolonged global economic downturn and the potential second wave of COVID-19 as we approach winter.  Unemployment in China has averaged 4.5% from 2002 until this year. In February this year, it reached 6.2%, the highest it has been in this period. Following China’s stronger-than-expected recovery in the second quarter, the rate was lowered to 5.7%. According to Trading Economics’ global macro models, China’s unemployment rate is projected to drop even further to 5.5% by the end of this quarter. Hiring Trends  Internal Audit & Control   Internal audit and control professionals have always been in high demand, and especially so in light of the recent fraud scandal surrounding Luckin Coffee. These roles are particularly important for local companies listed in the U.S. IPO Experience  In the past, companies often targeted investment bank professionals to help lead and drive their IPO process. In recent times, CFOs who had started from operational finance roles in a well-established multinational and then moved to a domestic company with a successful IPO experience are highly sought after for such roles.  Business Operations  The CFO role is broadening and is increasingly operating as a COO. In mid-sized companies, we are seeing the trend of hiring CFOs with a skillset in strategic planning, procurement, IT and legal. We are witnessing CFOs acting as the second-in-command after the CEO and leading the organisation’s transformation.  Big Data Analytics  Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and IoT are becoming essential parts of the finance team’s arsenal of tools, allowing them to focus on more value-added work. Due to this increased investment in digitalisation, we are seeing trends of hiring finance business partners with strong data analytics background, a proficiency in tools such as Tableau and R, and an ability to use data analytics in producing business insights.  Supply Chain Finance   Global supply chain has been adversely affected due to COVID-19. This has increased the need for supply chain finance talents who can work on business cases and drive operational excellence as well as build contingency supply chain plans.  Industry Trends  Healthcare  Innovative drug companies are filing for IPOs in the A-share market due to strong advocacy from the Chinese government  Mergers & acquisitions (M&As) activities in local medical devices companies are on the rise as they prepare for IPOs  Healthcare service portfolios owned by private equity and venture capital firms are slowly entering into the China medical insurance sector  Technology, Entertainment & Gaming  Digitalisation is speeding up even more aggressively due to COVID-19  The entertainment sector, including gaming, online education and e-commerce platforms, performed well in 1H 2020 and are looking for strong finance talents to strengthen their team  Payment Hiring is driven by the relaxing of PBOC requirements for foreign payment companies, hence requiring local hires that fit the PBOC criteria Private Equity/Venture Capital  Global leading private equity and venture capital funds plan to further invest in the China market as they are in a more favourable position to negotiate a deal price. Some U.S. private equity funds are changing from investing growth deals to buy-out deals. We expect to see increased hiring of CFOs.  HONG KONG Although Hong Kong has faced a double blow of protests and the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s relief measures have helped stimulate the economy somewhat, and current forecasts show a downturn of 6% year on year. With a current unemployment rate of 5.5% (compared to 5.2% in January), the Hong Kong job market remains relatively buoyant in certain sectors. To preserve the vitality of the economy, the government has rolled out relief measures on an unprecedented scale. The Hong Kong Government recently introduced the FinTech Anti-epidemic Scheme for Talent Development (FAST Scheme) to enrich its FinTech talent pool, as an example. As part of the scheme, businesses will be subsidised HK$10,000 per month for a year for one full-time new hire. This scheme has a limited quota on a first-come, first-serve basis. Hiring Trends  Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) As established large corporations eye the market for smaller companies to acquire, we have seen a demand for senior finance professionals across various industry sectors with experience of M&A, from identification through to integration. Business Intelligence from Big Data Even before we started working towards the ‘new normal’ with a continuous shift to globalisation, it has been necessary for many candidates to have experience of International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). More recently, we have seen a growing demand for accounting professionals with strong business and analytical skills.  With the increased usage of big data and data-driven decision making, finance teams are looked upon to provide the business with strategic support based on data and the use of business intelligence tools.  Balance between Technical and Soft Skills The balance between doing business as usual and being compliant with an increasing amount of regulations has never been more apparent. There is a need for finance professionals to have strong stakeholder management skills as well as technical know-how. Candidates with good project experience, including IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) as well as with robotic process automation experience are valuable to organisations as they go through increased levels of change.  Finance Transformation / Leaders of Change As most companies are going through a period of change, there is an increased emphasis for the finance function to become more streamlined and efficient. This may include an increased reliance on technology or a review of existing processes. Either way, candidates with exceptional project management and finance transformation experience are highly desirable. Industry Trends  FinTech & InsurTech We have seen a demand for senior finance talent across various fintech startups and more traditional insurance players that are evolving into digital platforms. As one of the most competitive insurance markets within the region, there is an appetite for all senior leadership, including finance, to be able to drive digital change.  We have seen an increase in the number of finance roles that can work as true business partners. As forecasts may be off budget for the year and possibly into next year, senior finance executives are expected to work with the business to manage this process in partnership with CEOs or founders.  eCommerce Consumers are still spending on luxury and lifestyle goods. Although the channel may have shifted from brick and mortar to online, we still see new flagship stores opening in Hong Kong. Athleisure brands are outperforming previous years, and most retailers are managing their VIP customers more tightly.  As Hong Kong embraces eCommerce, we see a demand for finance talents that have experience with stand-alone web-based platforms as well as with retailers offering omnichannel solutions.  Virtual Banks With eight new virtual banking licenses recently being granted in Hong Kong, we have seen an appetite for finance talents to work in this exciting new space. These candidates are able to utilise their existing skills gained from digital banking and the technology sectors.   SINGAPORE Singapore’s actual GDP in Q2 contracted by 13.2% year-on-year, and the unemployment rate increased from 2.4% in Q1 to 2.9% in Q2. With an overall challenging economic environment, the employment outlook for the second half of this year remains subdued. Economists suggest that the Singapore economy will be challenging in Q4 before an expected slow recovery in 2021.  The subdued external economic environment will continue to pose a drag on several of Singapore’s outward-oriented sectors. Amidst the challenging global situation, we continue to see hiring for finance talents. Hiring Trends  Business Analytics To better forecast business changes and assist in strategic decisions, the finance function is increasingly needing talent with data analytics and big data management. We are seeing a trend of hiring for Financial Planning and Analysis, Commercial Finance and Finance Business Partnering professionals who have exposure to data analytics tools like R, Tableau, Python, SAS, QlikView.    Strategic & Finance Business Partnering Firms are seeking finance professionals to provide insights in driving recovery and performance during these unprecedented times. There continues to be a demand for commercially astute finance professionals who possess the gravitas to engage with business partners.  Finance Transformation & Robotic Process Automation (RPA) More organisations have been embarking on finance transformation initiatives to drive process and system improvements. There continues to be a demand for professionals with demonstrated experience in driving and leading finance transformation projects relating to process improvements.   As automation is the key to driving efficiency and effectiveness, we have observed a strong push for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in finance and transactional accounting work. We find accounting professionals with experience in implementing RPA within a large organisation to be in high demand. Even mid-sized businesses are looking to adopt such technologies to stay competitive and efficient. Tax Advisory & Planning As tax authorities develop globally and implement new regulations and compliance rulings, there continues to be a demand for tax professionals who are well versed in international tax advisory, transfer pricing and indirect tax.  Supply Chain & Finance With globalisation, the world’s supply chains have become substantially complex and more interconnected. The US-China tensions, and more notably COVID-19, have demonstrated how vulnerable global supply chains can be to any sort of disruption.  There is an increasing need for experienced finance leaders who have deep experience in partnering with supply chain leaders. Financial impact analysis, evaluating capital investments, effective inventory planning, identifying/managing risks, and optimising performance are some of the key areas an experienced supply chain finance business partner can bring to the table.  Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) This pandemic also created opportunities for businesses with good financial positions to look into M&A activities. We have started to see an increase in hiring for in-house M&A positions within corporates.  Increased Emphasis on Soft Skills There has also been an increased emphasis on soft skills as part of the hiring criteria. Soft skills that are widely looked at are stakeholder engagement skills, critical thinking skills, learning agility, and the ability to drive and manage change. ​ Industry Trends  Digital  There is significant growth in the digital and e-commerce industries. Traditional FMCG brands and retailers have also accelerated their journey to embark on digital platforms.  We continue to see growth in the e-commerce, fintech, technology and communications sectors. There is a strong demand for digital payment services, IT and digital solutions. Healthcare Singapore’s pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors have been an important driver in the economic growth of Singapore. We continue to see growth in these sectors and more companies in these sectors investing in Singapore.  Advanced Manufacturing The strong demand from 5G, data centres and cloud services has led to a growth in the semiconductor industry.   With increased telecommuting and remote learning arrangements, as well as the accelerated digitalisation of businesses globally, this sector will continue to see significant growth.  Sustainability As concerns over climate change and the danger of carbon emissions intensify, there is an increase in efforts to develop smart sustainable cities. Singapore is aiming to be a global leader and innovation hub for smart and sustainable building solutions in Asia.  The clean energy sector, urban mobility and new water management technologies are sectors that will see good growth. ATTRACTING THE RIGHT TALENT During these uncertain times, candidates are generally more reluctant to change, and their priority is on job stability over career growth. We are seeing a larger supply of candidates than demand due to headcount freezes put in place during the pandemic as well as staff cuts. This year, we conducted our annual 2020 Working in Asia Pacific survey in January. Responses came in from nearly 2,700 working professionals based mostly across China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.   In the survey, we asked about the main reasons why candidates might leave their current organisation. “Lack of career growth and developmental opportunities” was named as the top factor in pushing candidates to seek out a new opportunity, with poor leadership from line manager not far behind. As the job market picks up, we expect these factors to come to the fore. TOP REASONS FOR LEAVING A COMPANY We also examined the factors that attract candidates to an organisation as they look for new job opportunities. A strong company culture with effective leadership is a critical component in attracting top talent and acts as a magnet to retain good employees. WHAT DO CANDIDATES LOOK FOR IN A COMPANY Despite current market uncertainties, we see that finance talents are still open to look at companies with strong employee value propositions. As hiring within the Accounting & Finance sector resumes, employers must position themselves to support this next phase of growth and focus on hiring top talent. We continue to see a demand for strong finance talent across the region. There are niche skillsets within finance functions that have been increasing in demand in recent years. With a dynamic environment, finance professionals need to continue to build new skills to be able to contribute in this ever-changing market. RECENT PLACEMENTS BY PROFILE ROLEORGANISATIONLOCATION     CFO Chinese Consumer Company China VP, Finance Chinese Healthcare Company China General Manager, Operation Global Entertainment Company China BU Finance Controller Global Solutions Company China Internal Audit & Control Director Chinese E-Commerce Company China Associate Director, Commercial Finance US Consumer Retail Multinational China Director, M&A Asian Healthcare Provider China Accounting Manager Chinese Pharmaceutical Company China Plant Controller European Manufacturing Company China Senior Finance System Manager European Pharmaceutical Multinational China Associate Director, Finance Global Travel Tech Startup Hong Kong VP, Finance APAC UK Lifestyle Brand Hong Kong VP, Finance APAC, Commercial Markets Global Consumer Goods Company Hong Kong Finance Manager Hong Kong FMCG Company Hong Kong Financial Controller Global Investment Technology Company Hong Kong Head of Finance, Asia Hong Kong Conglomerate Hong Kong Commercial Finance Manager UK Sourcing Company Hong Kong Finance Manager, Revenue Recognition & Forecasting               Global Telecommunication Company Hong Kong APAC Business Manager / COO UK Financial Institution Hong Kong Tax Manager Global Technology Company Hong Kong CFO Asian Investment Holding Company Singapore Global Head of Tax Global Industrial Multinational Singapore Business Controller European Technology Multinational Singapore Senior Manager, IT Network Audit Global Technology Multinational Singapore Manager, Enterprise Risk Management SGX Listed Company in Oil & Gas Singapore Credit Controller Global Healthcare Provider Singapore Head of Internal Audit SGX Listed Company in Consumer Goods                  Singapore Head of Finance US Pharmaceutical Multinational Singapore Treasury Manager SGX Listed Company in Real Estate Singapore Finance Manager US Multinational in Chemicals Singapore KEY CONTACTS For more information or individually tailored advice, please do not hesitate to contact our regional Accounting & Finance team: Hong Kong Office - please contact Paul Shelton Singapore Office - please contact Yvonne Goh China Offices - please contact Sophia Sun Click here to download the full report.
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