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With close to 70% of employees open to considering a new job, why are companies unable to engage their staff?

Amanda Clarke, Director in our Human Resources practice area at Profile Search & Selection, discusses the challenges of attracting and retaining employees across APAC. We surveyed 2,800 people across Asia and the results are staggering. Out of the four main countries (Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China), an average of 67% of people said they were open to considering leaving their organisation. On probing this further, the main reason for considering to leave was a lack of career growth and developmental opportunities. It seems that although companies are trying hard to build out and improve their in-house Learning and Talent Development teams, it isn’t enough. Are employees becoming more impatient – expect to move up the career ladder quicker? Or are they experiencing a bottleneck as they get further up the food chain, with more senior employees not moving on themselves? Even at the junior end of the career ladder, a number of banks have lamented that graduates today are in some cases not even completing their 2-3 year programmes – jumping ship to take another role externally. For quite a number of years now, Talent Management teams have discussed the notion of ‘Lattice not Ladders’ – recognizing that one can’t keep going vertically upwards every two years and therefore encouraging employees to move sideways across functions and explore new geographical locations to further their development. Clearly more of a concerted effort is needed to put more resources into internal mobility, critical career pathing and meaningful mentoring to actively promote these options and ultimately better retain employees. Employees today also crave a sense of purpose. This was apparent in our survey and was the 2nd highest reason that employees wanted to leave their organisation – a lack of opportunity to make a difference. For today’s employers, this isn’t always an easy area to solve. With many international firms in Asia increasingly beholden to the global mothership out of the region, many roles in Asia are executional in nature and with an often ‘time poor’ workforce, there seems to be less room for innovation and creativity – particularly in times of cost-cutting and firefighting. Companies, and in particular, managers need to give their employees time to have a voice; to grow, make mistakes and learn from them, and ultimately time to create their own stamp within the constructs of the office environment. Lastly, our survey showed that 33% of those looking for another role did so because they weren’t ‘recognised or appreciated’ in their current firms. This point is increasingly of interest – it highlights the need for employees to receive ongoing feedback and feel valued by their managers and it hints at their desire to be part of a meaningful and accepting culture. As the generations of social media users continue to infiltrate the workplace, it’s hard not to see a link between the instant response one receives online (i.e. Facebook ‘likes’ & comments) and the desire for immediate feedback from managers in the workplace. Adding to this, as Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott point out in their recent book The 100-year Life, those entering the workforce today are predicted to live longer (some reaching 100 years), they will likely have extended working years (to fund their longer lives) and many will try their hand at a number of different careers in this time. As such, some don’t see the necessity to rush into a career and instead are choosing protracted breaks/periods of travel in between jobs, and some (happily) not settling into a ‘career’ until their 30s. Attracting and retaining employees with all this in mind has never been so hard. Rightly or wrongly, the workforce today appears to be more impatient, yet more particular and more indulgent – and the very best employers can do is rise up to this and recognize that without the ‘human touch’ and offering more bespoke solutions to suit each individual such as shorter job assignments, sabbaticals, flexible working, quicker paths to job change – employees will simply move on. After all, with a 100-year life, they have time on their side to find and try something new. Established in 2005, Profile is Asia’s leading independent executive search & selection firm. We provide collaborative solutions to financial services, commercial and professional services clients.
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What's Getting Us Up in the Morning?

Richard Letcher, Managing Director of Profile Search & Selection, examines what is motivating us in workplaces across APAC. For the last four years, Profile Search & Selection has carried out an annual survey of current HR and Talent issues in conjunction with The Roffey Park Institute, a UK-headquartered leadership consulting firm, and The Next Step, an Australian recruitment company specialising in HR talent. This year, 2,800 people filled in the survey anonomously, 94% of which were based in either Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong or China. Roughly half of all the respondents were HR professionals with the other half from various functions from Legal & Compliance, to Sales & Marketing and Finance & Accounting. Most (84%) were Manager level to Board Director and, generation wise, 57% were Generation X, 29% Generation Y with the rest being Baby Boomers. Around 30 core questions were posed by our survey – the last was a rather simple one: "What motivates you at work?". Respondents are asked to tick any number of 11 options that particularly applied to them, from 'Financial rewards' to 'The opportunity to develop new skills'. Here are the results split by geographical area. The pink circles denote the top motivators within that jurisdiction. What motivates you at work? % of respondents who indicated: *Pink circles indicate top four motivators. Purpose at work As you can see, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia are largely in agreement about what their key motivators are at work. The number one motivator that gets folks out of bed in these places is 'The opportunity to make a difference', a motivating factor that borders on altruism and is certainly tied to the idea of purpose at work, a concept that many organisations are struggling with. Given its importance, if it could be somehow harnessed for every role in an organisation, it is likely that motivation gold would’ve been struck. But, as we all know, it can be quite elusive. Company size and life cycle might come into play here. ‘Making a difference’ might be easier for employees in start-up organisations, but for larger companies, there is more of a challenge. In last year’s survey, we asked the same question and 'The opportunity to make a difference' appeared at or near the top as well. It was the number one motivator in Singapore and came in second in Hong Kong (with first being 'Achieving results'). We didn’t have data for Australia last year. Results orientation, working with your buddies and being free Related to this number one motivator, 'Achieving results' is also important to most people in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. One would hope by achieving targets, a difference is made in the greater scheme of things. Working with 'Respectful and friendly colleagues' is also motivating as one might expect given so much of our life at work is spent interacting with others. Interestingly, from elsewhere in our survey, we established that the number one stressor across the region is 'Organisational politics', the antithesis of working with great co-workers. 'Autonomy and freedom to decide on what, how, where and when work is done', also seems to get us out of bed in the morning, particularly in Singapore and Australia. Motivational leadership China, on the other hand, dances to the beat of a very different drum when it comes to what motivates us at work. The chief reason to get out of bed in the morning is 'Strong vision from organisational leader' followed closely by 'Financial awards' (which coincidentally is joint second in Hong Kong). 'Recognition by others' is also an important factor in China as is the 'Opportunity to develop new skills'. Do motivators differ by generation? The answer to this is ‘yes’, sort of, with Baby Boomers and Generation X sharing very similar motivators at work. Here are the results, sliced and diced by generation. What motivates you at work? % of respondents who indicated: *Pink circles indicate top four motivators. What is striking about the table above is that the number one motivator for Generation Y is 'Financial awards'. Striking, but not a surprise given Generation Y are starting out on their careers and large cities can be expensive. Of importance also to this generation is 'The opportunity to develop new skills'. And the gold medal goes to… Also in the survey, we included a statement “I feel highly motivated“ and asked respondents to tick one of four options: 'Strongly agree', 'Agree', 'Disagree' or 'Strongly disagree'. Here are the results for ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘Agree’ broken down by geographical area. Motivation levels % of respondents who indicated that they ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘Agree’ to the following statement: As you can see, Australia comes out top with a very motivated workforce. China doesn’t fare so well, but neither does Singapore or Hong Kong. ​ And generationally… Motivation levels % of respondents who indicated that they ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘Agree’ to the following statement: Generation X and Y are feeling mediocre levels of motivation. Baby Boomers lead the pack, perhaps because the work they are doing might be quite fulfilling or simply that, with only a few more years to go before retirement, there is a spike in motivation! HR functions across the region will benefit from paying heed to these results. Having an eye on the greater purpose of work and creating a culture in which there is a results orientation, people are respectful and friendly, and where autonomy and freedom are a given, can boost motivation, as well as retention. Established in 2005, Profile is Asia’s leading independent executive search & selection firm. We provide collaborative solutions to financial services, commercial and professional services clients.
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What’s Keeping Us Up at Night?

Richard Letcher, Managing Director of Profile Search & Selection, addresses the impact of organisational politics and its presence in workplaces across APAC. For the last four years, Profile Search & Selection has carried out an annual survey of current HR and Talent issues in conjunction with The Roffey Park Institute, a UK-headquartered leadership consulting firm, and The Next Step, an Australian recruitment company specialising in HR talent. This year, 2,800 people filled in the survey, 94% of which were based in either Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong or China. Roughly half of all the respondents were HR professionals with the other half from various functions from Legal & Compliance, to Sales & Marketing and Finance & Accounting. Most (84%) were Manager level to Board Director and, generation wise, 57% were Generation X, 29% Generation Y with the rest being Baby Boomers. Stressed Out An interesting discovery of the survey is the effect of organisational politics in the workplace. One of the questions asked in this year's survey is "What do you consider to be the major stressors in your working life?" Respondents chose their top three from a choice of 11 options. Here are the top choices of respondents broken down by geographic area. The blue circles indicate the top three stressors within that jurisdiction: What do you consider to be the major stressors in your working life? % of respondents who indicated: *Blue circles indicate top three stressors. Although it appears politics aren’t currently that prevalent in China, it is the number one stressor in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. The results were similar in previous years’ surveys where we asked the same question. Last year, ‘Organisational politics’ was the top choice across Hong Kong, Singapore, and China (as we didn’t have data for Australia before the current year) and was number one or two in 2017 for the same three countries. Organisational politics appears to be particularly prevalent within financial services; however, it is still an issue within Industry & Commerce. The graph below shows the results of this “major stressors” question broken down by industry sector. What do you consider to be the major stressors in your working life? % of respondents who indicated: ​Running for the Door Another question we ask in the survey is "Do you have an intention to leave your current organisation in the near future?". The numbers are high in 2019 with Singapore having 74% of respondents intending to leave, followed by Hong Kong at 63%, China at 67%, and Australia at 64%. Of those respondents who have one foot out the door, we asked them why they were considering leaving their current organisation. We gave people 12 options and below are the most frequently chosen reasons for looking to leave. Why are you considering leaving your current organisation? % of respondents who indicated: ​ Although ‘Lack of career growth and development opportunities’ and ‘Lack of opportunity to make a difference’ are very important, politics is also a key reason why people are keen to leave an organisation. It is particularly prevalent as a reason to be unhappy in Singapore and Australia, where it is the number two reason for people considering leaving their company. In Hong Kong, it comes in at number four, and in China number six. Generationally, as one might expect, politics is particularly dominant as a reason for considering leaving an organization among Baby Boomers and Generation X. The blue circles below indicate the top three reasons for looking to leave an organisation, sliced and diced by generation. Why are you considering leaving your current organisation? % of respondents who indicated: *Blue circles indicate top answers As one might expect, politics tends to dominate among older professionals in more senior roles. Generation Y remains relatively unscathed. The Face of Organisational Politics And how does organisational politics actually ‘show up’ in an organisation? We asked all respondents to tick one or more of five boxes which gave descriptions of how politics could manifest itself within an organisation. How does organisational politics, in your current organisation, manifest itself? % of respondents who indicated: ‘Organisational change through lack of transparency and power struggles’ as well as ‘Bias and favouritism’ are the top types of politics observed in workplaces across APAC. However, ‘Undermining peers through gossiping, bullying and backstabbing’ is certainly common. Interestingly, further analysis of the data uncovered that organisational politics is more prevalent in larger organisations, with the additional layers of hierarchy and more people jostling for promotion to a finite number of senior roles. Organisational Politics – Taboo? Through our travels around the region, in presenting these findings and through conversations with candidates and clients, organisational politics doesn’t seem to be a topic of conversation particularly at the moment nor has it been in the past, either as a reason for leaving a company or as a stressor in one’s working life. A potential reason for politics not being on the agenda is that people often see it as a sign of weakness when they are at the losing end of it. If someone considers themselves a victim of politics, they might feel others might judge them negatively. For example, if passed over for a promotion due to political reasons, an employee might feel that others would perceive them as not advancing in their company due to poor performance. Perhaps, if an employee believes the senior management team is not being transparent with them, they may feel that others think they aren't senior enough to be included in more strategic discussions. The survey is anonymous and respondents potentially may have been more honest than they might be during a job interview or an exit interview. In these latter circumstances, they are far more likely to make up or focus on other reasons for leaving. Organisational politics is the cause of more staff turnover than previously thought and is having very detrimental effects on mental health and wellness. This is made even worse by the fact that people are not talking about it in the workplace. Leaders and HR functions need to be more aware of this. Organisational politics is incredibly difficult to tackle, particularly in large organisations, but it starts at the top. Established in 2005, Profile is Asia’s leading independent executive search & selection firm. We provide collaborative solutions to financial services, commercial and professional services clients.
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Diversity & Inclusion – Are attitudes shifting in the Asian workplace?

Richard Letcher, Managing Director of Profile Search & Selection, discusses the importance of Diversity & Inclusion and the shifting attitudes in workplaces across Asia. The last three years showed an unprecedented change in attitudes in the West towards Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. The way men view women in an office environment changed almost overnight when allegations were brought against Harvey Weinstein in late 2017, a story that opened floodgates to accusations against many men, and started the #MeToo campaign. In addition to this, the BBC salaries scandal last year exposed the gender pay gap within many organisations. Men have now been forced to re-examine their attitudes to women at work with an accompanying rise in levels of self-awareness. Attitudes toward LGBT men and women in the workplace have also changed as several countries have legalised same sex marriage. As governments move forward, CEOs in the region have undoubtedly been thinking, ‘Perhaps I need to change my perception of the LGBT community’. But in what way are attitudes regarding D&I in the workplace changing in Asia? Now in its fourth year, our ‘Working in Asia Pacific: Key HR and Leadership Priorities’ survey attempted to answer this question, among others. In the latest version, close to 3,000 people filled in the survey with the majority of respondents based in Hong Kong, Singapore, China or Australia. 84% of respondents were Managers through to Board Directors, and D&I was just one of many Human Resources and Talent-related topics covered. The survey was done in conjunction with Roffey Park, a leading UK headquartered leadership consulting firm, and The Next Step, a specialist Australian HR recruitment firm. Among many questions posed by the survey, we asked respondents if their organisation is accepting of difference (as “related to gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability and age”), a question we also asked in the 2017 and 2018 editions of the survey. The results, as seen below, show a marked change in the perception of employees that their organisations are indeed more accepting of difference. Infographic 1: Percentage of respondents who indicated ‘agree’ that organisations are more accepting of difference Singapore and, for the most part, Hong Kong have seen a large improvement since 2017. Even more positive are the results for Australia, with 90% of respondents agreeing their company is accepting of difference. Australia was not part of the survey in 2017 and 2018, so we only have data for the current year. China appears to have gone backwards. This might be partly explained by the fact that 2017 and 2018 respondent numbers were not materially large, with 2019 being far more so. As such, the results for 2019 might be a more realistic view given the larger respondent size. ​ But what about diversity when it comes to actually recruiting and retaining talent, and also the perception of employees when it comes to diversity in their organisation’s senior leadership team? The following infographics from the last three years of survey data point to the fact that more needs to be done when it comes to D&I in the workplace. Infographic 2: Percentage of respondents who indicated ‘agree’ that organisations are more accepting of difference when it comes to talent acquisition and retention ​Infographic 3: Percentage of respondents who indicated ‘agree’ there is sufficient diversity in the senior leadership team in their organisation Although the numbers have improved over the past two years in terms of attracting and retaining talent from diverse backgrounds, there seems to be a lot of talking the talk without walking the walk. This is evident in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, given both the percentages and the percentage increases between 2017 and 2019 are lower than those seen in infographic 1. Digging a bit deeper with this question, it appears that perhaps the initial perception that many organisations are accepting of difference might be hiding a slightly less rosy reality. Diversity in senior leadership teams (infographic 3) shows even lower percentages. Change will take time; however, the changes highlighted in the first two charts provide hope that bringing D&I into the boardroom is an achievable result in the mid-term. With potential generational differences in attitudes towards gender, LGBT, disability and ethnicity, there is hope these changes might accelerate over the next few years as Generation Y become a greater proportion of the workforce. We have been very fortunate to capture this snapshot of people’s views on D&I within the Asian workplace over the last three years, a period in which there has been a lot of change in views globally. The long and short of it is that things are changing for the better in Asia, but there are still some whose attitudes and perceptions need to evolve.
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Human Resources – Are we in the middle of a confidence crisis?

Human Resources in Asia Pacific has come a long way from being a purely administrative function, commonly referred to as “Personnel”, to a business partnering one with closer relationships to an organisation’s leaders. As the world becomes an increasingly unpredictable place, CEOs have increasingly relied on their HR leaders to assist with growth, restructuring and directional changes, which have become more common and complex in recent years. Although in some organisations HR has not moved from simply doing the payroll and creating policy, most have moved firmly down the strategic route. But how are HR functions really perceived at the moment? What are their strengths and weaknesses according to the business, and according to HR professionals? What specific skillsets do HR professionals see as being crucial now and in the future in order to develop and maintain its significance? All these questions, and more, were posed in a recent survey we conducted in conjunction with the Roffey Park Institute, a UK-headquartered leadership development consultancy, and The Next Step, a specialist HR recruitment company in Australia, for our fourth edition of a survey entitled Working in Asia Pacific: Key HR and Leadership Priorities for 2019. Close to 3,000 people, half of them HR professionals and half from outside the profession, filled in the survey questionnaire and the results came out earlier this month. Of the total number of respondents 84% were manager level through to board director, and 94% were based in Hong Kong, Singapore, China or Australia. We asked everyone who responded, whether they worked in HR or elsewhere in the business, to rate the capability of their HR function with respect to 13 areas of HR, ranging from its ‘Use of Analytics’ to its ‘Ability to facilitate learning’. For all capabilities here are the results of how HR was rated: Confidence in HR capability - average % ratings for all capabilities ​ Not exactly a cause for popping open the champagne bottles. So what is HR doing, or not doing, that is stopping internal clients from jumping up and down with joy? Firstly let’s look at what HR is doing right. Below is a table showing the top capabilities as rated by both HR professionals and non-HR professionals. For the latter group many thought HR have done a great job at developing an inclusive and diverse workforce, but also in developing digital HR tools and facilitating learning. HR professionals’ thoughts mirror a couple of these but they also feel they are doing a great job at ‘Talent acquisition’ and ‘Approach to performance management’. Top three areas in which the HR function’s capability is considered to be excellent And where is HR going wrong? According to both HR professionals and the business, the top three are exactly the same - the ‘Use of Artificial Intelligence’ (AI), the ‘Use of Analytics’, and finally ‘Succession Planning’. Top three areas in which the HR function’s capability is considered to be weak No one can blame HR for the speed at which it has picked up AI given it is at an early stage of its adoption. Although a few companies have adopted machine learning HR helpdesk chat bots and the like, many of these companies are extremely large with economies of scale, and the initiatives have been global ones. Other companies that are sifting through the dizzying array of products available and being peddled to them, are, potentially rightly so, waiting to see which rise to the top, and are probably 2-5 years away from implementation. But the other two areas of weakness highlighted do need to be addressed. The need for data analytics has been around for many years and the ‘could do better’ result in our survey is probably deserved. ‘Succession Planning’ is a little more complex as business leaders should also take responsibility for this, but as an initiative many would argue it is HR’s responsibility to instigate. As an aside, the two areas of HR where there was the biggest difference in opinion between HR and non-HR professionals on the rating, were the ‘Approach to performance management’ and ‘Talent acquisition’. HR thought they did well in these areas but the business did not. Better communication might be one solution when it comes to organisational change - in reality it can be incredibly difficult to execute well, and business leaders may not be recognising this. Acquiring talent, particularly in specific areas of the job market, can also be problematic with the business not realising this, and the difference in opinion might simply be because HR has not been managing expectations. So, what do HR professionals feel are the skills needed right now and in the future in order to develop and add value? In the current business environment, across the region, change skills are the name of the game, and specifically broad-based change management skills as well as organisational development and design skills. Other areas of importance, skill set wise, include employee engagement, talent management and leadership development. Top four most important technical skills for a HR professional to possess in the current business environment And what are the HR skills required in the future according to HR professionals? From the below table it seems like the ‘Culture change ability’ is key but also the ‘Ability to influence decision-makers’. ​ ​Top three compentencies HR functions most need to change or develop over the next 5-10 years All in all, although HR has come a long way over the past two decades, it seems that more work needs to be done in specific areas of HR - namely in change management, technology adoption and data analysis. None of this will happen overnight, but real steps need to be taken to fill the gaps. None of these areas are renowned to be cornerstones of an HR professional’s tool kit, so either upskilling needs to take place, or another solution would be to move staff internally with the right skillset and from outside of HR, or to hire externally. 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 and Amanda Clarke Singapore Office - James Rushworth Shanghai Office - Shelya Zhou Beijing Office - Ming Ming Click here to download the full report.
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Profile Human Resources Market Update, June 2019

The following summaries provide an update on the key trends that we have observed within the Human Resources job market across Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing. These updates identify emerging themes across the industry and detail the major factors impacting hiring and talent movement. HONG KONG​ 2018 was a very active year for hiring in Hong Kong. Candidates were more confident about moving jobs than the preceding year and clients were keen to add headcount where they could. Throughout 2018 Financial Services gained momentum across the market and we saw hires in Insurance, Asset Management, Alternative Funds, and Banking. By the second half of 2018, mass market retail, luxury brands and professional services had also picked up their talent acquisition activities, with a number of these firms seeking to upgrade roles as HR teams restructured and created new hubs in the region. In particular, specialist areas such as Talent Management saw a huge increase in demand for talent as clients created new roles and expanded existing teams. By contrast, the hiring market in 2019 has so far been more subdued, particularly over the last couple of months. In part this has been due to the volatility in financial markets in the first half of the year and the trade war between China and the US. As a result, clients have struggled to get headcount approved internally. Nonetheless, niche roles within Talent Management and Rewards, for example, are still in demand, and rather more promisingly, we have seen an increased number of recruitment positions come into the market in Q2. Over the last year and into this year we are also seeing more Chinese domestic Financial Services firms expanding offshore into Hong Kong, and with this, the need to recruit HR professionals. Salaries in 2019 have increased largely in line with inflation yet bonuses paid in early 2019 were a little mixed. Despite a strong financial year, there were a number of people who had expected a higher payout. Nonetheless, the rest of 2019 looks tentatively upbeat, particularly at the junior to mid end of the market with new vacancies opening up and a refreshed desire to upskill current teams in a number of areas across HR. With a continued shortage of strategic, mid to senior level HR talent, especially within Talent Management, it will be the clients who can offer strong learning and growth experiences, flexible working, holistic/unique benefits and an inclusive company culture who will be able to better attract the top talent in 2019. SINGAPORE Off the back of a very strong 2018, hiring activity and sentiment this year has varied, depending on the industry, with the overall picture being a bright one. Partly fueled by the government’s initiatives to encourage technological innovations and the start-up ecosystem, the IT and Communications sector has performed very well in recent months and we have seen demand for HR talent in this space. The Finance and Insurance sectors also grew, and this has been bolstered by the ramp up of ‘new economy’ activities such as digital payments. Sectors experiencing continued challenges include oil and gas, shipping, construction and retail, with significant change programs and retrenchment work on the cards within these industries. In demand are strong HR Business Partners as well as specialists in Talent Acquisition, Compensation & Benefits and Talent Management. Talent Acquisition professionals with excellent stakeholder management skills have been particularly sought after, and companies have found these individuals increasingly hard to find. Generally, the market for high potential HR candidates has been particularly tight given the length of this bull run in hiring, and often these professionals have multiple offers on the table at one time. Winning organisations in this battle are ones that focus on the speed and professionalism of their hiring process, selling their organisational culture, as well as having a competitive compensation package on offer. Flexibility and agile working is on the rise, with many organisations using this to differentiate themselves in the talent market. Companies who have not considered these policies are losing their competitiveness in the war for talent. Digitisation, transformation and HR analytics are key conversation topics that are trending, and clients are looking for HR candidates who have relevant exposure as current capability in many organisations is weak in these areas. Health and Wellbeing remains high on the agenda for many organisations, with a focus on how organisations can increase engagement and talent retention through such channels. This is also filtering through to benefit packages, ensuring that companies’ insurance coverage and internal policies cover the relevant support required. Salary increments and bonuses in early 2019 were modest in many sectors, so the focus for the candidate remains quite heavily on base salary uplift during the hiring process. SHANGHAI In recent years, and with the US/China trade war as a catalyst, China’s economy has been slowing down. However, relative growth in the real estate, hospitality, consumer and professional services sectors, reflects the government’s strategy to shift away from investment in infrastructure to investment in services and consumption. This shift has been reflected in the job market generally, as well as specifically for HR talent. In general, the demand for full function HR generalists in the HR talent market is greater than for HR specialists. HR full function professionals with strong business-partnering skills and capability of driving organisational change and development are highly sought after. This demand for strategic HR business partners has been driven by the extensive business transformation and re-organisation activities happening in many organisations in China. Dealing with ambiguity and navigating complex organisational structures are key skills required of candidates. There is also an increasing demand for senior Talent Acquisition professionals, with the skill-set focus shifting from just fulfilling volume vacancies and promoting an employer brand, to driving team collaboration, implementing digitalisation strategies and talent succession expertise. A trend which is gathering momentum is the move to using technology more effectively in HR. MNCs predominately are driving this through the use of talent digitalisation tools used for talent pool management and market insights analysis, as well as the use of AI in talent acquisition and learning. Senior HR leaders with high levels of resilience are highly sought after across different sectors; individuals who can thrive under the pressure of an increasingly complex and changing environment. Dealing with organisational politics and implementing HR strategies with limited budget and resources are two of the main challenges that senior HR leaders have been facing. HR professionals received salary increments of around 5-7% (excluding increases as a result of promotions), which is slightly lower than in previous years, with variations seen between different industries and levels. BEIJING 2018 was a year of two distinct halves for the Beijing HR job market. Although there were good levels of activity in the first half, the second half saw investment for many organisations dry up somewhat, with a corresponding negative impact on hiring activity. Up to that point there had been almost blind over-hiring, in some cases, of HR professionals. Although the first half of 2019 has gradually become more active with regards to hiring, organisations are being far more cautious with their recruitment, and redundancies have affected quite a few companies. Business leaders are now focused on cost saving, from travel to hiring and training costs. HR professionals are more cautious about moving jobs this year, as they are nervous about being ‘last in, first out’. Many will choose to stay put and stabilize their CVs this year. This is particularly the case for more high potential candidates, which will cause frustration for many organisations, from big multinationals to domestic unicorns, who are looking for top talent. With a number of multinationals putting the brakes on growth in China, many HR professionals have been more interested in opportunities in domestic, listed or state owned companies. This is particularly the case for candidates whose hukou is not in Beijing, as joining these organisations would mean this residency permit problem is solved. The market has been more active at the junior to mid-levels of the market with senior level roles being fewer and further between, and when they are being hired a cautious, considered approach is taken. For senior HR heads who have been working for startup companies or internet firms, many are choosing to return to a larger, more stable company that has already listed in order to bring some stability to their career. Demand for talent acquisition candidates, although very healthy in the first half of 2018, is now at lower levels, and we have seen more roles in rewards, organisational development, as well as talent and performance management in recent months. 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 and Amanda Clarke Singapore Office - James Rushworth Shanghai Office - Shelya Zhou Beijing Office - Ming Ming Click here to download the full report.
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How Psychological Safety Can Breed Success in Asia

James Rushworth, Managing Director of Profile Search & Selection, explains how businesses can create more effective teams and boost performance by building open cultures and fostering a sense of belonging. In Asia’s fast-paced, highly-demanding working culture, results count. However, getting the right mix of talent and creating the environment most likely to ensure success is easier said than done. The challenge is compounded by changing demographics that mean workforces are increasingly likely to span from recent graduates to 60-year-olds. As a result, the value of ‘psychological safety’ can no longer be under-estimated. It is based on a shared belief of the team environment as a ‘safe’ one within which an employee can show initiative – or take a risk – without fear of negative consequences for their status, such as ‘losing face’. In short, acceptance and respect for an individual breed positive emotions like trust, confidence, inspiration and higher self-esteem, from which spring more open-minded, resilient and motivated people and teams. Such a cultural fit also benefits employee retention and mental well-being. Across Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China, evidence is mounting to show why business leaders must embrace the opportunity to connect socially and foster trust amongst their staff. Take our report on Working in Asia Pacific: Key HR and Leadership Priorities for 2019. Based on our research, the views of almost 3,000 HR and other professionals in the region show issues relating to psychological safety now feature among key people-related challenges. For example: In Singapore and Hong Kong – Maintaining “employee engagement and morale” are key leadership issues at management level today In each of Singapore, Hong Kong and China – “Managing a multi-generational workforce” is expected to be among a top-three challenge by 2024 Across the region a “lack of opportunities to make a difference” across generations and gender is the second highest reason for employees considering a move in the near future Three ways to make your team feel safe Given that employees across different generations have varied expectations and views of the workplace, we believe managers need to prioritise efforts to increase employee engagement and motivation in several ways. 1. Create constructive politics A lack of transparency combined with power struggles, bias and favouritism – shown by the report as factors manifesting themselves across the region – dent organisational performance due to higher stress levels and reduced faith in top management. Resulting employee cynicism also creates risk aversion and mistrust of each other’s motives. Change is difficult in such a culture, plus people will more likely leave a company with bad politics. Yet our research shows a sense of belonging is an important motivator across generations, although less so in China compared with Singapore and Hong Kong. Business leaders need to set the tone. Ways to shape a constructive working environment include: stamping out negative influences; building an open culture; encouraging interchange and team working; allowing scope for individuality; and involving people in creating a shared purpose at all levels. 2. Provide an open forum Organisations can play their part via a commitment to training, support and raising awareness among staff; employees may then also feel better equipped to help others. While work-related mental health and well-being issues are rising in Hong Kong, Singapore and China, the report shows a general reluctance for employees to divulge their feelings, either with line managers or colleagues. Our research shows Singaporean culture as least open about, and accepting of, mental health issues. Although firms are making some progress, still only around one-quarter of people in each market feel their working environment engenders an open and supportive culture. Interestingly, China seems furthest along the road to a community-based integrated solution through access to medical professionals and on-site counselling, along with amended working practices. 3. Develop soft skills among senior managers Developing softer skills is essential, especially given the emerging multi-generational workforce and influx of millennials over the coming years; management must respond to different needs and wants among employees. Our report reveals that managers in Hong Kong, Singapore and China are most likely to be rated as ‘excellent’ at Autonomy (empowering employees to make decisions), and most likely to be rated as ‘weak’ at Relatedness (connecting with employees on a personal and emotional level). Chinese managers are perceived to reduce ambiguity and make employees feel less threatened by uncertainty by clearly communicating expectations, plans and changes. The research also suggests that many managers across Asia – and especially junior ones – are relatively weak at fostering innovation through building an open culture. Connecting with staff on personal and emotional levels is another area in need of attention. Conclusion Creating a sense of psychological safety can lead to higher levels of engagement in your team, and in turn, better performance. It provides the motivation not only to confront daily challenges in the workplace, but also to seek out learning and development opportunities, a win for both employees and the business.
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How to Deal with Business Uncertainty in China

Paul Loo, Managing Director of Profile China, shares his thoughts on managing teams in China's ever-changing business landscape this year.​ ​ There is an air of uncertainty for businesses in China this year, more so than in the past. Trade wars, reduced consumer spending, falling profits and a contraction of the manufacturing sector all contributed to the uncertainty in China when we welcomed 2019 just a few months ago. But is it all doom and gloom? Not really, as it depends on your business and your industry. And regardless of whether your business is affected by this unpredictability, what we have noticed repeatedly in China is that to create greater certainty, two leadership steps keep repeating themselves: (1) Build a more nimble and resilient team, and (2) Become a more empathetic leader. 1. Build a More Nimble and Resilient Team Especially in 2019, building a dynamic team is on every leader’s agenda when faced with an uncertain market. This means the need to respond and recover quickly is more important this year than in the past. But perhaps it’s time to take a slightly different approach. Leaders have a tendency to tell their team to “be more flexible,” or “think outside the box,” or encourage them with “come on — hang in there, we can do it.” Sadly, these overused words mean nothing these days and can even demotivate the team! More importantly, for your team members to thrive in this increasingly volatile business environment, a behaviour change is needed. These words are useless in changing behaviour, especially during times of stress. How then, can you create such a change so your team learns to embrace uncertainty to become more effective and to accelerate growth? A one-size-fits-all approach that you read online or in books may not work, which means you must know each key team member at a far deeper level, and discover what stops them from building resilience and what it would take for them to change their mindset. In other words, discover what motivates or demotivates each team member as they strive to become more nimble and resilient. Building a dynamic and agile team requires behaviour change, and as the leader, the onus is on you to understand why people will/won’t or can/can’t change. And how do you do this? By becoming a more empathetic leader! 2. Become a more empathetic leader What is an empathetic leader? Why is this type of leader different? Empathy is the ability to understand and share other people’s feelings, and a more empathetic leader wants to understand the feelings of their team members, and what stops them from being more nimble and resilient. This concept is not new in China; however, it has remained mostly a concept and not a daily practice. It is easy to blame the education system, the old habit of leaders leading by command or the belief that leaders must have all the answers. But with the ever pressing need to embrace change and uncertainty, isn’t this the right time for leaders to respond with more empathy? This begs the question, “How do I grow into an empathetic leader?” All it takes is to simply ASK before you act. Just as importantly, an empathetic leader listens deeply, listens to understand, and asks and listens again. Take the opportunity to understand why your team members resist building resiliency, understand their fears, and understand what motivates them when faced with a challenging task. Ask and Listen. Before you dismiss all of this as New Age mumbo-jumbo, the power of empathy is rooted in science. When we ask to understand and empathise, our team members feel appreciated, which in turn releases a small shot of oxytocin in their brain. Oxytocin is the “feel good” chemical, and when we feel good, we are more likely to have a little more courage and energy to do what we unconsciously resist or deliberately avoid. Of course, the effects of the oxytocin release can dissipate quickly, but just a small boost is good enough to get us over that initial resistance. Conclusion Yes, 2019 could still turn out as an uncertain year in China, but we can reduce the uncertainty by creating nimble and resilient teams who are willing to adapt to the changing environment. And to do this, choose to become a more empathetic leader. Do let me know how it goes, and I would be delighted to hear from you! ​ ​For more information, please contact Paul Loo, Managing Director, Profile Search & Selection.
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