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HR Function in the Asia Pacific Region Reinvents Practices for Multi-generational Employees

This article first appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of Human Resources, the official journal of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management. ​ Based on the views of more than 2,800 HR and non-HR professionals across Australia, Hong Kong, Mainland China and Singapore, the Roffey Park Institute and Profile Search & Selection Working in Asia Pacific: Key HR and Leadership Priorities for 2019 survey covers a wide area ranging from organisational culture and change, to well-being. The survey aims to provide insights on helping HR practitioners and their organisations to decide what they need to start, stop or continue doing in order to build and further develop their talent management strategies. As the role of the Human Resources (HR) profession in the Asia Pacific region continues to evolve, HR practitioners face a range of challenges that are further nuanced across countries and jurisdictions and between generations. Together with leadership development consultancy, the Roffey Park Institute, Profile Search & Selection carried out its fourth annual survey and report on Working in Asia Pacific: Key HR and Leadership Priorities for 2019. Covering the views of respondents from a wide range of industry sectors and organisations both large and small, the survey sets out to guide HR practitioners and the organisations they work for on what they need to do to translate the findings into strategies and practical plans. Rating the HR profession Amid expanding responsibilities, when both HR and non-HR professionals were asked to rate the capability of the HR function and their perception of it, confidence in the HR function to deliver for the business across all capabilities was quite low, specifically in relation to the use of AI, analytics and the HR function’s approach to succession planning. This is surprising given that more than ever before, organisations in Asia Pacific have been spending time building their talent management functions. As a response to these findings, organisations are urged to bring people from across their business, to collaborate and work together to address the perceived capability gaps. On a brighter note, indicating green shoots of confidence, the survey identified from HR professionals and non-HR professionals alike, a growing HR capability and reputation in the areas of developing inclusive and diverse workforces and facilitating learning. In addition, last year has seen a big leap towards improving workplace well-being. But perhaps we should ask if this is really enough, what do employees genuinely look for in an organisation, and does the new generation of graduate employees aspire to work in the same environments as their predecessors. Taking the pulse of an increasingly transient workforce One of the fundamental questions respondents were asked was “Are you considering a job move in the near future?” Across the four geographic markets surveyed, an average of 67% of respondents indicated positively that they would be open to exploring a new job opportunity. Breaking this down further, it seems that Generation X employees indicated more of an intention to leave their current organisation, compared with employees that belong to the Baby Boomer and Gen Y generations. Equally hard to ignore is the finding that more than two-thirds of respondents are potentially ambivalent – or worse, disengaged – with their current companies and/or roles. Delving deeper into the topic, to asses why employees are considering a job move, of the many answers given, the top reply cited was a “lack of career growth and developmental opportunities”. This was followed by a “lack of opportunity to make a difference” and a “lack of appreciation or recognition”. Surprisingly, many respondents also said they were considering a move due to “organisational politics”. Across the four markets surveyed, the reasons feeding a job move were fairly consistent. For Mainland China respondents, however, the fourth highest response cited as a key motivator to leave the current employer was “insufficient financial rewards”. Broken down by generation, Gen X and Gen Y were more concerned with making a difference, while baby boomers focused on a lack of career growth and developmental opportunities. It is also noteworthy that a large percentage of respondents (33%) felt a “lack of appreciation” at their current organisations, a perception which has a strong linkage to the relationships they have with their colleagues, and in particular, their managers. When asked how they would rate their line managers, about a third of respondents said they were weak at “connecting with employees on a personal and emotional level”. They were also considered weak at “giving praise and recognition for work done”. On the other hand, around a third of respondents acknowledged that their line managers were “excellent” at “empowering employees to make decisions”, “treating people fairly”, and “giving praise and recognition”. The findings indicate that while managers lean towards strong technical qualities, in other instances they lack the “human” and “emotional” side of delivering feedback and empathy that respondents are looking for. Stress causing factors Other factors certainly play a role in why employees may be unhappy or feel disconnected at work. When asked what they consider to be the major stress causing factors in their working life, respondents cited “poor strategic direction”, “lack of support from the top” and “organisational politics”. Mainland China was an anomaly, with respondents rating “poor strategic direction” and “organisational politics” very low, although consistent with the Hong Kong and Singapore markets, a “lack of support” from their organisations is deemed a major cause of stress. From the research findings, organisational politics – one of the causes of stress – can be linked to “organisational change”. In particular, a lack of transparency, power struggles, bias and favouritism were cited as the main stress inducing factors. However, a fairly sizeable group of respondents also cited “undermining peers” – for example gossip, bullying, backstabbing, and misuse of power – as a cause of stress. It is clear that politics play a significant role in why individuals choose to leave their companies, and somewhat worryingly, it could be argued that these challenges are at the heart of organisational culture, and therefore not something that is easy to change overnight. Mental health and productivity This year, the survey dedicated a number of questions to the issue of mental health. In comparison with the 2018 results, it is noteworthy that more respondents felt comfortable discussing mental health issues with both colleagues and managers. Even so, only about 50% of respondents in Asia felt comfortable discussing mental health issues with their colleagues and managers, compared with 67% of Australian respondents. While respondents resoundingly indicated that work-related mental health and well-being issues are a major concern, it is notable that more than half of the organisations in Asia where respondents are employed fail to recognise mental health as a serious issue. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the majority of respondents (70%) felt that their current job is adversely affecting their mental health “to some or a greater extent”. Notably this figure is highest in Mainland China (83%) and lowest in Australia (62%). When asked what type of support employers offer to assist employees suffering from mental ill-health, the results significantly showed that Australia is far more forward-thinking with 92% saying they offer “employee assistance programs” versus 23% in Mainland China. For each category, from offering “back to work assistance” and a “supportive and open culture”, to “mental health training”, Australia came out on top with Hong Kong, Singapore and Mainland China lagging considerably behind. Attracting and retaining employees Having assessed the various reasons why employees might leave an organisation, what do employees really want, and how can the HR function embrace the opportunity to offer and create this, and in so doing, instil greater confidence in their organisations? The top answer for Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore was “a culture that embraces professional development and continued learning”. Interestingly, while this was also a main benchmark for respondents from Mainland Chian, the top answer there was a “strong image of the organisation in the marketplace”. “Financial stability” ranked second for Singapore and third for Hong Kong. Meanwhile, respondents from Australia ranked “financial stability” fifth and rated “flexible work policies” in second place. Flexible working policies also featured in the top five preferences for Hong Kong and Singapore, proving to be more important for employees than in previous surveys. However, flexible working policies didn’t rate among the top five preferences from Mainland China respondents. Respondents from Hong Kong and Singapore also indicated they were looking for a “culture that is non-political”. Respondents from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore also cited “strong leadership”, which didn’t feature in the top five preferences among Mainland China respondents who instead cited “market leader in the industry sector” as a preference. Similarities and differences When asked what motivates respondents at work, across the four markets the results were fairly similar, with respondents citing the “opportunity to make a difference”, “achieving results” and “respectful and friendly colleagues”. The only difference was Hong Kong where respondents cited “financial rewards” as a key motivator, while both Singapore and Australian respondents noted “autonomy and freedom to decide on what, how, where and when work is done” as motivating factors. Respondents from Mainland China provided significantly different answers. The top four motivators cited by respondents include a “strong vision from the organisational leader”, “financial rewards”, “recognition by others” and the “opportunity to develop new skills”. When looking at the four markets surveyed, it is noteworthy to compare the nuances, preferences and priorities, as well as the similarities and differences. The eagerness from Mainland China respondents to look for a strong brand image and market leader reflects a pervasive keenness to work for an organisation seeking to compete on the global stage. Respondents from Hong Kong and Singapore, on the other hand, rate financial stability over flexible working environment, while respondents from Australia clearly demonstrate preferences for flexible work practices and strong leadership from management over financial stability. In conclusion, despite some differences across the different employment markets, fundamentally it seems that employees will leave an environment that is not willing or able to help them to develop professionally or is internally political. At the same time, professionals will prioritise firms who can offer an open culture that embraces learning, as well as financial stability and flexible working policies.
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The Booming Healthcare Industry in China: Can Talent Acquisition Keep Pace?

“China is the most exciting healthcare story in the world today.” Franck Le Deu, Senior Partner McKinsey & Company Fuelled by growing healthcare demands from its increasingly affluent population, the government’s drive to open the healthcare market to foreign companies, and the development of innovative local healthcare solutions, China is undoubtedly one of the more exciting healthcare stories today. However, this story does come at a price. Companies are scrambling for talent as the market expands, often rapidly in new directions. Is talent acquisition keeping pace? Or is it lagging behind industry demand? TALENT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES Four dynamic sectors are driving China’s healthcare industry: Pharmaceutical, especially biopharm Health Services, specifically for private hospitals, clinics, senior living facilities, and wellness Medtech Internet Health While each sector has its specific challenges, six common areas affect talent management as a whole. These overlapping issues influence the healthcare industry for the domestic as well as the global market. Government-backed initiatives to foster growth. The Chinese government is an active participant and advocate in the local healthcare industry, both for domestic and global consumers. Regulation changes and internal market access to foreign pharmaceutical companies are proof of the government’s intent. China as a key contributor to the revenue and growth of multinationals. This will remain true for some time to come despite the growth slowdown across all healthcare industry sectors. Essential source of global healthcare innovation. Product and business model innovation is significantly more prevalent in China, in comparison to the West. Adoption and acceptance rates of innovative solutions remain high. Affluence and the rising Chinese middle-class healthcare expectations. Like any country with a sizeable middle class, local expectations go beyond the primary treatment of illnesses and now embrace wellness, preventative medicine, and facilities to match the rising income levels of a more sophisticated local consumer. The digital transformation of the Chinese healthcare industry., China’s online healthcare platform, is an excellent example of a digital solution with a patient-focused strategy for retail, hospital services, and internet healthcare. Global R&D integration. The challenge is in integrating a global strategy with China product teams and a continually evolving local innovation ecosystem. Although best practices exist, a proven approach is still a work-in-progress. TALENT ACQUISITION IN THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY Across the four sectors driving the healthcare industry, there is a clear delineation of candidates wanted, including those with: BD and strategic experience Marketing experience Operational and clinical experience R&D experience CEO / CMO / COO for health services Talent acquisition for any of these categories will face challenges similar to that of most industries in China. For example, candidates will expect higher salaries, a clear and achievable career path, a chance to make a difference in the new company, organisational values aligned with their own, and job stability and personal growth. To compound matters, talent acquisition in the healthcare industry is all the more challenging due to the unique nature and diversity of the industry itself. While traditional products and services are still of importance, the demand for non-traditional solutions and innovative products and services is continuously increasing. Two key issues emerge that affect talent acquisition: Issue 1: The Talent Pool - Should we actively look outside the industry? The internet health sector is an excellent example of the talent pool issue in China. Being a relatively new sector, where can we find the best candidates? Recent trends show that more and more physicians are joining the internet health sector as consultants, many in the area of operational management. Hiring physicians for operational management fill a talent gap in this sector and will be closely watched to see if this is a stopgap measure or a viable long-term solution. For the more traditional business development, strategic, operational, clinical, and R&D roles, candidates were previously required to have local industry experience and knowledge. However, the evolving nature of the industry has allowed a larger talent pool to emerge. For instance, healthcare companies with business development and strategic role needs have appointed talent who have consulting backgrounds and are willing to take on project management roles. For R&D roles, clients are often willing to consider overseas talent, especially from the US market. Talent for such traditional roles can indeed come from outside the usual pool of candidates. Regardless of the specific roles candidates are expected to fill, they are also available from outside the industry. With new roles such as innovation project managers, CEO business assistants, clinical supply chain operators, and AI/digital, outside talent is increasingly significant. These roles did not exist until very recently, and an expanded talent pool will help fill this need. But what about talent from overseas markets? Especially for the “hot” local positions of CEO, CMO, and operational roles, candidates from APAC, Australia and the US are often highly sought after. The trend of hiring overseas candidates is an indicator that talent acquisition is coming from outside the usual candidate pool. Issue 2: The mindset of employers & how it affects talent acquisition in the healthcare industry The industry has three major employers: Government, joint ventures between local and foreign companies, and private companies. Employers with a more traditional view of their business will look for conservative candidates with a proven track record. These candidates have a “ready-aim-fire” approach to work as they are more careful and cautious, matching the employer’s traditional views in an ever-evolving industry. On the other hand, employers in need of innovation must ensure they do not get left behind and should seek talent with a more “ready-FIRE-aim” approach. They need candidates with a start-up and innovative mindset who are happy to create new processes and procedures as well as test what works and what does not. It is still unknown how employers will react by allowing these talents to innovate. However, if China’s experience with growing unicorns is any indication, many high potential candidates will come from China’s massive young talent pool. Given the right environment, these candidates have the ability and desire to create innovative solutions. THE FINAL WORD The healthcare industry in China is the latest addition to the long list of success stories coming from China. While talent acquisition efforts have mostly kept pace with the rapid changes, innovative talent acquisition practices must take shape to continue this success story. Unlike other industries in China, how best to approach this can raise more questions than it answers. Whether it involves AI, looking at different industries for candidates, or reskilling the existing workforce to take on new roles, one thing is clear. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to talent acquisition, and a “wait-and-see” attitude will not help. Instead, the time is right for a “ready-FIRE-aim” approach. OUR HEALTHCARE & LIFE SCIENCES TEAM For more information, please contact the Profile China Healthcare & Life Sciences team: Cherry Zhu, Director Dan Zhao, Senior Consultant Raphael Yang, Senior Consultant Alex Luo, Consultant Cheese Yan, Consultant Click here to download the full report.
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Spotlight on China, Oct 2019

PREPARATION, PERSEVERANCE & FLEXIBILITY KEY TO SUCCESS ONSHORE In this latest Spotlight on China, we aim to provide our latest updates around the developments in the Asset Management areas in China, especially in light of the recent announcements by the Chinese government as they accelerate the liberalisation of the financial sector. Looking ahead, international asset management firms have a lot to still be excited about in China. Despite a relative decline in activity over recent months, such as product launches and license approvals, the funds landscape continues to be the centre of attention for two long-term reasons: first, the clear commitment of Beijing to regulatory liberalisation; and secondly, the ever-changing nature and growth potential of the onshore market. These market dynamics bring with them an ongoing flurry of activity that is keeping us busier than ever. Less “white noise” in the market from 2017/18 certainly doesn’t mean fewer people moving firms. On one hand, new entrants seek to appoint talent in an array of roles, while on the other hand there are inevitable human capital-related needs as existing asset managers accelerate plans to expand their China businesses, as they are now able to wholly own local fund managers as early as 2020. The journey to either full fund management status, along with further growth of existing onshore operations, has started to create a steady flow of replacement hires and “upgrade” hires. These are in many ways the result of a maturing strategy of some firms in China. We have seen that a second or third anniversary of a first-mover wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE), for example, brings with it new requirements in terms of talent acquisition and retention. In the coming pages, we aim to explain the specific talent-related needs and priorities of firms at different stages of growth and development onshore. One common theme continues to stand out: as China’s asset management industry continues to evolve, so do the challenges in terms of finding and managing human capital in this competitive and changing marketplace. Drawing from our experience in working with global fund houses on their China strategy, we think several considerations are key to helping firms at different stages of onshore development to take their business forward: Consistent, clear and strong leadership and strategy of how to approach the China market Open internal channels of communication between offshore and onshore teams A strong and collaborative culture that promotes employee loyalty Flexibility to adapt to a landscape that is complex and constantly changing, often without much warning, in terms of regulations Patience in their long-term commitment to China within a global business framework It is becoming increasingly important for firms operating in China’s asset management landscape to understand the quite specific human capital needs they have, based on their growth ambition and where they stand today on the development cycle. We have segmented the current market landscape into 3 buckets, and our observation shows that in each of these segments, these firms have quite similar yet unique challenges with regards to human capital needs. ​ Based on the different strategies of the foreign fund houses operating in the domestic marketplace, the distinct groups of firms that have emerged require each asset manager to focus on hiring different types of individuals, as well as on managing and retaining that talent. Firms also need to be cognisant of the strategies required at a different stage of evolution. These trends reinforce our observations and expectations of an uptick in the volume of talent needed in 2019 and 2020 in comparison with 2017 and 2018. The “white noise” is reduced as firms are not all walking in lockstep. PFM ACTIVITY Below is a snapshot of the PFM market and fund launches chronologically. Please note several of the product names are direct translations from Mandarin. 6 KEY HUMAN CAPITAL OBSERVATIONS By combining the research results, taken from our survey conducted on the challenges facing WFOEs in China, with our ongoing dialogue with both candidates and clients, who are involved in the liberalisation and internationalisation of China’s asset management industry, we see six themes shaping the future of this sector. 1. Competition for talent has become even more fierce The fact that “lack of available talent” and “lack of talent depth and skill shortages” rank as the biggest WFOE-related challenges and risks for many global fund houses, reinforces just how competitive the race for human capital has become. Asset management executives shouldn’t mistake the recent reduction in the “white noise” from the initial WFOE start-up phase for a pull-back from this market. On the contrary, some of the more established firms have been focused on upgrading, replacing and adding to their headcount. For later entrants that form part of the next wave of WFOEs, they are looking to existing WFOEs for their initial recruits. Adding to the competitiveness is the growing number of firms now also looking beyond making obvious hires from competitors in favour of individuals that enable firms to differentiate themselves and their China strategy. 2. The only constant is change The surprise announcement from the State Council in mid-July 2019 that wholly foreign-owned fund management company applications would be accepted from 2020 – 12 months ahead of schedule – shows just how quickly the market can change. The influence on people as well as product needs to be understood and preparations put in place. Having a clear game-plan is essential for global firms to be able to adapt more quickly by making decisions at head office level in coordination with knowledgeable local leadership. This highlights the importance of having autonomy locally in China over key decisions, rather than frustrate leaders of the onshore business by head office retaining too much influence over the China strategy. As per the survey results on attracting talent in the first place and then keeping it, success will more likely come from strong management and leadership, plus better communication between local and regional teams. 3. Keeping pace with quickening regulation adds to the talent burden At the time the schedule for fully foreign-owned asset managers was brought forward, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) emphasized that this was part of a plan to accelerate its drive to liberalise the domestic financial sector. While this might seem a positive development at a higher level in head office, it puts (often undue) pressure on delivering on existing talent strategies. Further, the time and energy spent on pursuing previously agreed strategies may have been wasted given the need for significant flexibility. This makes it more challenging for global firms to be able to achieve goals that are considered, in our survey, important for talent retention – such as being clear and transparent about business strategy and goals. 4. Preparation and readiness is key to meet new requirements The desire among many international asset managers to develop their China business can only be fulfilled if they have the leadership onshore who is able to understand what is required of them in terms of the regulations, coupled with established communication and coordination with head office to adapt at relatively short notice. For example, with the CSRC demanding specific experience for certain job roles within a full fund management company, asset management firms need to make quick decisions. Those global players that seem to be navigating the environment most effectively are also those firms that have been engaging with regulators with a human capital mindset – not just focused on product. Patience is also required, since from experience, unforeseen hurdles should be expected regardless of the time taken to plan at the outset. Again, our survey supports this need for readiness since strong management and leadership, plus an open and team-oriented business culture, are considered key to attracting talent in the China market. 5. Talent strategies depend on onshore business maturity and ambition With the race to establish market share and brand awareness in China’s onshore asset management landscape now several years down the track, we have seen a clear separation among international fund houses depending on the extent to which they have embraced and invested in this opportunity so far. From our perspective, three groups have emerged: first, those charging ahead for full fund management status; secondly, those consolidating their PFMs; and thirdly, those looking to enter so at the start-up phase. Each of these approaches dictates a very different set of objectives and solutions for the talent acquisition, management and retention strategies that the firms need to employ. These firms have therefore developed their businesses in different ways and are seen differently by the wider industry – including, importantly, potential employees. For example, the early adopters, or faster movers, tend to attract candidates who are happier to embrace risk and change; more cautious candidates avoid global firms that are seen to be “breaking new ground”. 6. International strategies in China often don’t plug the talent gap Many global fund houses look to apply tried-and-tested offshore strategies to China and expect these will be equally successful. This might be in the way they try to launch and distribute new products, or how they approach research and client management. Although this is logical, we have seen that it creates problems for employers – the local talent pool simply does not exist in some areas. The results of the survey, for example, showed that investment, research and portfolio management are jobs that present the biggest hiring challenges in the China market, with sales, client service and distribution also hard positions to fill. This has led to potential solutions such as internal mobility, global sourcing and offshore talent pooling becoming even more of a focus for international firms. 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. We are very grateful to the high number of survey respondents. WHY DID WE DO THIS? We wanted to produce a section based entirely on the views of you, your colleagues and your peers. WHO CONTRIBUTED? We contacted onshore and offshore professionals from both HR and Business sectors. Please see below for a breakdown of contributors. Who contributed to this survey? What do you think are the most pressing talent challenges facing asset management WFOEs in China? What do you think are the best ways to attract talent in the China market? What would you say are the key risks to your WFOE business in China from a talent perspective? What functional areas do you find most challenging to hire into in the China market? What do you feel are the most important business and personal drivers that improve talent retention? Below are survey answers to the simple question of what are “people challenges” within the current marketplace. TALENT ACQUISITION Ever-tougher competition in China’s asset management market is creating ongoing challenges for firms looking to acquire and keep their talent, regardless of where they are in their growth cycle. Our observation is that increasingly the most progressive organisations are those that are the most agile and proactive in how they approach talent acquisition. Adopting this approach involves looking at new hires from multiple avenues, represented by each of the talent sources outlined below. TALENT MANAGEMENT & RETENTION Below are the thoughts of employees of WFOEs across Shanghai with whom we constantly engage. We have gathered samples of their feedback concerning job satisfaction. As expected, the results are mixed. This is a distillation of those views. “China is different” is a phrase sometimes overused – and often as an excuse. What remains clear is that whilst China is different, the much larger influence on talent retention are 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. WHAT’S NEXT FOR GLOBAL FUND HOUSES IN CHINA There is little doubt about the clear and concerted efforts among regulators and industry players alike to help accelerate and evolve China’s onshore asset management industry. As such, we anticipate the next 12 to 24 months to be busier, and probably more challenging, than what we have seen to date. Global fund houses with high ambitions for their China business will be among the trailblazers in their bids for the full fund management licenses or JVs (possibly with banks), while a different group of firms taking a slightly more conservative approach will seek to consolidate their WFOE and PFM operations. The paths these firms choose will require them to tackle a different set of regulatory challenges and changes – all of which will impact how they manage their human capital. Our observation is that the market is settling into three different groups with different goals and needs. This makes it essential for them to keep several key talent-related objectives at the forefront of their strategy, as highlighted by the findings in our survey: Detailed planning – firms entering the market or seeking full fund management status need to plan very carefully and get full agreement and support at the head office level. HR, a strategic and critical partner – the human capital considerations mean HR needs to be involved in strategic decisions from day one. Without their input and counsel, seemingly well thought out business plans might fall short. Agile hiring strategy – firms need to be opportunistic in terms of when and how they identify talent, regardless of timing, so getting head-office sign-off on investment should be done ahead of time. Be adaptable – regulations, strategies, market trends, investment appetite and other dynamics will change, so being ready to pivot quickly is vital. It is essential to keep in mind that while China is an emerging asset management market, its key attributes are consistent with other countries at a similar stage of development. Ultimately, a best-practice management style will prove itself a key differentiator between those international firms who have what it takes to hire and retain the staff they want, against those firms who find it challenging to gain traction. This means good, adaptable and professional managers who can develop and execute a strategic vision with realistic expectations, coupled with a long-term commitment towards its people. We strongly believe these are the types of firms that will triumph over time. OUR ASSET MANAGEMENT TEAM For more information on recruitment trends, please contact Profile Search & Selection's Asset Management team: Hong Kong Office - Andrew Oliver Singapore Office - Stanley Teo Shanghai Office - Yao Xiong Beijing Office - Winni Wei Click here to download the full report.
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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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