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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.


Amanda Clarke, Director, Profile Search & Selection


October 2019

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