Article: Who's really winning the war for talent in Asia?

HR Consulting

Who's really winning the war for talent in Asia?

There is an ongoing digital disruption that has led to a scarcity of skilled professionals in Asia. How do organisations in this region navigate the war for talent?
Who's really winning the war for talent in Asia?

"... Human-centric businesses win the war for talent," says Apps Associates' Chief Revenue Officer Paul Vian.

Asia's talent war is more competitive than ever. But who’s actually winning the war?

The phrase "war for talent" was first introduced by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997 and later popularized through a book authored by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod (Harvard Business Press, 2001). It describes the growing competition among companies to attract and keep highly skilled employees.

The ongoing digital disruption and shifting demographics have led to a scarcity of skilled professionals. Organisations are vying to attract and retain the right talent to stay ahead in this challenging environment.

The Great Resignation impact in Asia

The global phenomenon known as "The Great Resignation" has sent shockwaves through the job market. Employees across the world are quitting their jobs in large numbers, sometimes without securing new employment first. While the impact in Asia is less intense than in the West, the region is not immune to this trend. Many industries are witnessing employees reevaluating their work-life priorities.

To gain insights into how companies in Asia are adapting to these changes, The Conference Board gathered 40 HR leaders from various countries and industry sectors. Their discussions shed light on the strategies being employed to address evolving employee expectations and the ensuing challenges in talent acquisition and retention.

The seller's market in Asia

One prevailing theme is that Asia is currently a seller's market for talent. Recruitment processes take longer, and job offers are frequently declined. HR leaders emphasize that career advancement, learning opportunities, flexibility, purposeful work, and non-financial rewards are top priorities for employees. Achieving work-life balance and finding personal fulfillment through work is increasingly crucial for both current employees and prospective recruits.

Talent shortages and market dynamics

Talent shortages are further exacerbated by factors such as border restrictions and political instability in some key Asian markets. Countries like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sri Lanka are experiencing a significant outflow of top talent, with many expatriates returning home for good.

To stand out in the war for talent, organisations are exploring creative approaches to talent acquisition. This includes shifting away from traditional recruiting models and tapping into non-conventional sources, such as retirees, alumni, and candidates without college degrees. Moreover, redefining Employer Brand and Employee Value Propositions and creating positive candidate experiences during the recruitment process are essential strategies.

Singapore's maritime hub

Singapore has historically been considered a top maritime hub, attracting talent worldwide. It offers a range of opportunities that few other hubs can match, particularly since many maritime businesses have relocated their global headquarters to the city-state. However, Singapore needs help in retaining and attracting talent due to restrictions on employment pass allocation and a shortage of local talent. This has driven up costs for employers, making talent acquisition more expensive.

The rise of Dubai

Dubai is emerging as a strong competitor in the maritime industry, attracting professionals with its favorable employment pass policies, cost advantages, and strategic location. Some maritime expertise has shifted from Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

Tech sector competition

The tech sector poses significant competition for talent in Asia. Professionals with technology-related skills are in high demand, and the maritime industry must evolve to make itself more appealing. Layoffs in the tech sector due to the pandemic offer an opportunity for maritime to attract tech-savvy talent.

Embracing foreign and local talent

Despite its maritime success, Singapore has faced criticism for becoming less welcoming to foreign talent in recent years. To maintain its competitiveness, it's crucial for Singapore to embrace talent, whether foreign or local, as a catalyst for progress. Barriers such as mandatory military service can hinder access to maritime careers at sea, making it essential to address these issues.

Global talent shortage

The talent shortage in Asia is part of a global challenge, with a shortage of skilled talent in key areas such as engineering, operations, and logistics. This shortage makes it difficult for any single country to secure enough talent to meet its needs.

Government initiatives

The good news is that governments in Asia are listening to these challenges, and immigration changes are on the horizon. Initiatives like Singapore's Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) aim to improve workforce diversity and attract skilled professionals globally.

Building a talent pipeline

To address the talent shortage, organisations are focusing on building talent pipelines and improving retention rates. Initiatives like SAILMAP, a 10-year project to train new seafarers, aim to address the shortage of maritime talent.

The role of education

Education is also evolving to meet the changing demands of the workforce. Companies are increasingly valuing skills over formal credentials. Online education and certification programs are providing accessible pathways for individuals to acquire the skills needed for the digital age.

The future of talent acquisition

The war for talent is far from over, and organisations must adapt to the evolving landscape. Effective talent acquisition strategies will include valuing skills over pedigree, promoting from within, having fair performance and reward systems, recognizing employee achievements, and constantly listening to employees' needs and suggestions.

Winning the war for talent in Asia requires a multifaceted approach that involves not only attracting external talent but also nurturing and developing the potential within the organisation. organisations that prioritize employee engagement, skills development, and a forward-thinking mindset will ultimately come out ahead in this competitive talent landscape. As digital transformation continues to reshape industries, having the right talent in place will be the key to success.

In a world where talent is a valuable asset, businesses that focus on their employees' growth and well-being will emerge as the true winners in the war for talent.

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Topics: HR Consulting, Culture

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