Many companies in Hong Kong are placing greater importance on skills in the post-pandemic economy, according to the Mercer Global Talent Trends study. 53 percent are looking into identifying the new skills needed—including remote working skills—and 41 percent are planning on targeted upskilling to build their critical talent pools. However, they are not actually putting that much money into their talent development: only 27 percent are actually prioritizing investment in upskilling or reskilling this year.
This seeming contradiction is reflected in companies' attitudes towards paying for skills. The Mercer report found that while 44 percent of companies are planning or have already implemented skill-based talent strategies as opposed to traditional seniority-based structures, only 6 percent of HR leaders in Hong Kong intend to actually adjust compensation to pay-for-skills structures, as opposed to 14 percent worldwide.
Brian Sy, Head of Career Products and Total Rewards, Hong Kong, Mercer advised: “Beyond just having a clear view of the skill gaps within their organisations, companies need to have a strategy to encourage skill adoption and learning. Skills are the new currency in the future of work; for skills-based talent strategies to work, employees need to see that learning new skills leads to tangible rewards, recognition or promotion—an area where Hong Kong companies can do better in.”
While the study did not explore the reason for this reticence to invest, some of its other findings support the idea of a gap between what employers want and what they are prepared to actually implement. For instance, while 57 percent of Hong Kong employers have identified adaptability and growth mindset as being critical to future resiliency, with collaboration (47 percent) and self-management (45 percent) following closely, only 25 percent think openness to learning new skills is critical—suggesting that companies either think they already have the skills and so do not need to train employees, or might prefer to hire for the desired skills rather than training them internally.
It's also possible that the uncertainty around Hong Kong's economic recovery is contributing to companies' caution. Between ongoing geopolitical uncertainty and COVID-19's impact, the government has described this year's projected economic situation as “challenging”, and companies may be holding back on initiatives that could increase their manpower costs.