HK Companies Are Changing How We Manage the Workforce

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In Hong Kong, your skills are now the new currency of workforce and talent strategies.

This is the conclusion from the recent 2021 Mercer Global Talent Trends survey that looked at how Hong Kong companies target upskilling and reskilling critical talent pools to drive workforce transformation. 

Understandably, COVID-19 and the acceleration of technological adoption have altered the nature of work. Mercer noted that employees have become “more interdependent, knowledge-focused, specialized and flexible about where, when and how we work.”

This is because the traditional base unit of managing a workforce was a job. As a result, job descriptions and titles have, until recently, defined how companies viewed work, how they set salaries, and how they made critical decisions around talent and workforce transformation.

Today, the base unit of work has fundamentally evolved from jobs to skills.

“Reskilling and upskilling are a clear transformation priority for companies in Hong Kong in 2021, on the back of rapid technological advances and the new roles they bring,” said Brian Sy, head of career products and total rewards in Hong Kong at Mercer.

“However, they may lack clarity on the existing skills in their workforce and future skill requirements. This clarity is fundamental for them to decide how best to invest their already stretched resources for targeted reskilling and upskilling,” Sy added.

The shift in the base unit makes sense, but Mercer noted that it is not easy.

A skills-based approach to workforce strategy assesses talent based on their holistic skill set (including adjacent skills across industries) rather than industry experience or qualifications. A well-designed skills-based workforce strategy will enable organizations to proactively identify future skills needs and develop an actionable plan to retain, build, buy and deploy talent as needed.

Companies in Hong Kong are already struggling to identify the required future skills for different roles and their organizations. At the same time, they face challenges in evaluating the right pay for the right skills in an objective manner, similar to salary benchmarking.

So the firm is launching Mercer Skills-Edge Suite, which it claims will help organizations “adapt to the new shape of work through a skills-based workforce strategy.” It creates skills frameworks and roadmaps to help companies transition from job-based practices to skills-based talent and pay practices.

Meanwhile, Mercer noted that Hong Kong companies are now making it easier for employees to learn new skills or upgrade current ones. The 2021 Global Talent Trends survey reported an increase in talent practices to use the talent pool more flexibly.

To better adapt to evolving business needs, 41% of survey respondents in Hong Kong stated they have already made it easier to loan and/or share talent internally, with 39% expected to do so in the future.

Still, more work needs to be done. One area of concern is employing older employees in Hong Kong — particularly given Hong Kong's aging population.

The Global Talent Trends survey revealed that companies in Hong Kong are lagging in meeting the inter-generational needs of their workforce, such as offering older, more experienced workers flexible career pathways. None of the Hong Kong companies currently use or plan to invest in analytics to predict when older workers with critical skills are likely to retire.

Organizations are also struggling to understand the skill gaps in their current workforce. Two in five HR professionals responding to the survey admitted that they do not know what skills they have in their own organizations. 

Image credit: iStockphoto/DA4554