ASEAN Companies Heading Toward a Major Talent Disaster

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ridofranz

ASEAN companies are heading for a talent disaster of their making if they do not shift their mindsets on employee well-being and reskilling and address current recruitment biases.

According to the “The Five Pillars of People Risk: Managing risks for workforce and business resilience,” a new report by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB), which surveyed 1,380+ participants globally, including HR professionals and Risk Managers across Asia, put talent risk ahead of cybersecurity and data privacy.

The report pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason. While we celebrate its ability to accelerate the transformation of work and workplaces, it also reshaped employer and employee expectations.

In turn, it elevated risks related to talent management, technology adoption, business continuity, and culture. ASEAN employers' ability to deal with these threats directly impacts business operations, revenue, reputation, and talent acquisition. 

It is why 72% of respondents in Asia ranked talent attraction, retention, and engagement as a serious and top risk for their organization.

So, what’s keeping ASEAN employers from addressing these challenges?

According to the report, it is not just the growing shortage of skilled workers. The report noted a lack of senior leadership engagement and skilled resources to understand and address risks were the two primary difficulties highlighted. This underscored the disconnect between what firms say they prioritize and the resources being allocated to address the risks.

Societal aging also adds to the problem and is now challenging employers’ bias toward employing younger workers.

Meanwhile, advances in AI, robotics, and other emerging technologies are widening the talent needs for ASEAN companies as they transform jobs. The World Economic Forum estimates that more than half of all employees will require significant reskilling in the next three years. But the talent pool is very limited, while many face domestic resistance to employing foreign talent.

Adding to this challenge is the pandemic's ongoing disruption, which will keep business strategies highly dynamic, adding complexity to ongoing talent needs.

While HR plays a critical role in shaping policies to restructure the workforce, reskill employees and redesign the work experience, only 18.9% of the respondents reflected that this responsibility lies with HR. Failure to create a robust talent pipeline, compelling employee value proposition, and to reskill and upskill to future-ready their employees will lead to an unmotivated workforce and the loss of key talent.

“The pandemic has accelerated people risks to the top of the pedometer for Risk Managers. Poorly designed employee benefit plans can undermine the health and engagement of employees — not to mention the employer branding of a firm. It is critical that health is made a business imperative with strong support from risk managers, finance as well as the executive sponsors alongside HR. Firms need to plan ahead for the design, delivery, and financing of solutions that enhance access to quality healthcare,“ said Joan Collar, managing director, Asia regional leader at MMB.

Interestingly, Asian employers did not identify either workforce exhaustion or deteriorating mental health as a top-10 risk, while it was considered two of the top 10 risks globally.

According to Mercer’s Healthy Minds at Work report in 2020, employees' stress levels have tripled since the onset of the pandemic. High work demands have emerged as the top driver of stress across workplaces in Asia. Failure to recognize and address workforce exhaustion and deteriorating mental health as critical risks, can lead to errors and omissions that result in potential cybersecurity breaches, high employee turnover, and reduced productivity.

Based on the survey findings, employers in Asia need to do more in this area. Only half of the respondents (50.3%) saw workforce exhaustion as having a significant impact on businesses, with only 58.9% indicating they are addressing the risk to a great or some extent. As for deteriorating mental health, only four in 10 (41.1%) acknowledged the potentially severe impact on their organizations, with 56.4% addressing the risk to a great or some extent.

Another blind spot is non-communicable health conditions (NCDs), one of the risks least addressed. NCDs are the leading causes of death and disability globally and are estimated to have caused 10.4 million deaths in South-East AsiaHealth On Demand, research conducted by Mercer Marsh Benefits, Mercer and Oliver Wyman, found that 43% of both employers and employees want a more ‘pro-health’ environment at work, and more than half of senior decision-makers agreed that health and well-being investment would be a greater priority for their organizations in the future. These findings show the opportunity for employers to play a more active role in helping their workforce achieve better health outcomes and gain a competitive advantage.

Image credit: iStockphoto/Ridofranz