This article is written by Bonnie Chan, Head of Technology and Contracting & Payroll Services.
It was originally published in LinkedIn on 4th July 2022.
Hong Kong is moving through an increasingly challenging talent market. The combination of a net talent outflow (both local and expatriate) for a variety of reasons, layered onto an already thin pool in many functions means gaps are clearly showing. A broadly risk averse employee base is adding to the problem and those that are open have high salary expectations and employers are deploying aggressive counter-offer strategies. The final barrier is that bringing talent in during pandemic restrictions and poor international PR is also not easy.
Companies are increasingly looking to the borders to open up and, whilst this will bring easier access to external talent, Hong Kong will then be competing with global demand for the same skills.
As such, employers are asking what benefits will make them competitive, particularly realising that some of the demands for more flexible employment terms require systemic change. For the first time, we are seeing candidates place flexible work arrangements ahead of paid annual leave when prioritising benefits. This is of course in the context of limited travel potential but, is likely a trend that will sustain.
Work from Home Options
Hong Kong is inherently conservative when it comes to changing work practices and, pre-pandemic, employers saw WFH as a novelty at best and even employees had mixed views. With smaller average living spaces and co-habiting families, the initial perception was that this wasn't a benefit. However, after the 5th wave lock down, people have begun to understand the upsides and a complete return to 'normal' is no longer seen as a positive.
One of the interesting elements is how the adoption of flexible practices translates to a statement on company culture. Employees see the flexibility to balance time between home and work as a signal of trust and of an open-minded employer mentality.
Not all industries can obviously adopt flexible practices but, companies that can, that are pushing for a full return to office are (at least anecdotally), suffering from a decline in employee confidence.
The key for organisations looking to establish a WFH policy is to maintain a balance of in-office engagement and flexibility. Companies are finding that core times when all staff will meet is key to sustaining culture.
Work from ANYWHERE
An additional trend we have seen is the flexibility for candidates to work from locations outside of Hong Kong.
This has partially been driven by expatriate staff returning to home countries or, being based out of other offices to avoid travel restrictions and lockdown issues. However, we are increasingly seeing this being utilised to mitigate the challenges associated with the more permanent departure of local talent.
Circumstances where this seems to provide benefit is:
Offering an extended contract for 6-12 months to provide a more effective transition of knowledge and handover period
When the employee is a key project resource and can still add value remotely
Where there is uncertainty around the long-term structure of the role which needs time to be assessed
For the employee, it also offers a period with guaranteed earnings as they transition to a new location and market.
Some organisations have faced challenges to employ staff in overseas locations. Even multinationals may not have the internal cross-charging capability to make this work. As a result, we have established partnerships in key international locations to enable our clients to re-hire their own staff remotely whilst being billed from a local Hong Kong entity. This also enables the employee to meet all local statutory requirements and establish an official employment history on the ground.
As a result, we have established partnerships in key international locations to enable our clients to re-hire their own staff remotely whilst being billed from a local Hong Kong entity.
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