EXCLUSIVE: We have been in touch with well-known recruitment and HR services company, Hays, based in Asia. Meet Dean Stallard, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong. With 10 years of experience in executive recruitment, he is currently responsible for the day-to-day management and growth of the business in Hong Kong.
Q: How is the HR dynamics in Hong Kong?
A: Solid hiring activity is characterising Hong Kong’s commercial sector this year largely due to the number of foreign-owned companies establishing operations here. This trend has created demand for both HR Business Partners, as well as HR Generalists.
In contrast, the financial services sector is engaging HR professionals mostly on a temporary basis and we expect this cautious approach to continue for the remainder of 2015.
We have seen shortages of compensation & benefits (C&B) professionals in Hong Kong and therefore expect C&B demand to remain. On the flip side, we expect demand for learning & development (L&D) professionals to slow since organisations instead prefer C&B as a retention tool.
For Business Partners and Generalists, we predict hiring rates and salary levels will remain steady this year across both commerce and financial services.
Large corporations will continue to engage contract HR Transaction Services and Shared Services candidates with only small increases in hiring.
While salary levels are expected to remain steady in the year ahead for most job functions, employers will offer a higher salary in order to secure the right senior HR candidates. Employers are also placing a greater focus on retention rather than attraction, and thus they are investing in L&D.
Q: Is there any uniqueness happening in Hong Kong HR industry that should be known by the rest of the world?
A: Employers have a strong preference for local candidates who are on the ground and who have Chinese, especially Mandarin, language skills and PRC experience. They are wary of a candidate who has yet to commit to living in Hong Kong, because they could decide not to relocate after all.
The logistics involved in terms of securing a valid work visa also puts some employers off. The Hong Kong government also advocates that local candidates must be considered first, with the exception being highly skilled candidates who are in short supply locally.
Q: How do you see Human Resources in Hong Kong in the near future?
Within Hong Kong, we are seeing high demand from medium-sized companies for HR specialists. These companies are investing more in their HR functions, particularly in the learning & development and compensation & benefits areas. These jobs are all permanent.
In terms of skills in demand for the July to September quarter, we are seeing high demand for Learning & Development Managers. Companies are investing more in the learning & development of their staff in order to aid their retention efforts.
Compensation & Benefits Managers also remain in high demand. As a result, employers are more flexible and will consider candidates with a consultancy background.
Compensation & Benefits Analysts are still in high demand. In particular, demand are candidates at the junior level who can help the compensation & benefits team compile reports and data.
In terms of candidate trends, HR professionals have become very selective. Most specialist candidates prefer to move into business partnering roles.
Global Remuneration Professional (GRP) and MBTI qualifications both remain in high demand for specialist candidates.
In a final trend, HR banking candidates are more willing to move into the commercial sector now that HR business partnering is more common in this area.
Q: Last but not least, do you have any important recruiting tips to share?
The 2014 Hays Global Skills Index showed that wages in Hong Kong’s high-skill industries are rising much faster than in low-skill industries. Higher wages indicate that employers are competing for highly-skilled professionals in high-skill industries. But salaries and benefits are only part of the big picture when considering staff attraction and retention.
Candidates are aware that cost control has lowered the ceiling for salary increases in many organisations. Certainly salaries remain competitive, but job seekers are increasingly looking at a range of other factors when they are in the jobs market.
One of these is career advancement. The top candidates in particular are aware of the demand for their skills and are looking to take advantage. Job security is still important, but given our more positive jobs market skilled professionals are now focused on finding an employer that will offer them career advancement. As a result, they look for a role where they can either step up, or where they can develop their skills and expertise in order to help achieve their career ambitions.
Highly skilled professionals are also looking for more engagement. They want to work for an organisation that will genuinely engage with their employees and where there is mutual respect.
For employers and HR professionals, this means not only creating a workplace where employees are committed to the organisation’s objectives and to meeting those goals, but also where the needs of employees are met, understood and respected. If they get this right, employees are more happy, productive and motivated in their job.
To do this, HR professionals must be aware of what makes staff satisfied at work and then meet those needs. This means seeking out the opinion of your staff and allowing open and honest communication flow back to HR, such as via employee engagement surveys.
Finally, in terms of social responsibility, many candidates want to work for an ethical organisation that has a positive relationship with broader society. Most organisations have made social responsibility part of their business model by taking into account the social and environmental impact of their business. As a result, job seekers who want to work for socially responsible organisations are able to do so.
Credits for Jeffrey Coote, Content Manager of Hays APAC, and Lawrence Tuck, Consultant at Hays Hong Kong.