GlobAlculTure,locAl mindSeTStaff retention in the Asia-Pacific region is atan all-time low. Turnover is perhaps the biggestobstacle for future growth for many businesses,but there are ways to stem the tide.AnThony rAjA devAdoSS
2 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTThe imPAcT of hiGh GrowTh on workforce STrATeGy.Operating in a market with high growth and scarce talent, such as Asia, bringswith it significant challenges for HR. Many businesses operating in the Asianregion are recognizing that their expansion strategies will need refining,and that workforce development is critical to their sustainability.• employment rates across Asia remain These twin demands of the high growth and exceptionally high and most markets are extreme competition for talent demands operating at, or near, full employment. new approaches to resourcing that do not apply in other developed markets. This is • china is now operating at close to why retention of staff in companies across the peak capacity, and its entire cost base— Asian region continues to be a key strategic property, wages and commodities— issue. is rising. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to • The talent required to take businesses retaining staff don’t necessarily work here, to the next level is scarce and turnover and global organizations with their lessons is exceptionally high (often in excess learned elsewhere are finding this out the of 40%). hard way.
3 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTTrAdiTionAl APProAcheS To reTenTioncAn increASe Turnover. Take any organizationin the world on any day of the week and estimates are that mostof its workforce (up to 76%) is seeking alternative employmentopportunities. However, employers in the Asian region havetwo unique factors to add to this retention challenge.The first issue is a plain and simple head-hunting of staff can be a matter of For a region with a strong recent history Hiring in temporary expertise to manage the consequence of ever-increasing opportunity survival. And promoting staff with relatively of countries outsourcing to it, and the transition of less experienced workers, and and investment. For employees, expansion little experience and training can be the perception of a plentiful population of expanding HR oversight, can avoid the drag and investment brings opportunity. With only option when other candidates are available workers, it is hard to imagine we’ve on productivity and growth that these unique opportunity comes knowledge and unavailable. already come to the time where external factors in the region have created.experience. With more knowledge and resources in Asia might be needed. But experience comes more opportunity—right Of course, this has serious consequences hiring in temporary expertise to stem these when employers need their staff the most, for businesses looking to grow and adapt issues can be the fastest, most efficient and employees are gaining greater options and to ongoing change, not least of all the cost-effective way to manage workforce incentives to leave. competency and number of resources constraints. Outsourcing within Asia is now available to manage such transitions. well-established, and as the cost advantages In Asia, the opportunity curve has been in some markets reduce with rising costs, a exponential and this creates pressure, Swift career development is often seen as the region-wide approach to labor is needed to both from within and from competitors, answer to retaining good people, but it isn’t solve at least some of these issues. for organizations to promote and put staff always possible. When you can’t afford to in positions with greater responsibility, let an employee walk, yet you can’t promote faster. The boom is such that poaching and them internally for lack of experience, more innovative solutions are needed.
4 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTTrAininG And Turnover. There is another reasonturnover is high in the region, which is perhaps more counter-intuitive. Again, organizations will need to employ innovate solutionsto combat it if they plan on stemming the tide of turnover.For most organizations looking to increase In markets with steadily increasing Think global, act localretention and loyalty from existing opportunity and high competition for scarce It’s true that globalization and local traditions employees, a range of methods and talent, such as Asia-Pacific, strategic human don’t always fit neatly together. There are incentives are often used, including career resourcing discipline is critical. Managing the tensions that come with change, particularly development and training opportunities. attainment and use of new skills and showing in this context of global companies with appropriate reward to help employees western roots taking up residence in rapidly In a tight employment market where full grow and develop at the pace they expect developing economies with different and employment (above 95%) is commonplace, is the only way to stop competitors getting diverse values. In Asia, successful organizations training and career development can actually the benefit of training and education that are looking to retain the best people increase turnover, particularly among low- investments. will need to understand the context they’re skilled workers. It is not the up-skilling in itself operating, gain insight about how their that’s the issue, it’s the career progression Understanding how the issues of increased employees think and feel about working there, that must follow. If appropriate reward isn’t opportunity and training is contributing to and use specific strategies that reflect these forthcoming once the new skills are acquired, high turnover in the region is the first step, local insights. In short, successful organizations employees will start to look elsewhere, and and putting in place those mechanisms to will need to ensure they have an inclusive, very quickly. combat them will go some of the way to global culture that is flexible enough to reflect maintaining competitive advantage, but there a local mindset. Relying purely on a reputation are also other insights and tools employers built elsewhere is not going to work. can use to stem the tide of turnover.
5 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTcAPTure The mood. Across Asia, and particularlyin China, growth has been rapid and social change has beenvast. The sense of excitement and nation-building that’soccurring in many countries in the region is palpable.The economic shift from west to east has • what is the company’s purpose in doing immense local impacts for the way whole business here?nations see themselves and companies must consider how they fit into this picture and • what specific role does company Xmake this part of their ongoing proposition to have to play that no one else can play in employees. the region?Rather than just ‘doing business’ in Asia, • what will be the effects of this purpose companies will increasingly need to sell their on the broader community? company purpose to employees—not just • how will company X contributewhy they’re doing business in the region, positively to the process of development?but how they’re doing it. If businesses don’t satisfactorily answer questions like these, • why should employees feel proud to be retention will likely remain an ongoing issue: involved in this? Why, as much as how, business is done in the region is relevant to staff retention.
6 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTConneCting Company purpose withCommunity benefit. Much is made of the differencesbetween western and eastern culture, not least of all the greater importthat eastern cultures place on community, family and the greater good.There are examples on both sides to the Being part of change for the better is a key Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples Creating a vision that’s relevant to the contrary, as no culture is homogenous, but motivator and loyalty-building hook for of this Narayana Hrudayalaya health city in region is something many companies will the less individualistic tendencies of eastern workers in the Asian region, particularly in still India, which has built scale and specialization not be accustomed to. Visions that center culture are a source of significant competitive developing economies such as China. In fact, into medicine to dramatically reduce costs. around “being the world leader in…” need advantage if companies understand how to a recent Kelly survey found that a full 61% to seriously consider their local relevance. operate within that context. of employees across China said they would “We decided, given the shortage of surgeons Turning company vision into a retention tool take a less or lower paid role if they felt it in India, to hire expat Indians from overseas. is possible here, but for many organizations, This is not to say that the secret to retaining contributed to something more important To attract them we sold a vision. Come back it will need some tweaking to get there.people in Asia is to present a ‘soft’ culture or meaningful to the organization. This is and be part of building a new India. ... Work with no specific focus on the individual— compared with just 27.5% in Russia, 33.5% in for us and you’ll be able to help and cure workers everywhere do have individual South Africa and 47.9% across all countries so many more people a week than you can goals and needs. However, it is to say that surveyed. There are differences across Asia in Europe or America. And because of the something big is happening in the region and too (people feel far less ‘stirred’ by the vision doctors come back to India – to work almost everyone feels it. It’s an historic time nation-building cause in Asian countries that far longer hours and for much less money and retention does require companies to are already developed, such as Singapore) than they did before.... We were brave communicate and deliver a kind of inclusivity but change is happening all over the region, enough to think bigger than anyone else in the nation-building wave. and generally, they want to understand and and passionate enough to get others to see their contribution to it. back our vision.”
7 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTdouble hAPPineSS. Retention strategies must do two thingssimultaneously to be successful: keep people working for an organizationfor longer, and make the most of the people that are retained.If we already know that company culture we’ve already seen how this needs to be retention. A 2011 Kelly survey reveals that live and deliver upon the core values of the and country culture need to work together conceived of and communicated in light more employees here than anywhere else organization, to demonstrate a responsibility to form a cohesive, local story and value of social change, community and in the world are likely to cite ‘management to them, their community and society at proposition to employees, what of how development. A clear purpose might get issues’ as the main reason they are looking large. For managers who are used to focusing employees feel about the work they’re people in the door and it might get them elsewhere for work, which could indicate only on the bottom line, this will require a actually doing? excited about making a contribution, but two things: significant cultural change. much more needs to follow.People who are happy at work put in far • employees here are more sensitive to Being open, and concentrating on more effort, work longer hours, and are ‘Happiness’ is also dependent upon feedback management relationships harmonious interactions is far more important more productive than those who aren’t. and recognition, and this fundamentally not just to the business of turning of profit, They are also more likely to stay with you comes down to the way people are • managers here are grappling more with but also to retaining staff. longer and be more receptive to change. managed. Research and surveys into the demands of high growthSo, what elements of work contribute to what makes people satisfied in their jobs Research shows that employees in this part happiness and is there a specific story to consistently turns up the same answer: good of the world are also looking for a different tell about what makes employees in the relationships with managers. kind of relationship with their managers. They Asia-Pacific region ‘happy’? For businesses operating in the Asia- want and expect an openness, honesty and One element of employee happiness, and Pacific region, there does seem to be a authenticity that isn’t as critical elsewhere. therefore retention, is purpose. In Asia, specific element to management-related Above all, they want and need managers who
8 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTThe imPorTAnce of fleXibiliTy.With typically have fewer annual leave entitlements and alonger working week than many western nations, Asia hasnot been the preserve of workplace flexibility in the past.The process of development has meant younger generations particularly expect this that the only way to get ahead has been to to balance work with other interests and get plenty of education and work harder commitments. than everyone else, and even in current generations who have it significantly easier The CEO of Samsung Tesco in Korea, a than their parents did, these attitudes have country with traditionally very long working lingered on. Now, the need to attract and hours, has tapped into younger generations’ retain workers is seeing flexibility become desire to have better work-life balance has part of the workplace culture. led a number of initiatives to help people to work more efficiently with family support, According to the World at Work report, such as flexible working. In instable times, just 7% of organizations quantify the return looking at flexible working options and on investment from flexibility programs. contingent workers, instead of workforce Despite how few organizations measure their reduction or reduced benefits, can be a worth, the anecdotal evidence is strong— more strategic alternative to manage people want and need more flexibility, and workforce costs.
9 | enTer The drAGon | GlobAl culTure, locAl mindSeTmAinTAininG And conTinued hiGh GrowThfaces several significant people challenges in Asia.• increasing opportunity has led to high Even here, with these challenges, there are turnover; job-hopping and poaching from approaches that are working to attract and other employers are significant issues retain the right people. Flexibility, a strong, locally relevant culture and purpose, as well • Some traditional approaches to as the right kind of leadership for the times is retention don’t work—up-skilling and more critical here than elsewhere. training can actually contribute to turnover Retention is, and will likely continue to be, a major issue for businesses across the region. • finding the right talent to manage the Gaining key insights into which elements scale of businesses and expansion plans of business culture and workplace practice amid high growth is getting harder actually contributes to retention will likely be the difference between thriving or just • employee expectations are changing, surviving in this highly competitive talent particularly among younger generations market.
ThiS iS PArT 2 of enter the dragon, A whiTePAPer SerieS eXPlorinGThe new TAlenT chAllenGeS for ASiAn economieS.AbouT The AuThorAnthony RAjA DevADoss is currently the vice President—APAC with theoutsourcing & Consulting Group of Kelly services. From network services,engineering to e-business solutions, Anthony Raja has worked in both India andMalaysia, within technical roles to the Chief executive officer. he has received hisBachelors degree in science and his MBA in Marketing & Postgraduate Diplomain Computing. he holds membership in various local and international associationssuch as the MIM, human Capital Institute & Association of Career Professionals International. he isthe head of Policy enablement & Government Liaison with outsourcing Malaysia and a memberof the Industry Advisory Board for the Graduate school of Business, UnIRAZAK. he has beenrecently appointed to the hR Capacity Building task force by the Ministry of human Resources,Govt of Malaysia. Anthony is also a member of the hRoA APAC Chapter Board. http://my.linkedin.com/in/anthonyraja http://twitter.com/anthonyrajaAbouT kellyocGKellyOCG is the Outsourcing and Consulting Group of Fortune 500 workforce solutions provider,Kelly Services, Inc. KellyOCG is a global leader in innovative talent management solutions in theareas of Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), ContingentWorkforce Outsourcing (CWO), including Independent Contractor Solutions, Human ResourcesConsulting, Career Transition and Organizational Effectiveness, and Executive Search.Further information about KellyOCG may be found at kellyocg.com. eXit