HK Employers Reinventing Workforce Flexibility

Image credit: iStockphoto/Zulman

WFH was only a prelude. The future workforce needs to be adaptable and agile, and HR leaders need to be mindful in catering for these aspects.

According to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends study, the pandemic has spurred employers in Hong Kong to focus on defining the future of work by restructuring (55%) and active reskilling in 2021 (53%) to best position their business and workforce for recovery.

Top of mind was also reinventing flexibility (35%) across all aspects, including policies, practices, and benefits. It will enable companies to support people in their careers and wellbeing and deliver a better overall employee experience (EX).

Enabling these priorities is also the increased use of HR analytics to inform strategies and decision-making and drive business value, said Mercer.

WFH inspired 

According to Mercer’s survey, more than half of the employers in Hong Kong are assessing longer-term organizational structures and workforce needs in 2021.

As flexible/ hybrid working models become the norm, 78% of Hong Kong companies have implemented or are planning to implement more alignment between structures (methods, processes, and systems) while ensuring that inclusivity is also embedded in the culture (values and behaviors), compared. This compares to a global average of 84%.

Hong Kong companies are also focused on identifying new skills and capabilities needed for post-COVID-19 operations (53%); targeted workforce upskilling of critical talent pools (41%); and expanding their talent and learning eco-system (39%). One in three companies is also intensifying the development of remote working skills, emphasizing virtual collaboration, while 48% plan to improve HR analytics for learning and skill acquisition.

There are opportunities to get ahead of the race to reskill/upskill. Forty-four percent of Hong Kong companies (compared with 42% globally) have already or plan to implement skills-based talent strategies such as a skills framework. Yet, just 6% of HR leaders (compared to 14% of their global peers) plan to move to pay-for-skills structures. 

“Skills are the new currency in the future of work; for skills-based talent strategies to work, employees need to see that learning new skills leads to tangible rewards, recognition or promotion – an area where Hong Kong companies can do better, given that only 14% plan to reward skill acquisition,” said Brian Sy, head of career products and total rewards of Mercer Hong Kong.

Employers step in

Many employers stepped up in 2020 to protect jobs and, where possible, incomes — a departure from previous downtowns. The pandemic has also brought ESG to the forefront, with 69% of Hong Kong HR leaders reporting that their company has continued or sped up the pace towards an ESG and multi-stakeholder business approach, with 63% saying they align ESG goals to company purpose.

In considering how to better support employees with new ways of working and at different life stages, 67% of Hong Kong companies, compared to 60% of global peers, use design thinking and interactive processes such as persona workshops and experience mapping to co-create new employee experiences. Seven in 10 Hong Kong firms, compared to 65% globally, are also re-examining what benefits are most relevant to different employee persona groups.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted the nature of work and the workplace, with most companies now working towards adopting a more agile model to gain competitive advantage. COVID-19 has also proven the ability to adjust capacity rapidly and redeploy resources is critical to business continuity and resilience, and this is reflected in our findings that companies are making internal talent pools more sharable and re-examining the workforce flexibility,” said Vicki Fan, chief executive officer for Hong Kong, Mercer.

Flexibility becomes a focus

With flexible working as the new norm, 84% of Hong Kong employers (compared to 90% globally) say they will expand and enhance flexible working policies and practices. In comparison, 27% say they will focus on reinventing flexibility and careers — 42% plan to improve HR analytics for performance data related to flexible working. On what would drive the most significant impact on flexible working in Hong Kong, employers stated visible instances of career progression for flexible workers (44%) and access to remote health and benefits options (35%).

The report also 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. Only 12% allow for phased retirement.

Image credit: iStockphoto/Zulman