Renewed Optimism for Talent Hiring
By Mark Tibbatts, Managing Director, Michael Page Hong Kong & Taiwan
  • Findings from a recent Michael Page talent report shed light on the recruitment strategies that could help organisations attract, retain, and develop talent in the post-COVID world. 

  • Amid Hong Kong’s economic recovery, employers need to be more tactful about how they recruit and build their workforce, to emerge more resilient from COVID-19.

While it is clear that COVID-19 has dealt a major blow to recruitment activities across the sectors, in most cases organisations have adapted their hiring strategies to align with the prevailing business climate. This was reflected in the recent Michael Page Talent Trends 2021 report, which surveyed more than 5,500 businesses and 21,000 employees across 12 Asia-Pacific markets, including Hong Kong. While a number of employers reported a conservative approach to their hiring strategies, choosing to freeze or even reduce their headcount until the effects of COVID-19 recede, organisations with longer-term growth in mind are focused on maintaining their recruitment strategies.

Overall hiring activities in Hong Kong dipped by as much as 48% in 2020 during the height of COVID-19. However, a return to optimism indicates signs of a business recovery. Encouragingly, it is widely anticipated that 2021 will be a better year than 2020. About 30% of surveyed companies in Hong Kong are looking to increase their headcount and more than half plan to maintain their headcount during 2021. However, while demand for talent is likely to increase throughout the year as the recovery gathers momentum, caution remains as the government withdraws some of its support for business sectors. 

Adapting to challenges

Arguably, adaptability has been the most significant characteristic that almost every organisation had needed to cultivate over the past year. This is also reflected in the responses to the Talent Trends 2021 report. Examples of adaptability included putting into practise flexible and remote work policies, digital transformation initiatives to drive efficiency, as well as implementing steps to increase and improve communications. Similar to companies across the Asia-Pacific region, as Hong Kong organisations respond to the challenges of pivoting to the new normal, nearly two thirds of survey respondents believe that reviewing organisational design is a necessary focus for future business recovery and growth. For the majority of the respondents this will impact existing employees, require the attraction of new employees and will see the implementation of a blend of staffing strategies involving permanent, temporary, and outsourced solutions. How these changes are managed is critical because they are likely to have a major impact on the ability of employers to attract and retain talent.

Recruiting during a time of change

In any recruitment process the CVs and covering letters from candidates form the foundation of a shortlist and provide the first insights into the potential a new employee could offer. However, in the current climate it is vital to review candidate applications through a slightly different lens. Amid uncertainty, for both employers and job candidates, it is important to pay attention to skills and competencies, rather than career fluidity. Employers are placing more emphasis on soft skills and collaboration, while resilience and agility are ranked the most desirable traits that companies are looking for from their recruitment and teambuilding objectives.

The top talent attraction strategies that organisations are focusing on in 2021 include professional development opportunities, competitive remuneration and benefits package, dynamic company culture, company brand and reputation, and constant technology advancement. In part, employer strategies align with 86% of employees surveyed, who stated that remuneration and bonuses rank high in their top considerations when looking for job opportunities.

More than ever, the best talents are looking for organisations that will not only help them achieve their career goals, but also align with their personal values and beliefs. Even at a time of global crisis, this is still pertinent. Consequently, it is imperative for companies to develop or review their existing Employer Value Proposition (EVP). The EVP should be unique to the business and offer a true reflection of what it is like to work for the organisation. Consider what makes the company stand out, especially during a time of widespread change and ensure the EVP reflects this. This could include how the organisation is continuing to invest in training and development, delivered remotely to reflect changing work preferences and processes, or unique ways of supporting employee wellbeing. 

The pros and cons of virtual recruitment

More than a year since COVID-19 erupted, the majority of hiring managers have adapted to conducting virtual talent interviews to accommodate the shift to social distancing. While adopting a remote recruitment process was expected to be a short-term measure until the public health situation is brought under control, it has become clear that the widespread adoption of video technology will have a longerterm impact on recruitment.

For instance, to ensure business continuity, COVID-19 has forced organisations to adapt and, in some cases, make key leadership and middle management appointments without any face-to-face interviews. However, this is far from ideal, and post-COVID times may bring a strategic return to face-to-face interviews, especially when it involves hiring for management positions in the later stages of the recruitment process.

While communication platforms may never fully replace in-person interviews, the current situation has underlined their clear benefits – they are quick, efficient, and completely safe to use when social distancing measures are in place. That said, while hiring managers should be aware of video recruitment interviews’ limitations, a virtual interview should be conducted the same way as a face-toface interview. It is important to cover the fundamentals around assessing competencies and ask questions on work experience and team fit. Same as an in-person interview, hiring managers should not be afraid to incorporate an element of informal conversation to break the ice, and get to know more about a candidate’s personality.

With virtual interviews, meeting candidates via video platforms is quicker than face-to-face interviews, which means hiring managers can potentially interview more candidates from a wider pool in a shorter space of time. Virtual platforms also enable hiring managers to engage and respond to candidates in a timely manner.

Organisations and hiring managers are advised to keep in mind that 73% of the Talent Trends 2021 respondents said that frustrating experiences during virtual interviews would affect their decision to accept an offer. A great candidate experience comprises several elements, which include reducing friction and repetition in the application process; automating timeconsuming, low-touch processes; having mechanisms to communicate with candidates; and answering questions as close to real time as possible. Digital platforms also provide an ideal way for following up with candidates who are initially passed over, letting them know of other relevant opportunities. This can be particularly useful when an organisation wishes to keep certain candidates in mind for future positions.

Regardless of what is happening in the job market or the economy, while recruitment strategies clearly depend on each organisation's unique situation, a company’s competitive advantage is firmly embedded in its ability to attract and retain talent. 

Renewed Optimism for Talent Hiring
PR 11 January, 2022