The rising times of a tougher workforce in 2016

The rising times of a tougher workforce in 2016

Times have been tough in the recent past, and they have got a lot tougher for the workforce of the future. What do these changing times with evolving business dynamics and rapid advancements in technology, demand from the Gen next?

It's not just the employees who are made to grapple with these situations influencing economies, also employers and HR professionals from different industry verticals are posed with a major question on how to retain key talent within an organisation; attract passive talent for perfect cultural fit; and keep employees engaged to combat the current global skill shortage experienced by companies globally.

Talent Mismatch and Global Skills Shortage

The ability to match jobs with the right talent is a major challenge for recruiting managers, wherein many times, the skills of job seekers do not meet the employer needs. This presents a roadblock to innovation for global majors. Since the nature of work and digital revolution has brought about a change in workings, automation of processes require current workforce to be abreast of the trends.

Businesses are in need of people with a combination of skillsets and most of these can only be gained by relevant experience, in-depth study, and knowledge to challenge the conventional approaches and carve new pathways of excellence.

HR is undergoing a shift as businesses in less mature markets are soon realising the cost of high staff turnover and implementing measures to improve employee engagement and talent retention strategies.

If Singapore is at the mature end of the spectrum and Indonesia at the developing end (though developing very quickly), Malaysia sits somewhere in the middle.

According to Asia Business Outlook Survey 2016 findings by The Economist, "Asia's fastest-growing economies are also the most volatile with staff turnover. Some 54.3 per cent cited India and 49.4 per cent cited China as markets where they expect annual turnover rates of between 11 per cent and 35 per cent, with large proportions of these groups (about 50 per cent for India and 40 per cent for China) seeing turnover within the range of 11-25 per cent. Australia and New Zealand and South-east Asia ranked as the next most frequently mentioned economic areas for employee turnover."

The more mature economies of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand fare well for employers in search of workforces with a tendency to stay put.

Furthermore, a recent World Bank survey shows that, "83.5 per cent of the workforce in Thailand is unskilled. This puts Thailand's skilled workforce at the lowest proportion among other ASEAN countries, followed by Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. The bank blames this on the Thai education system, which has resulted in the country's lack of competitiveness."

New approaches to building talent pool

While employers are rethinking on their talent acquisition strategies, applying sophisticated predictive analytics to help decipher employee data and determine future availability of skills across different locations, and understand industry talent demands.

Active engagement with academia to offer campus recruitment and groom the students of today with skills needed for the workforce of tomorrow can help bridge the talent-skill mismatch gap globally.

Tay Hong Beng, Head of Tax at KPMG in Singapore told CFO Innovation, "There needs to be a Singapore-centric talent pool, not only just having technical skills but also having the ability to innovate, lead and manage in the face of a weaker economy."

Creating shared talent pool in collaboration with competitors could also help meet workforce challenges.

Lim Zhi Rong, Regional HR Business Lead, Asia Pacific Region at Mondelez International suggests in his article on LinkedIn, "Companies need to proactively work with MOM to ensure the company builds a strong local core and consider locals fairly right at the start during talent identification stage. It is more than just posting jobs on the National Jobs Bank. It is a shift in mindset HR Leaders need to cultivate with their hiring managers and colleagues."

The Balancing Act

Employees today seek for benefits beyond salary to include - work-life balance, flexi hours, favourable leave policies, and so much more. Hence, employers are required to step up their efforts to meet employee expectations on job, considering the overall global talent crisis and economies in a state of hiring flux.

Even the best run companies, almost one in ten can expect to lose 16-20 per cent of their workforce next year, and a further 5 per cent believe that the figures could be increasing to 21-30 per cent. The truth most organisations need to measure up is to weigh the talent right, for their contributions to company's growth, which is not just money in itself.

This does not mean salary, benefits and perks do not offer a solid Employee Value Proposition (EVP) for candidates to choose to stay with an employer, but there is more to what money in itself could offer. One among the HR challenges is to provide employees with a mission and sense of purpose in lives, to effectively articulate strategies in sync with individual professional goals and personal upliftment.

Tough or Toxic: Workplace of the Future

Volatile economy, talent crisis, unhealthy work-life balance for employees, dearth of skilled talent, long gruelling work hours - all indicate that workplace is not just tough to thrive but a toxic culture for employees to inhabit and adapt.

Employers today have an insatiable appetite to carve a niche, notch above the competition - hence privileges such as refreshments at work, entertainment zones and play stations serve no good for employees who are made to thrive in pressurised conditions.

Data analytics has made it a lot tougher for the workforces to slay around or have some unproductive hours at work, as finally the outcomes are questioned and delivery delays are penalised.

Do you think employees can thrive in such toxic workplaces, wherein they feel personally threatened in a way with series of sleepless nights and long working days with absolute disregard for work-life balance, such as to impact employee's emotional and physical well-being over the longer run?

Wharton adjunct management professor Gregory P. Shea, adjunct senior fellow at Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics says, "It can be psychological, it can be emotional, it can be physical. Obviously in extreme cases it would be hitting, but it could also be people who feel physically intruded upon, who feel there is no safe place to go."

Talking about toxic environment at work, relationship with peers and colleagues cannot be ignored - suppose you have a demeaning boss who is working on ways to sabotage your career, workplace harassment and bullying by co-workers, sense of disrespect being felt at work as if people are gunning for you, doesn't allow an employee to perform at their best, and this in turn impacts productivity.

HR managers need to maintain a close check on the workplace culture to ensure each employee feels valued and respected for their contributions, and obvious culprits are shown the doors too early.

So if you think you are caught in a toxic workplace culture, here are some tips that could help you navigate or find an exit route:

· Certainly when you see signs of intolerance, stand up for yourself.

· Approach the human resource department - document carefully and report about the conditions at work, confront the abuser who bullies you (it can be your boss or colleague with third party intervention of the human resources manager).

· Stay mentally alert and aware that you can be fired, backstabbed, physically attacked, set up, your character could be assassinated and people may commit slander against you. Always use the whistle blower laws to protect yourself.

· Explore and understand your personal triggers as to what makes you calm, angry, nervous, anxious or excited and get to understand the roots of conflicts in case with team members to derive at a solution through clear communication, while carefully managing your emotions on job.

· If any or all of these suggestions do not work, then its time you think wise and call it quits. Look for a better job opportunity with sound workplace environment and culture that promotes growth.

Embracing Change

HR managers need to use a multi-pronged approach to address the problem of talent crisis and concerns of a tougher workforce with robotic evolution signalling new era of HR workings.

Change is the only constant. Harnessing technology and use of big data tools can help companies' source quality talent to win this global war for talent at its peak. Also social media-savvy approaches could be opted as a talent acquisition strategy. With these ongoing efforts, what do you think will be the future of HR in 2020?

The author is Business Director at TBC HR Consulting (S) Pte Ltd (Linkedin). He is a serial entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in the HR/Recruitment space. He currently has several HR tech projects, including a successful boutique recruitment business based in Singapore. Ben is also involved in many community initiatives in the local startup ecosystem - one such project is Startup Jobs Asia which aim to be the voice for startup hiring within Asia.

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