Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
07 Jun 2010

Robert Walters market update: HR in Hong Kong

07 Jun 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Current recruitment trends in Hong Kong

In the beginning of 2009, many companies that already had lean teams in place continued to reduce headcounts as they had to make rapid decisions in response to economic conditions. The second quarter of the year saw a more stabilised market, with many companies taking the opportunity to restructure their HR departments in order to offer a strategic and business-oriented function. 

Driven by an increasing number of private equity and hedge funds setting up new regional offices in Hong Kong, demand for competent office managers with start-up experience increased in the second half of the year. Towards the end of 2009, there was also an increased demand for compensation & Benefits specialists, international mobility candidates as well as HR generalists with experience in financial services, legal and pharmaceutical companies.

Another notable trend was the shift of HR away from the traditional operational and administrative role to a more strategic position. This is largely due to commercial HR practitioners spending more of their time rolling out projects and improving the quality of HR services.

Time to review rewards and Benefits

The Robert Walters 2010 salary survey found that while several employers imposed recruitment freezes and redundancy programmes, a number of companies took advantage of the economic turbulence to re-evaluate their organisational structure and headcount. When organisations did make business-critical hires, they were generally very selective and sought the very best candidates in the market.

Candidates who remained employed during the global financial crisis look for recognition for their hard work, especially if they had to deal with leaner teams and an increase in responsibilities and project work. As the job market continues to improve, candidates will gradually gain interest in market activities, while looking for pay increments and better job opportunities.

HR needs to focus on talent management & retention

Awards and incentives that appeal to employees include constant development and career progression; overseas development opportunities; travel leave; job rotation opportunities as well as providing more creative Challenges and ‘freedom’ e.g. flexible working hours.

Also, organisations could acknowledge good work done through providing recognition for employees, as well as constantly communicating with staff on current work issues.

In order to roll out a suitable strategic retention plan for their organisation, HR professionals should be more conscious of current market trends as opposed to keeping themselves within the HR department. They are encouraged to attend business meetings to understand the demands of the business and provide input on talent management and retention from a HR perspective.

How can employers roll out talent management?

Talent management is a key objective for most HR professionals this year. In order to retain talent, many companies have rolled out talent management programs that include strategies such as internal training, job rotation and retention incentives (i.e. salary increments). Most importantly, the management should provide a clear indication of the employee’s career progression within the organisation.

A talent management program is not limited to simply maintaining existing talent. It also includes talent-sourcing (for good talents who are a good organisational fit); developing skill-sets for current top performers; as well as developing talent to take on senior management roles.

More mobile job market expected later this year

While salaries will remain static for the first half of 2010, candidates with strong business contacts or specialist skills will command a premium. Front office professionals who have either strong sales track records or highly specialised skills will be well-positioned in 2010 as demand for these types of professionals will be high.

As confidence continues to grow, 2010 may see an increase in the volume of roles across the market. Candidates are also expected to feel more secure about changing roles and as many professionals’ bonus expectations remain unmet, greater movement is anticipated across the market.

Top-tier candidates remain scarce and highly sought after, especially in a recovering economy. Hence, the market is expected to shift to a more candidate-driven market, and salaries are likely to increase accordingly.

Predicted hot areas of recruitment

There is likely to be an increase in contract assignments across various sectors and job functions such as accounting and commerce finance, banking and financial services, information technology, sales and marketing as well as secretarial and support. Companies will be focusing heavily on retention tools internally to ensure that they keep their best people.

Roles that will remain in demand include risk management, product experts within banking, strong sales professionals, project managers with strong business analysis skill as well as internal communications professionals. Companies will also be open to looking at overseas candidates in the hope of widening their search. As hiring increases and top talent becomes harder to find, salary levels for top achievers are anticipated to rise.

Wider opportunities for HR professionals expected

As resources are now more stretched, we see more HR professionals transiting from a supporting role to a business partner role, with the responsibility of fulfilling the full spectrum of HR duties.

Standard salaries are forecasted to increase by approximately 2 to 4% within the commerce sectors, although this will be distributed depending on performance and skill-sets. Financial services have changed their compensation structure, with a stronger focus on base salaries as a number of firms’ bonuses have been capped. Base salaries are projected to increase from 30 to 40% in the infrastructure space and up to 100% for directors in the front office.