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Employers ramp up staff retention in Q3
Rick Gangwani
update on Saturday, July 23, 2011
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Keeping top performers on board will likely be a key imperative among employers this quarter.

In a recent survey of 550 human resources (HR) managers, 44 per cent of respondents said that talent retention would be a major area of focus for them in the three months that commenced on July 1.

The figure was notably higher than those from neighbouring regions such as Australia, Singapore and China, where strong retention focus remained in the 31 per cent to 41 per cent range.

According to Dan Chavasse, regional director for Michael Page - the agency that conducted the survey - the emphasis on existing staff is largely a product of tougher immigration policy and changing attitudes among HR executives.

"Hong Kong is a mature market now. Having seen how hard it is to find good staff in good times, hiring managers will be better equipped to retain," Chavasse says.

"Also, it's getting much harder to obtain work permits. Over the last 12 months, the Immigration Department has, for whatever reason, tightened up. In Singapore, if I lose somebody,

I could just hire another one. That's no longer the case here," he says.

As such, employers will likely be increasingly focused on retention in the coming months.

Much of this focus, Chavasse notes, will be targeted towards "high-potentials" - key performers who are fluent in Mandarin, English and Cantonese. The desire for language skills in particular, he says, applies to all employees, irrespective of industry.

As for tactics, the bulk of respondents - 70 per cent - plan to entice commitment among staff by way of performance-based rewards or training and development initiatives.

The former, notes Chavasse, is largely designed to help protect against economic uncertainty.

"If we have another downturn, performance-based rewards won't apply. But if you increase someone's base salary, you're stuck with it," he says.

Training and development, meanwhile, is widely regarded as a welcome gesture these days. "The workforce is listening," he says. "If you tried that approach 10 years ago, many would have asked `what's in it for me,' or `what's the dollar value of that'.

"People seem to be much more savvy now. I may not be getting a pay-rise, they say, but I'm getting new experience - experience that's transferable, adds to my CV, and makes me more valuable if and when I do move." 

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