Studies show that Southeast Asia is hardly ready to elevate its business strategy for future growth with an acute scarcity of quality workers plaguing the region.
Poised to become the fourth largest global economy by 2050, ASEAN countries are hoping to address this talent gap the best way possible.
The shortage of a skilled workforce, especially leadership talent, has stymied the tech scene in the ASEAN countries—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
What’s scary is that employers report the highest global talent shortage since 2007 according to a 2016 Manpower Group survey; close to 50 percent of Asian employers (46%) report hiring difficulties, particularly for IT roles, which are second on the list of the hardest skills to find.
Top priorities of talent management in Southeast Asian countries, according to Talented Southeast Asia, are
- Developing the capabilities of existing talent
- Attracting quality candidates
- Retaining key talent
- Building the leadership pipeline
- Increasing performance and productivity
Talent challenges preventing Southeast Asia from capitalizing on growth
Although the emerging Southeast Asian region shows an increasing demand for a highly skilled labor force, a lack of supply is creating unique challenges.
For example, a survey shows that 40 percent of Hong Kong’s mobile app development companies have been forced to look externally for the right IT people (designers, programmers, engineers) to make up for the serious dearth of manpower.
The rate of change—both technological and economic— is exponential, widening the gap between the labor market and education.
In Indonesia, a glaring mismatch between what is taught in institutions and what the industries require explains the large and persistent skills gap. In this country of 250 million people, only 10 percent of the total employment is highly skilled.
Main reasons why Asian employers are struggling are the following:
- Few or no suitable applicants
- Lack of technical competencies
- Dearth of experience
- Inadequate soft skills
- Increase in salary expectations and benefits (a given in a competitive market)
- Poaching of employees with specialized skill sets (believe it)
- Employee perception of brands (huge factor in attracting talent)
- Unsatisfactory selection process integrity
- Lack of “glocalization”
- Slow, inefficient recruitment process (over 4 weeks)
- Poor candidate engagement
- Ignoring the immense potential of analytics (e.g. predictive analytics for better targeting)
- Lack of innovative staffing models (e.g. joint ventures, freelancers)
- Labor-, cost-, and time-intensive hiring approaches (e.g. manual screening)
Of the 10 Southeast Asian countries included in the WEF’s Human Capital Index Report 2017, Singapore topped the list, and the next countries in the top five in the region included Malaysia, Thailand, The Philippines, and Brunei.
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Automation can help this culturally and linguistically complex region build a pipeline of tech talent
“The art in talent sourcing has been removed by social media tools. Now the real art is in talent selection, be that internally or externally.”– Rhys Hughes, Director, Talent Selection Asia, Adobe.
Southeast Asia needs highly educated employees who come with a more global mindset. To offer abilities that are relevant, the youthful workforce ( a large part of the workforce is made up of GenY) must possess the right skills or upskill themselves to sustain growth.
In countries such as Singapore, 88 percent of the senior management expects to turn to contingent workers with specialized skills to ensure business continuity.
Finding enough candidates who can do justice to a tech role and fit in with the organizational culture is something of a major struggle for the HR.
On top of that, when HR take too long with the hiring process, the candidates reject the “now stale” offers.
Automation is a great solution to survive in this age of digital disruption. Randstad Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia managing director Michael Smith said,
“Automation helps improve efficiency in many ways along the recruitment process for a value-added experience.
However, we need to be both flexible and balanced in the way we engage with the candidates to meet their expectations for a more personal experience. When it comes to human resources, personalization is the key to success.”
Innovative automation can improve complex problem-solving skills, digital know-how, management capability, creativity, and entrepreneurship.
Apart from saving HR personnel time and money, automation gets rid of external service providers for sourcing while streamlining the entire process for more accurate sourcing and screening.
Technology can take care of repetitive tasks and leave time for the recruiting managers, who are now relationship builders, to focus on personalizing the candidate experience.
As Glenn Dittrich, Director Smarter Workforce, IBM Asia Pacific, said: “Automated HR tools have built-in capabilities to think faster; that leaves HR to focus on more meaningful things like getting the candidates onboard.”
Southeast Asian organizations need to use talent mapping, data analytics, SEO tools, and AI capabilities to win the talent war. Also, governments and organizations should invest in enhancing the skills of the workforce through better education and labor policies to deal with globalization and tech advancement.
For more specific insights on how to tackle talent scarcity, listen to our on-demand webinar “Talent Shortage in Southeast Asia: Understanding Challenges”