Talking Points
Catching the Cream of the Crop

With Hong Kong engulfed in its worst crisis for decades, businesses in the city are focused on dealing with the immediate threat to their livelihoods. 

The ongoing protests have hit the whole economy hard, and some sectors are already laying off staff and even closing. 

In the past, Hong Kong always bounced back after a crisis, and we expect that once the current trouble dies down, we will return to business as usual, thanks to our many advantages as a global commercial hub.

But we also know that, besides our strong fundamentals, the city has a number of bottlenecks that are holding us back from truly fulfilling our potential. While the business community must of course address its most pressing problems, we should not ignore the other key issues.

Manpower is one of these long-running challenges. We have an extremely low unemployment rate overall, with particularly acute shortages in the service and technology sectors. So, if companies want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to make an effort. 

It was fascinating to learn at our recent CEO Manpower Conference how some businesses – ranging from start-ups to traditional firms – are successfully doing just that. 

Common themes included innovative hiring and training procedures, doing away with rigid hierarchies and bureaucracy, and empowering more junior staff to make decisions. Workers enjoy their jobs more if they have a strong sense of purpose, which in turn increases loyalty. 

Giving employees opportunities to learn new skills, for example by moving to different departments – or even overseas where available – is another option appreciated by staff. Ongoing training can also help to keep workers engaged as well as benefiting the company by improving their skills. Flexibility is another key attribute, prized by younger workers in particular. 

But while our panel speakers all had innovative ideas, the fact remains that Hong Kong’s working culture is pretty old-fashioned. Flexitime, remote working and flat structures have been commonplace overseas for decades, yet are still rare in Hong Kong. In an increasingly global business environment, it is easy to see why the brightest young talent may prefer to turn their back on the long hours and hierarchical culture of some local companies. 

You can read more about the conference in this month’s cover story. Of course, not all of our speakers’ ideas will work for every business. But we certainly found plenty of food for thought among their successful strategies on hiring staff and investing in their career development. 


Shirley Yuen