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Key trends in Asia-Pacific’s talent market according to Korn Ferry

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Companies that are willing to be proactive in hiring can seize significant opportunities

Analysts are characterizing the current talent market in Asia-Pacific countries as unpredictable. With unemployment rates reaching pre-pandemic lows, a surge in job openings, and global organizations expanding their presence in the APAC region, HR leaders are faced with the challenge of talent scarcity, prompting them to reconsider their recruitment and retention strategies. However, amidst this unpredictability, there is an opportunity for companies that approach their decisions and actions with intentionality.

During a recent CHRO Round Table in Singapore, Korn Ferry reflected on the evolving nature of talent searches in light of the tight talent market and the potential global economic downturn. The key takeaway from the discussion was that while the market may be unpredictable, companies that are willing to be proactive can seize significant opportunities. Here are some trends for companies to consider when hiring new talent:

  1. Supply and Demand Mismatch: There is currently a significant gap between the number of job openings and the number of applicants in the market. For instance, in Japan, companies receive an average of only two applicants per role, leaving millions of positions unfilled. While bidding wars and counteroffers will persist, monetary incentives alone may not be sufficient. A recent survey revealed that 64% of APAC workers consider having a “fulfilling job” to be extremely or very important.
  2. Boomerang Employees: As a consequence of the global economic downturn, a new trend is emerging where professionals who previously left their jobs as part of the “Big Quit” are reconsidering their abrupt departures. Former employers have the potential to benefit from the return of these boomerang employees who not only hit the ground running but also bring valuable new ideas from their recent experiences.
  3. Dispersed Operating Models: As employees seek greater control over their work location, some organizations are exploring dispersed operating models across different bases in the region. For instance, a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company offered senior leaders the option to work from Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Singapore, while finance staff could work out of hubs in Malaysia and Thailand. This approach not only helps secure talent but also mitigates operational and customer base risks, particularly in China, which has been slower to recover from pandemic restrictions compared to other countries in the region.
  4. Rejection of Hustle Culture: Professionals are pushing back against the demanding expectations of “hustle culture.” Some individuals are embracing the global trend of “quiet quitting,” where they limit themselves to doing only the bare minimum required by their job. In China, for instance, Gen Z workers are rejecting the exhausting 9-9-6 schedule in favor of less-demanding positions in regulated public sectors or state-owned enterprises, a phenomenon referred to as “lying flat” or “tang ping.” Additionally, employees are increasingly rejecting the notion of “desk-time” or “face time” culture and expect greater autonomy over when, where, and how they work.
  5. Prioritizing Employee Well-being: The pandemic highlighted concerns about employee well-being and burnout. As teams return to in-person work, not all promises of better work-life balance are being realized. Companies that continue to prioritize employee wellness offerings, such as mental health benefits or paid sabbaticals, will gain a competitive advantage in the talent market. Similarly, organizations that offer remote or hybrid work options and flexibility in schedules and locations will be viewed as preferred employers by top professionals.
  6. Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: Diverse and inclusive teams have been proven to make better decisions 87% of the time and are 75% faster at bringing products to market. However, some organizations in APAC have been slow to prioritize inclusion policies, despite the region being home to a rich diversity of people.

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