The tight talent market will drive HR strategy in the coming year.
By Simon Kent
For Lindsay Shirley, APAC chief people officer for growth specialists Wunderman Thompson, the biggest challenge for her organisation in 2022 will be finding talent. “Where we look for talent, internship programmes, and distributed working models will be a priority, given the global trend in increased churn and the recruitment challenges of 2021,” she says.
Whilst it may be refreshing for COVID not to be the first thing on HR’s lips, there is little doubt that Shirley’s priority is to some extent a knock-on effect of the pandemic. The company and her function in particular is still coming to terms with the increased churn, principally in the wake of the pandemic as employees react to what has happened. “With the competition for top talent fiercer than ever, attraction and retention packages will need to be more attractive in 2022 and beyond,” Shirley notes. “That said, the challenges in recruitment have also created indirect positive outcomes as we diversify how we attract talents and also look inwards to fast-track the develop and progression of top talent.”
These tasks may be indirectly related to the pandemic, but there’s no denying the global crisis will continue to make its presence directly felt. At press time, the Omicron variant has brought travel restrictions to South Africa, whilst across APAC, HR is still dealing with some geographies remaining in semi-lockdown. The prospect facing organisations and individuals remains: further virus waves, the challenge of working remotely, and the impact on employees’ working lives and mental health, including isolation and burnout.
“Organisations have had to focus on managing employees that are not only burnt out but also ‘bored-out’ as a result of repetitive meetings, virtual working and limited opportunity for spontaneous or creative interactions,” confirms Paul Daley, senior vice president at Cielo. “With many employees feeling disconnected and taking part in The Great Resignation, it is increasingly important that employers focus on creating a differentiated employee value proposition that still creates meaning whilst teams are working remotely.”
Daley advises that HR leaders should work with their business partners to determine the best ways of keeping employees engaged by offering variety, inspiration, and creativity. “As businesses look to attract and retain the best talent, many will also need to consider new creative compensation strategies that will measure up in this increasingly inflationary environment,” he says. “This includes developing long-term incentive plans for junior employees or introducing more flexible benefits across the workforce—something that many businesses have traditionally steered away from within Southeast Asian markets.”
New thinking will be required for people management, a challenge for HR leaders like Ruchika Pal, group head of HR for Apollo Tyres in Singapore. For Pal, the new normal and hybrid workplace still calls for fresh thinking and not just from a people perspective. COVID has driven digitalisation across the functions of many companies. As a result, Pal says finding, attracting, recruiting, and retaining skilled data scientists and AI/algorithm experts, will be key to an organisation’s success. “It will also be necessary to ensure next generation innovation and collaboration programmes,” she says, “including talent management processes of performance and learning to support resilient business models. We will need to understand how to get a multi-generational workforce to embrace agility, speed, new technologies, to adopt a culture of productivity and high performance.”
The job goes deeper than just adapting to new working patterns and technologies. Achieving success means understanding the people in the workforce and working to support them within the new structures. Only then will the required skills and competencies be learned by employees and driven throughout the organisation including leadership positions and behaviours.
Pal also highlights the impact of COVID restrictions on the ongoing ability of HR to manage its talent geographically. “Immigration restrictions have made it more challenging to find new international talent in these markets,” she says. Despite everything, however, leading into 2022 Pal remains optimistic that a declining pandemic—or at least the further assimilation of the new normal—may yet reignite the international market for talent. “Countries like Singapore and Australia have been very restrictive,” he says. “Due to COVID, there have been strict limitations on free travel, and this has also resulted in an exodus of people who have not agreed with the widespread travel restrictions. With an ongoing easing of these norms, we will see the APAC region scouting for international talent again.”