by Nicolette Wong
With the rise of young enterprises and growing optimism in the Asian financial markets, the fight for talent will only intensify; and as the new generation of business leaders instil new thinking into their roles, companies and their senior management must also revamp their talent retention strategy. Human resources management in the region is as a result heading towards substantial changes.
The Asia Pacific markets have a definite competitive edge since they have made remarkable recovery from the financial turmoil in recent years, observes David Wong, deputy chief executive, Bank of China (Hong Kong). While the US and European markets are still recovering, there has been a move of talent from the West to the East.
"A number of young professionals are coming into mainland China and Hong Kong for new opportunities, since these markets are as globalised as the ones in the US and Europe, and we are on the upswing," Mr Wong says. "The movement has thrived in the last few years and it is expected to gain momentum as the Hong Kong market continues to grow."
Unlike the earlier generation of professionals who dedicated themselves to long-term prospects with their companies, today's young managers are creative thinkers who favour variety and mobility. They value different experiences across various departments and job functions, and are well-versed in IT. Their budding potential, however, is often matched with a relative lack of experience.
"In the financial industry, our main challenge is how to nurture these young talent with our experience and support system, while making the best use of their creative ideas," Mr Wong notes. "This calls for new thinking in our management too."
The need for innovation has led to significant changes in human resources management in the banking industry, such as increased job rotations and international assignments, and a stronger emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR), Mr Wong points out.
"Business leaders nowadays have stronger social awareness and are keen to realise their potential in this area," he contends. At BOCHK, for example, there is a platform of opportunities for voluntary work. CSR related initiatives are a force of cohesion for staff, as a positive corporate culture is essential for developing a sense of belonging.
As investment in human capital goes beyond remuneration, an effective human resources system must adhere to the needs and aspirations of budding talent. In view of fierce competition for talent in the financial industry, the initial recruitment must present attractive offers that engage the candidates' interest in working for the organisation.
A comprehensive training infrastructure is also key to talent retention. "The real question for most young professionals is whether their dreams align with the reality that the companies want to create," Mr Wong explains. "Further studies are an important asset. At BOCHK we have joint programmes with international and local universities for staff with different levels of experience. A mentoring system is also in place for them to get support from their seniors as they overcome challenges at work."
He adds that for the more popular and fast-growing job functions, remuneration should be significantly higher than the market benchmark to retain high calibre candidates. As for long-term career development, a well-structured system of internal promotion and global transfers is crucial, while room for learning and fulfilment of personal interests is another advantage.
The emergence of young leadership in the banking and finance sector calls for new channels of coordination and pressure on leadership succession. As Mr Wong explains, there is a need for closer communication between the senior management and new recruits, who take a much more proactive and adventurous attitude towards work.
"The major change is that job rotations and transitions for our young managers are often tailor-made nowadays, so that we ensure plenty of room for them to develop their strength and interests," Mr Wong elaborates. "In return, we expect it to be a give-and-take relationship. The company is an ideal platform for these young candidates to succeed in the industry, and they will in turn need to meet the market benchmark."
At an upcoming Singapore Human Capital Summit, Mr Wong will address a global audience that is interested in the development of the Asia Pacific markets. The highlights of his speech will include the change of demographic in the workforce and its implication, the needs for mobility and diversity among young leaders in the region, and how talent management models are being redefined in different Asian countries.
"The key question is: Do we have a talent management model coming out of Asia, versus the Western model? Personally I believe this is the key to nurturing the new generation of leaders," Mr Wong concludes.
A new wave
Taken from Career Times 1 October 2010, A3
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