From the MD: What are the Emerging People Trends for ASEAN and Australia?

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The year has progressed quickly and we are at the tail-end of the first quarter. Recently, I wrote a piece on my LI based on a podcast conversation with Fundamento’s CEO Ankit Durga in February. One of the questions was: “What is an emerging trend that I have observed since the beginning of 2023?

At the start and end of each year, there is typically a rush of commentaries and content that is focused on the predictions and trends for the upcoming year. Combing across the platforms, from Harvard Business Review, to Josh Bersin’s Predictions for the Year, Forbes, Gartner, HROnline, McKinsey etc, there are a ton of predictions on what the global trends in the People and Talent space look like. I put together this non-exhaustive list that I have read from across the commentaries:
  • Optimising Hybrid Workforce: Impact on workplace culture, employees experience and teamwork, collaboration & how leaders lead and manage  
  • Quiet Hiring, as opposed to Quiet Quitting
  • Employee Well-Being
  • Employee Productivity, in light of rising costs, recession labor shortage and hybrid work 
  • Labour Shortage – especially in developed economies in 2023 
  • Year of the Line Manager 
  • Engaging a Multifaceted (Diverse, Aging, Scarce) Workforce  
  • Focus on skills-building – what’s needed for the now and the future 
  • Tackling Recession with a People First approach 
  • Employee Resilience; Organizational Resilience 

The regions in which Great Place To Work® ASEAN and ANZ operate in are diverse, with varying stages of maturity in people practices and a societal view of the workplace culture. The HR and talent struggles will be nuanced across the markets. There are two key markets where I see how focus will be different: the developed economies (e.g. Singapore, Australia) vis-à-vis the developing markets (e.g. Indonesia, Vietnam).  

For Developed Markets:

1) Employee Well-Being
In a Great Place To Work® poll with our LinkedIn community across the ASEAN and Australia/New Zealand markets, Employee Well-Being came out as their top people priority for the year. Well-being took the global spotlight during the pandemic for many understandable reasons. There was a rush then by companies to take care of their people’s well-being – more off days, access to mental health programs and resources, financial resources and care-kits etc. We are now past the days of the pandemic, but other sources of stress (inflation, recession, uncertainties, war etc) have continued to emerge. I believe a greater impact comes from addressing well-being at a more fundamental level in areas such as toxic workplace behaviors, increasing workload, maximising productivity, and ways of working in the workplace.
2) Hybrid Work Arrangements

The conversation is still ongoing for this topic. How do we optimise this arrangement and get both leaders and employees to agree on an optimal work arrangement? When management has decided on what optimum looks like, how do we build a strong workplace culture and a sense of belonging for teams who work remotely? What is the style of leadership leaders can adopt and how will people management change? What is the most efficient way of working as people remain dispersed at any one point in time. These are questions for which companies are still working out as they look to attract and retain talent using hybrid work arrangements while meeting business needs.

3) Productivity & Reskilling/Upskilling

The developed economies are seeing the size of their local workforce shrinking. Importing talent is a politically sensitive topic for many countries. It is so for Singapore. The question is always, how do we get more done out of less? The global push towards digitalization to enhance productivity also meant the need for existing workforce to skill up and reskill. The rate of change is intense. Technological tools are evolving and the demands on employees to learn, to skill up, to streamline and innovate on top of existing business needs can prove to be immense.

For Developing Markets:

1) Developing and Upskilling talent

While developing economies like Vietnam and Indonesia have a large supply of labor given the relative youth and size of their domestic population, the challenge lies in skilling up the workforce. The race is in making sure the workforce has the right skill-set to meet the talent needs of businesses in these fast-growing economies, especially in digital skillsets. 

2) Engaging a millennial workforce.

Along with a large and young workforce comes the need for leaders to be effective in engaging a millennial workforce. The challenges that companies in developed markets face in engaging younger employees is not unique to these countries. Young people in these developing markets have similar aspirations, and may have a set of motivations that are different from their parents. The speed and effectiveness in which businesses are able to lead and inspire their young workforce will be a key differentiator from their competitors.

What is the Common Focus? Look at your Workplace Culture and Employer Branding

Regardless of the markets that we all operate in, one phenomenon is clear. Companies in general are facing a shortage of skilled labor. There are two priorities that companies will need to pay attention to – that of culture building and employer branding. The need to attract and retain good talent remains.  This necessitates companies to do two things: 

– Build up a strong and positive workplace culture
– Be intentional about building a positive and strong employer brand to attract talent.

Employer branding must be anchored on what is real. If employer branding programs are just window dressing efforts, this will do more harm to the reputation of the company in the long run. We have been speaking and meeting with clients in-person in Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and Vietnam and will continue to do so over the next couple of months. Watch this space for exciting updates and events in each of our regions as we continue to empower leaders and organizations to build great workplaces for all.

Yours for greatness,

Evelyn Kwek

P.S. Discover the companies winning on workplace culture and company pride when we announce the inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List 2023. Join us for the announcement on 30 March 2023 at 12PM SGT.

Evelyn Kwek

Evelyn is the Managing Director for Great Place to Work®️ in ASEAN and ANZ. Heading the expansion of Great Place to Work®️ offices in ASEAN, Evelyn is convinced that just as the region is growing exponentially on the economic front, the work of building great workplaces FOR ALL™ must go in tandem with economic growth.

A proud mother of 3, Evelyn takes parenting very seriously – she is strict yet giving, result-focused yet generous. Together with husband Roland, they relish exploring new cultures and beautiful places of the world, usually on leisurely self-drive holidays, before the days of Covid.

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