To state that recruitment and retention is a challenge across APAC is hardly a revelation. The costs associated with turnover are well-known and are obviously playing on the minds of executives. In our recent survey, The Talent Forecast, a full 99% of executives reported that retention is an issue for their organisations. May Knight, Managing Director of Korn Ferry Hong Kong shared her insights and addressed topics that are keeping executives up at night at the HRO Today Forum APAC 2017, including recruiting for retention. Held in Hong Kong, the theme of the forum was “Eye on APAC: Future Trends in HR”.

As organisations look for ways to deal with employee turnover, they’re coming up against forces that are transforming the way we work more broadly. Challenges presented by new technologies including AI and robotics, the growing impact of the gig economy and the expectations of the millennial workforce converge to create a talent maelstrom.

The possibilities offered by new technologies in particular, are captivating and investing in the future is essential. Right now, however, it seems like the fundamentals of recruitment and retention aren’t in place.

When a challenge comprises so many taut strands, it requires a holistic talent response that addresses both today and tomorrow. Recruitment can no longer be about filling one role, it requires a long-term view of how that person can grow in the organisation. It means embracing all the gig economy has to offer, not only in bringing specialised talent onboard but in changing the way mobility is viewed internally. And it requires organisations to leverage technology to learn more about the employee experience.

Recruit for today and tomorrow

With the cost of replacing a manager put at 2.3 times the person’s annual salary, employee turnover is very expensive. That’s before the impact on engagement and morale is considered, not to mention the costs of delay when a new hire is brought in to lead a strategic initiative.

This pain is felt most acutely when recruiting for leadership positions. A recent survey reported that 79% of APAC HR decision-makers find it difficult to fill leadership positions, with consequent negative impacts seen in key areas including engagement, innovation and turnover. With more opportunities available for candidates, organisations often struggle to not only find a candidate with good cultural fit, but also with the level of experience necessary to take on a leadership role.

In this environment, recruiting for retention has huge implications for an organisation’s success, not just in the short-term but also into the long-term. It means from the moment a new hire joins the company, they need to be nurtured for their next role, and the role after that.

To do this effectively, we’re helping leaders distil what’s important for the future growth of their organisations, both in terms of key roles and skills needed to propel success, and then translating this future view into a clear strategy on developing or recruiting these capabilities. Critically, leaders need to fully involve their employees in this future vision, challenging and engaging them as individuals to grow with the business.

Turning the gig economy to your advantage

The growing impact of the gig economy complicates these challenges further. For organisations looking to bring in specialist skills for specific initiatives, the gig economy can offer a lot of opportunities. But organisations also need to think about how to engage contingent workers beyond a contract’s end date or risk losing important skills and know-how.

Much of the discussion of the gig economy focuses on the characteristics of the individual ‘giggers’. They value flexibility more than stability, look for specialised experiences and they’re better networked than ever before, so they know what’s coming up in the market and are ready to go when the next opportunity calls.

We’re working with clients to build and implement holistic talent roadmaps, to enable them to start using the ideas of the gig economy to engage contingent and traditional workers alike  in the future of the business. This may mean looking at different opportunities on offer, including on project teams or in different areas of the business to offer those specialised experiences internally and introducing greater flexibility to satisfy the changing priorities of an increasingly millennial workforce.

None of this can be achieved without constantly talking to the workforce. In the absence of ongoing two-way conversations, individuals won’t necessarily see how their personal goals can be met internally and organisations risk being left in the lurch.

Invest in technology that sustains retention

From chatbots to machine learning, people analytics is an exploding area. There’s IBM’s Watson Career Coach, a virtual assistant which IBM claims will help align business goals with employees’ career goals, making recommendations for existing job opportunities and advising on how to navigate future career moves. While advances in machine learning are helping establish predictive models for employee turnover.

Investing in and, more importantly, making effective use of new technologies is an essential link in creating an integrated talent approach that’s agile enough to embrace the gig economy. It can help start (if not finish) the conversations that need to happen to help individuals chart their own flexible future. When used correctly, predictive analytics can help identify the hotspots within organisations that need targeted attention to avoid losing critical skills and talent.

These technologies can also be confronting for talent professionals, but they shouldn’t be seen as usurping talent’s role. When used properly, technology should enable a more integrated talent approach that is positioned to create the internal gig experience. Just as the workforce is changing, the role of talent professionals needs to change too.

In summary, the pieces in the modern talent puzzle are many and varied. But only through fitting them together to create a distinct and holistic approach to talent will organisations realise their future, sustainable workforce.

Speak to our experts

About the contributor

May Knight is the President of Korn Ferry’s advisory business in Asia Pacific. She has almost 30 years of experience in operational and consulting roles in Asia and Europe. Her expertise encompasses deploying business and operating strategies and structures, developing business models and delivery blueprints, re-structuring organisations & developing leadership teams and establishing compensation structures to support the realisation of business strategies.

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