Underpinningthe various discussions happening at the World Economic Forum 2018 in Davos last week / month wasthe theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” Indeed, the worldcontinues to suffer debilitating fractures on so many fronts – climate change, socialinequality and political polarisation to name a few – bringing world leadersfrom governments, major international businesses and non-profit organisations togetheronce again to find common ground and actionable steps for the world. At the panel sessionon the overarching theme, moderated by the International Monetary Fund’s ManagingDirector Christine Lagarde, one of the cracks raised for discussion was theimpact of globalisation on the workforce. Specifically, how it has resulted invast unemployment, generations of young people without hope and turning tocrime or even terrorism, marginalised workers in the informal economy … all ofwhom have now become the “modern slaves” in our global economy.
In the wordsof Sharon Burrow, General Secretary at the International Trade UnionConfederation (ITUC), “we’ve denied people, despite being three times richer inthirty years.” We live in an increasingly fractured world where change isinevitable and we need to prepare people for this new world so that they don’tfall through the cracks. The corporateworkplace, itself a microcosm of civil society and the economy, is too undergoingdisruptive change; from the way day-to-day business is run and how employeesinteract with each other, to the very thing that incentivises workforceproductivity.
While HongKong’s workforce may not be experiencing the same plight of unemployment and surgein street-side business seen in other markets across the region, the city hasits own set of ‘cracks’ to deal with. A commonperception about Hong Kong’s working professionals is that they are typicallyhighly ambitious, continuously seeking to increase their income – their maindriver. However, there’s a shift taking place, away from monetary rewards.
In Hong Kong’s already extremely fast-pacedand demanding working environment, the lines between work and private life areblurring even further as technology makes employees better connected and’always-on’ through their mobiles and other devices. And as a result, there’s anew finite commodity in demand: personal time. While anattractive salary package may have been the way to retain and motivate talentup until recently, it is no longer as high up a prospect’s list ofconsiderations. Today, even a flight – traditionally an email-free sanctuaryfor travelling executives – is no longer free of work’s daily pressures as newdemands fly in, on-the-go. Remuneration in a technological revolution: personal time According tothe 2017 Robert Half Salary Guide, many Hong Kong employees now regard work-lifebalance options as more attractive than a higher pay.
Approximately four in tenof Hong Kong workers surveyed are willing to accept less pay in exchange forflexible working hours (42 percent), or prefer the option to work from homeover a salary increase (39 percent).i Universum alsouncovered similar sentiments in its annual survey of Hong Kong graduates. Lastyear’s student poll revealed work-life balance to be the top career goal amongmore than two thirds (68 percent) of those who participated, as compared tojust over half (53 percent) four years ago.ii Flexibility inthe workplace has become increasingly important as it contributes to asatisfied, motivated, productive and loyal workforce.
These non-monetarybenefits range from additional holidays to flexible working hours and theoption to work from home; the latter becoming highly sought-after by HongKong’s working professionals. This flexibilityhas become highly imperative as well, given workplace and workforce models haveshifted and continue to shift away from the traditional ones employers arefamiliar with. Teams expect to collaborate across time and space, and companieshave begun incorporating automation and even artificial intelligence into theirworkflows to optimise this connected, yet physically disconnected, approach tobusiness. A more dynamic career ladder, negating the linear modelof old We now also havea labour market characterised by shorter-term work that is more varied, moreunpredictable and devoid of boundaries. These conditions have combined to shiftthe responsibility for managing careers from the employer towards theindividual.
? The old daysof clear career trajectories and stable employment are over. As a new setof career aspirations and demands, innovative work-enablers and wideningdiversity in employees emerge, forcing cracks through the old work system, weneed to think about how best we can manage these changes and create a new modelwhere everyone is given equal opportunities to adapt and succeed. We need tonegotiate a new social contract in the workforce, one that prioritises life-longlearning and re-training for both employee and employer. Instead ofwaiting for the next promotion, employees now expect to actively seek outopportunities to develop, renew, and enhance their skills and capabilities toadapt to the challenges posed by constant change in the wider economy. And thisis only possible with the support of governments and companies coming togetherto provide ample learning tools and platforms, and employees themselves proactivelyvoicing out their suggestions and feedback. Continuous, self-managed, learning Self-autonomouscareer management is especially important for older employees who findthemselves on the wrong end of a significant gap in skills and wages betweenthem and their younger counterparts.
The launch of the SkillsFuture movement inSingapore, a collaboration between public and private sector, reflects thisgrowing emphasis on self-driven career management, in which individuals embracethe concept of lifelong learning with a focus on the mastery of new skills andcompetencies. For this newsocial contract to achieve its purpose, both employer and employee mustrecognise what their new roles entail. For employees,managing their own growth is akin to running an enterprise, where decisionsentail investment, risk and even sacrifice in pursuit of long-term career andlife goals. An entrepreneurial mindset is vital. You need to take charge byconstantly seeking out opportunities to deepen and expand skill sets.
You needto take risks. Broader skill sets and greater choice The21st-century workplace requires workers to take on an increasing array ofresponsibilities, many of which will be unfamiliar to the current workforce in manyparts of Asia, including Hong Kong, who trained in a system focused on highly-specialisedindividuals for particular vocations. Jobreinvention is thus required. Medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, and researchscientists are taking on leadership responsibilities. Professionals need toinnovate and start new systems, practices and enterprise. Employers arenot off the hook either. They need to create an ecosystem where entrepreneurialcareer activity can thrive.
Employers can offer incentives such as upgrades in responsibilitiesand pay scale for those who learn new skills and knowledge. Employers alsoneed to be flexible to incorporate individual choice and customisation sincecareer pathways are now so varied. For example, individuals should choosebetween developing their careers in terms of growing deeper in knowledge andskills in their area of expertise, or climbing the proverbial corporate ladder,or focusing on innovation by heading new enterprises or initiatives. Employers whofail to understand that their employees increasingly want work to be a part ofwho they are (not just a way to make a living), that their biggest fear is notfinding a job that matches their personality and that they need inspiringleadership, are bound to face significant challenges when it comes to securingtheir future talent pipeline.
Mitigating the cracks through building more flexible workplacestructures Returning tothe growing preference for work-life balance over pay raises in Hong Kong, workstructures that champion individual autonomy and choice play a prominent rolein encouraging entrepreneurial career investments. For instance,personalised work arrangements negotiated between employer and employeefacilitate the customisation of work around the needs of both parties. Forexample, an employee with childcare responsibilities can schedule times to beat the office that coincide with hours when his or her children are at school. Similarly, anemployee can also telecommute on certain days of the week if travelling to theworkplace is inconvenient. A supportive social network of supervisors, peersand subordinates can help workers strike a balance between delivering onimmediate work responsibilities and future investments in one’s career.
The days ofone-sided employer-driven approaches to career management are over. PreparingHong Kong’s global workforce for the uncertain and complex challenges ahead isnow a shared responsibility between individuals and their employers. Individualshave to be more proactive, strategic and entrepreneurial in choosing where andhow they are going to invest their time and resources in the interest ofachieving career goals. Butthis new social contract, one that will ultimately create a shared future – despitethe fractured society we face today – starts from within the company.i http://www.hrinasia.com/hr-news/hong-kong-workers-are-willing-to-accept-lower-pay-in-exchange-for-more-benefits/ ii http://www.scmp.com/tech/enterprises/article/2098159/google-ey-and-civil-service-are-hong-kong-graduates-ideal-employers