Hong Kong companies face growing competition for talent from foreign markets

Financial services companies are facing competition from foreign markets in their efforts to recruit amidst the skills shortage. Read more here.

Businesses say skills shortage is stifling productivity and revenue

  • 75% of Hong Kong CFOs face increasing competition from foreign markets when attracting skilled professionals due to the current skills shortage, a figure that rises to 79% in large companies [1]
  • 71% are sourcing up to 10% of their workforce from foreign markets
  • 20% anticipate they will recruit overseas talent from the United States and Canada 
  • 75% say the skills shortage is having a negative impact on their company’s departmental workloads, 69% cite negative impacts on their company’s revenue and productivity

Hong Kong’s banks and financial services companies are facing increasing competition from foreign markets in their efforts to recruit professionals amidst the current skills shortage. According to an independent survey from specialist recruiter Robert Half, three in four (75 per cent) Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are experiencing increased competition from overseas markets when trying to attract skilled candidates.  

In terms of the scope of demand for skilled professionals sourced from overseas, more than two thirds (71 per cent) of CFOs say they intend to source up to 10 per cent of their workforce from foreign markets, with one in five (20 per cent) anticipating they will be recruiting the most overseas talent from the United States and Canada. 

Adam Johnston, Managing Director at Robert Half Hong Kong said: “High calibre financial services professionals are increasingly embracing global career opportunities. As a consequence, companies are under pressure to compete with foreign markets in order to attract and retain the best talent.”

“Demand is especially strong for professionals with niche skills, particularly in compliance, security and risk management. The resulting skills shortage has further highlighted that Hong Kong are competing on a regional and even international scale to attract suitably skilled and qualified professionals, and recruitment methods should be adapted accordingly.”

The skills shortage is also having an impact on business operations. Three in four (75 per cent) CFOs say the shortage is impacting their company’s departmental workloads, while 69 per cent respectively say it is impacting productivity and revenue. 

“Companies can adopt a number of strategies to offset the impact of a skills shortage to attract and hold onto top performing employees. Already, a growing number of local businesses are offering attractive remuneration and expatriate packages to persuade financial services candidates domiciled offshore to make the move to Hong Kong.”

“Adopting flexible staffing arrangements such as hiring interim mangers with the necessary skills and experience to manage immediate projects is another cost-effective and highly productive option for Hong Kong businesses to navigate a talent shortfall. A longer term solution is to invest in the training and professional development of existing staff, which often delivered the additional benefit of improving staff retention,” Adam Johnston concluded. 

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[1] Company Size Definitions 

Number of staff in the respondent's business

Small 50-249 staff
Medium 250-499 staff
Large 500+

About the research
The annual study is developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm, surveying 100 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) and finance directors in Hong Kong. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.

  • 99% of Hong Kong CFOs have hired an employee that did not meet expectations, primarily because of underqualified candidates (48%), a mismatch of skills (39%) and candidates found to be lying on their CVs (28%).
  • 41% had to let the employee at hand go, while 33% respectively re-started the recruitment process and partnered with a staffing agency to secure a replacement.
  • Employers cite increased workload for colleagues (53%), increased stress on colleagues and managers (39%), and higher recruitment costs (33%) as the biggest consequences of a bad hire.

New independent research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half shows the majority (99%) of Hong Kong CFOs have hired an employee that did not meet expectations, and more than one in three (37%) took just two weeks to discover that they have hired the wrong person.

According to the study of 150 CFOs, 37% typically realise within a fortnight that a new hire is not meeting expectations. The most common reasons given were underqualified candidates (48%), a mismatch of skills (39%) and candidates found to be lying on their CVs (28%).

What to do with a bad hire?

When asked what steps they took to address the poor hiring decision(s), 41% of CFOs say they terminated the employee contract, whilst 33% respectively re-started the recruitment process from scratch and partnered with a staffing agency to secure a replacement. Close to one-third (31%) of finance employers decided to deal with the matter internally by looking for an internal vacancy the candidate would be better suited for and 30% developed a training program to develop the employee’s skills to the desired level. Still less than one in four (23%) adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach to see if the employee’s performance would improve.

The cost of a bad hire

Hiring the wrong person for the job can significantly impact the organisation. The top three consequences of a bad hire according to finance employers are increased workload for colleagues (53%), increased stress on colleagues and managers (39%) and higher recruitment costs (33%). Other cited negative consequences include increased workloads for managers (27%), lost productivity (26%) and low staff morale (23%).

Bad hires can be highly costly for companies, though many Hong Kong companies struggle with accurately calculating the cost of hiring the wrong person. While 11% say they don’t track these costs, almost half (47%) fail to compile all the data in a single overview. Almost three in 10 (29%) say some costs are not accurately measurable and 9% admit they have not looked at doing it. Merely 3% say they do not find it challenging.

Adam Johnston, Managing Director of Robert Half Hong Kong said: “Businesses go to great lengths to find the right candidate, but the cost of not hiring an adequate employee can be significant. Whether organisations decide to terminate their employment or invest in additional training, it will impact the company financially and can cause significant disruption and stress to the existing workforce, indicating the importance of getting it right.”

“While some factors, such as cultural fit, attitude, or even the credibility of candidates’ qualification or experience, can be challenging to account for in an interview; an experienced interviewer and a rigorous hiring process can prevent a wrong hire to take place, such as by asking the right questions, thoroughly testing skills and meticulous reference checking. Employers would benefit from reviewing their hiring policies to ensure they strike the right balance between efficiency and rigour,” concluded Adam Johnston.

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About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in December 2017 by an independent research firm, surveying 150 CFOs in Hong Kong. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace. >

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