Managers losing focus on top talent amidst economic downturn anxiety

15 April 2009

HONG KONG, 16 April 2009 – As frustrations with the current economic climate continue to rise, managers in Hong Kong are swiftly losing sight of the satisfaction of their top talent, according to international recruitment firm, Robert Half.

Results from a recent Robert Half survey reveal that morale is currently very low amongst Hong Kong’s Finance & Accounting professionals.  49% of Hong Kong respondents claimed that their company does not care about its people, the highest figure amongst all 14 surveyed countries, closely followed by 44% of respondents in the UK and 42% of respondents in Singapore. 

Similarly, only 44% of Hong Kong professionals feel fairly compensated for their work, and a mere 54% believe that their views and participation are valued in the workplace.

Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Hong Kong commented: “There has been a lot of negative activity in this sector in recent months including job uncertainty and redundancies, public scrutiny, tightening up of laws and systems. It is no big surprise that professionals are feeling under appreciated right now.”

Robert Half’s survey also discovered that only 48% of Hong Kong’s finance and accounting professionals get a sense of personal accomplishment from their work, comparatively lower than the 56% of Singaporeans and 65% of UK professionals who also responded to the survey. 

Similarly only 55% of Hong Kong professionals in this sector are proud to work for their company which compares starkly to the 73% of Australians, 63% of Singaporeans and 68% of UK professionals who participated in the survey.

What can Management do about this negativity? “These survey findings may look bleak but this current economic climate provides a good opportunity to get your organisation in great shape and in particular to build trust and loyalty,” suggests Andrew Morris.

He adds: “Now is the time to nurture the talent you do have and invest in your core team. If you take care of your employees during the bad times you stand a better chance of keeping them when the market starts recovering.”

Mr. Morris also points out that “what is key for Hong Kong employers to realise is that their current employees are their greatest advertisement – if they want to overcome the talent shortage they need to ensure their employees are ambassadors for the company and are spreading positive feelings and stories about their company’s work.” 

In order to help companies to retain their leading talent, Robert Half has outlined some common mistakes managers tend to make during times of employment uncertainties:

  • Feeling people are lucky just to have a job. True, many people feel fortunate to have a stable position in this economy, but your most talented employees always have options. Good people are marketable in any economy, and you want your best people to stay with you for the long-term.
  • Assuming employees are mind readers. You’ve spent your week implementing cost cutting measures – and now your Accounts Assistant has requested a salary increase. Bad timing, but unless you communicate openly and often, your team will not know the business realities of the company.
  • Ignoring rumours. The rumour mill exists in every organisation especially when there are shut doors, cancelled meetings and people speaking in hushed tones. If your staff doesn’t hear the news from you, they will hear it from someone else, and it may not be entirely accurate.
  • Lack of showing recognition. Many senior managers would be the first to admit they could offer a bit more positive reinforcement to their teams. There is no such thing as too much praise, as long as it’s specific, genuine and timely.
  • Saving praise for last. It’s nice to thank people for a job well done, but keep in mind that encouragement along the way works wonders too, in building motivation and productivity.
  • Not standing by your employees. Managers who do not support their workers lose their trust. Stand up for your team members, particularly if they are unfairly criticised. If you are there for them, they will be there for you.
  • Failing to give star treatment. Many managers make the mistake of spending too much time and resources trying to improve the performance of average employees while ignoring their strongest talent. While skill-building is important, it is the top talent that are often responsible for your company’s greatest successes.
  • Cutting back on training. Think twice before cutting staff development budgets, since enhancing your employees’ skills can pay off in both the short and the long-term.
  • Equating busy with productive. Don’t base employee recognition on who’s working the longest hours. Instead, reward people based on the results they generate towards company objectives.
  • Making work ‘mission impossible’. Lay offs and budget cuts may mean one person will have to do the jobs of two or more people. Decide which projects are mission critical and delegate remaining tasks. Bring in temporary workers to assist your staff.
  • Waiting for an economic turnaround. If you have a good idea, don’t wait for a recovery to implement it. You’ll get a head start on the competition by making your move now.
    Sacrificing quality When people are busy, mistakes are more likely to occur. But don’t let service levels slide because your team is swamped. You’ll create a standard that will be difficult to break once workloads return to normal.
  • Making the wrong cuts. Most companies have had to reduce spending, but be careful about slashing services to your clients. If they’re used to receiving certain benefits, taking them away can be a mistake.
  • Shifting the focus from the front lines. Customer service counts all the more when times are tough. Are you doing everything possible to make sure those who are the first point of contact with your company send the right message? If these employees come across as indifferent, you could lose prospective and existing clients.
  • Tying your employees’ hands. Empower your team to make decisions that will ensure positive customer and client experiences. Provide guidance on how to resolve dilemmas most successfully, and let them know what they did well and what could have been done better.

The employment survey was developed by Robert Half, the world’s first and largest staffing services firm specialising in accounting and finance, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey included responses from some 3556 accounting and finance professionals from 14 countries including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Dubai, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. 


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