What drives happiness in Hong Kong’s workplaces?

As organisations discover the effect a happy workforce has on productivity, Robert Half reveals the drivers behind employee happiness. Read more here.

With the longest working hours in the world , few holidays compared to most countries and rising cost of living, it can be a challenge for employers in Hong Kong to make sure that their employees are happy. A new report It’s time we all work happy™: The secrets of the happiest companies and employees, commissioned by specialised recruitment company Robert Half, reveals the drivers behind employee happiness and how businesses can nurture a positive work culture. 

According to the research, having pride in the organisation, being treated with respect and feeling appreciated are the three global key drivers of workplace happiness. 

Adam Johnston, Managing Director at Robert Half Hong Kong said: “It is clear from the research that the key ingredients essential to workplace happiness directly apply to the Hong Kong workplace. Hong Kong professionals have among the longest working weeks around the world, and companies can only benefit from having a happier workplace whilst also increasing productivity.”

The report reveals six key factors that contribute to workplace happiness – including:

1.    Right fit for the job and company: When companies hire people who fit well with their workplace culture, they acclimatise with greater ease and begin making substantive contributions quickly.
2.    A sense of empowerment: Empowering staff to make decisions on their own, or with minimal direction from superiors, improves employee happiness.
3.    Feeling appreciated: Establishing a positive working environment where employees feel appreciated for the work they do will make employees happier.
4.    Interesting and meaningful work: Gaining a sense of meaningful progress and achievement and being proud of the organisation are crucial elements for employee happiness.
5.    A sense of fairness: Being treated with fairness and respect – whether it’s about remuneration, decision-making or workplace behaviour - is one of the key drivers of workplace happiness.
6.    Positive workplace relationships: Maintaining healthy, supportive workplace relationships is an important source of happiness for employees.

“Employee happiness is pivotal to an organisation’s success as happy employees are not only more engaged and motivated, they are also more productive and innovative which in turn leads to business success. With Hong Kong companies having a global reputation for ambition and success, employee happiness is – and should be - a top business priority for companies seeking a competitive edge.”

“Hong Kong businesses should take a proactive approach towards ensuring workplace happiness by not only promoting staff empowerment and a positive company culture, but also by creating a culture of staff appreciation and fairness and respect for the entire workforce.”

“Workplace happiness starts with finding candidates who are the right fit for the role and the company. The foundations for building a happy workforce lie in sourcing the right professionals, who have a genuine interest in the job, the proper skills and temperament. This allows employees to build satisfying and fulfilling careers in the long-term while adding significant value to their organisation’s success,” concluded Adam Johnston.


About the research 
This study was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm. The study is based on the results of an online survey of 24,000 working professionals from companies across Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, UK and US with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location. Robert Half partnered with Happiness Works to conduct the research study.

  • 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.


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. >


Gabrielle Nagy 
Public Relations Manager, Asia Pacific
P: +61 2 8028 7751
E: [email protected]