Asian businesses struggling to be agile

Two in three businesses in the Asia-Pacific are not quick enough to redesign the workforce to meet urgent business needs, according a new report.
By: | September 24, 2018


Two in three businesses in the Asia-Pacific are not quick enough to redesign the workforce to meet urgent business needs, according a new report from KellyOCG.

The report, titled Agility + Ability – to enable business growth, involved a survey of more than 200 C-suite executives from leading organisations in the Asia-Pacific region

 “From KellyOCG’s experience in working with organisations throughout APAC, a key limiting factor for agility in workforces is a lack of understanding of the talent strategies required to enable agility, together with empowerment of HR leaders to step up to a more strategic role and drive change with the C-suites,” said Peter Hamilton, KellyOCG Asia-Pacific’s vice president and regional director.

“With automation, changing workers’ motivations and contingent workers becoming norms in the workplace – no longer can HR stay in the back seat. C-suites who prioritise talent strategies, and empower talent leaders as co-drivers at the steering wheel, can drive stronger business growth,” he added.

Further, there are four key points underpinning the need for agility: increasing automation across the board, rapidly changing workers’ preferences, a growing contingent workforce, and expectations of HR to be more strategic.


Automation will help humans achieve more

Almost nine in 10 C-suite leaders in Asia-Pacific agree that they automate work processes to increase employees’ efficiency and productivity, rather than to replace workers.

Additionally, 40% of C-suite leaders indicated that they expect to automate a mix of low- and high-skill positions. By using machines to support their workforce in becoming better and faster, humans can then focus on what they do best: exercise empathy, creativity, leadership, critical and analytical thinking and more.


Workers’ preferences are rapidly changing

The current workforce is the most multi-generational ever, from Gen Z to the baby boomers all in one workplace. C-suites also recognise that workers increasingly want to work on their own terms.

Despite this understanding, only two in five companies in Asia-Pacific have clear recruitment, engagement and retention programmes tailored to each segment of the multi-generational workforce.

“As automation gathers pace, reskilling, retraining and redeploying employees to perform more analytical and higher-value jobs must take place in early stages of adoption of new technology,” said Peter Hamilton, KellyOCG Asia-Pacific’s vice president and regional director.

“Additionally, companies must implement tailored programmes that address psychographic factors and design policies which consider the life-stage of each segment of the workforce. ”


The contingent workforce is continuing to grow

One in four C-suite leaders in Asia-Pacific reported that contingent workers made up more than 30% of their overall workforce, a 13% increase from last year.

Contingent workers, otherwise widely known as free agents or gig workers, consist of freelancers, independent contractors, micropreneurs, small-business owners and temporary or contract workers.

The report also found that the average tenures of permanent workers are getting shorter with half of an organisation’s workforce staying for fewer than three years.

As the tenures of contingent and permanent workers continue to equalise, organisations must stay focused on finding the best talent despite their preferred work arrangement – and employ talent strategies to attract, integrate and retain them.

Yet, only four in 10 C-suite leaders surveyed said that they provided less benefits and compensation to contingent workers, and provided an onboarding process that was similar to permanent workers.


HR needs to lead the change through effective business partnership

With so many external changes taking place, progressive companies are adopting a shift in mindset to how they approach the talent challenges of today. The HR function is extremely important in supporting C-suites in navigating these challenges.

The study found that while HR departments are capable of hiring key roles within a short time frame, more can be done to provide strategic insights – only 31% of C-suite leaders in the region believe that their HR function is capable of providing strategic workforce insights, a decrease from last year’s 37%.

With higher expectations on HR departments, they need to look beyond traditional HR training and development and become strategic business partners, over and above their operational responsibilities.

Through internal or external partnerships and collaborations, HR needs to reorganise or outsource their administrative tasks in order to focus on gathering insights to shape talent strategies to enable agile workforces.

“Increasing automation and changing workers’ preferences have led to a rise in the gig economy, even among high-skilled workers. It is inevitable that companies will have to tap into this valuable pool of resources to find the best talent available and not be limited by their mode of engagement – contingent or permanent,” said Hamilton.

With these transformative changes to workforces across Asia-Pacific, HR has a unique opportunity to rethink their role and be a key partner in driving stronger business growth,” he concluded.