6 steps to bridge the talent gap in Asia Pacific

Around the world, a talent shortage is disrupting business continuity and restricting growth. The power is in the hands of employees right now, and organisations are learning the true cost of not having the right people in place at the right time.

In India, 89% of employers say they are struggling to fill vacancies.[1] We see major skills gaps in areas like data and full-stack engineering, analytics, machine learning and data science – and an especially troubling trend of candidates accepting offers and then withdrawing. Korn Ferry data suggests drop-out rates in Indian technology roles are as high as 55% in 2021 – compared with 7-20% in 2020.

To combat this issue, some employers are offering roles to multiple candidates – a potentially risky move. Others are dramatically reducing the hiring process or focusing on their graduate pipeline.

The talent shortage storm is brewing outside of India as well. We are seeing huge demand across Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia. In Australia, job ads were up year-on-year by 91.6% in June 2021[2] – and the cost of hiring skilled software developers, security specialists and data experts have gone up by about 30% in just 12 months.[3]

And there are further clouds gathering, with economic policy, future virus variants and inflation all potentially adding to the complexity of hiring decisions.

So how can you weather this storm – and turn turbulent conditions to your advantage?

These six principles can help you adapt and respond. Instead of thinking of this as a short-term hiring crisis, see it as an opportunity to become a destination for talent.

1. Thwart attrition first

Addressing the shortage should start from within. The cost of attrition is high – losing a loyal, trusted employee leads to lost productivity and knowledge and team disengagement, plus the time and cost involved in recruiting and training a replacement.

Across Asia, this huge demand for talent is creating new opportunities across all job-seeking categories. There is a lot of interest in employees who have proven their ability to work productively and independently from home during lockdowns, and now those employees feel more confident and certain about economic conditions as they look to move. In many cases, this period has been an opportunity to reflect on whether work aligns with individual values and goals – and many talented professionals are looking for organisations with a clear and compelling purpose and meaningful work.

To make sure your best talent doesn’t leave, take these steps:

  • Meet employee needs for health and safety, including mental wellbeing
  • Listen to your people, and show you value their experience as you reshape your employee value proposition
  • Retain flexibility in ways of working to help employees balance their whole-of-life commitments
  • Be proactive with diversity, equity and inclusion measures
  • Stay competitive – know how you stack up in terms of compensation and benefits
  • Explore career development and training as a retention tool
  • Consider retention bonuses, completion bonuses, Long-term Incentive Plan (LTIP) programs such as shares and Restricted Stock Units (RSUs).

2. Rethink the hiring process

Candidates no longer expect or want to go through multi-stage assessment processes. Especially when they have so many options on the table.

Think about how you can simplify every step. For example, we worked with a leading Australian university to reduce time-to-offer (TTO) by 35% in the first year, simply by including multiple decision-makers in a panel interview format. It led to improved consensus about new hires, and also created a better candidate experience, as it reduced the risk of reschedules and cancellations across multiple interviews.

For some roles, it may be possible to hire on the spot, or use an Open House event to get multiple candidates on board quickly. For others, where you need some candidate assessment and qualifiers, make sure this also presents an opportunity for the candidate to learn about themself.

"You think I’m going to jump through all these hoops to get a job – do you know how easy it is to walk into one right now?"
- what candidates really think

3. Boost candidate care levels

Prospective employees use the hiring experience to evaluate what it might be like to work with your organisation. What messages are you sending? This stage can make all the difference if you are having challenges converting offer accepters into first-day commencers.

As soon as a candidate accepts a job offer, start treating them like a staff member. They may feel uncertain about the transition and need extra care. Make sure you define their journey through to day one, and have a communication plan to support it.

"I walked away halfway through the process. If that’s the way they treat candidates, that’s not a good sign for how they treat employees. I got a different job within days."
- what candidates really think

4. Reach wider audiences. Reassure reluctant ones.

With more roles being performed remotely, it is possible to cast a wider recruitment net geographically. For example, Vietnam offers highly skilled tech talent for organisations outside the country that are willing to invest in the language capabilities needed. Churn is very low, making them ideal candidates for product design and development.

As well as thinking more broadly across the region, consider how you can better use employee referral programs. Or encourage past employees (such as working parents or retirees) to return with the right mix of benefits, support and flexibility. You may also be able to turn your alumni into a network of talent.

"I never felt welcome at the place I was working. My sister-in-law brought me in to her company, and I got a job there. Same salary, but at least you feel like you matter."
- what candidates really think

5. Promote a positive employer brand and benefits

It’s time to be proactive about your organisation’s reputation as an employer. If you spent some time re-shaping your employee value proposition to reduce the risk of attrition, you also need to share that message more broadly.

Make sure your employee experience is clear, genuine and will resonate with your ideal hires. This may mean updating your careers website, using social media to bring your employer brand to life and reviewing all your recruitment messages. This can also help generate word-of-mouth referrals.

6. Be ready for what’s next

Having spent the past 18 months just focusing on the operational challenges of the moment, it may feel hard to think about other ways the COVID era (as well as other global events) may impact your hiring needs. The only way through is to continue adapting – by building in agile processes and focusing on what really matters to candidates. These six principles can set you up for a range of future scenarios – by focusing on retention first, and setting up the right foundation for recruitment.

To learn more, read our global report, Navigating the volume hiring storm.

[1] It’s not just tech ⁠— there is a severe shortage of talent in these sectors, Business Insider India, September 2021

[2] SEEK Australia data, June 2021.

[3] Skills crisis pushes up tech wages by a third, John Davidson, Australian Financial Review June 29 2021