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Digital training is the future, while reskilling and upskilling remain key to develop and retain talents.

Brain drain, skill gaps, ageing population, etc. are all urging businesses to ramp up their investment in employee training and development (T&D) to equip their existing talent pool and ensure a sustainable talent pipeline, according to the latest survey published by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM).

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic had induced sluggish economic recovery, the survey found that training enjoyed a revival over the past year. More than two-thirds (68%) of the responding organisations had a budget earmarked for employee training and development. The actual spending on training against employee total annual base salaries increased from 1.3% in 2020 to 1.9% in 2021, and the training budget against employee total annual base salaries also adjusted upwards from 2.5% to 2.8% from 2020 to 2021.

Furthermore, the average annual training hours per employee in Hong Kong rose to 14.1 in 2021 from 12.9 in 2020.

The business services/professional services sector was the only sector which exceeded the average, by a margin of 1 percentage point at 2.9%. The construction/real estate property development sector took second place at 1.9%, with the other sectors lagging behind.

“As the labour market was particularly impacted by brain drain due to the exodus of expat and local talents, a remarkable chunk T&D spending went to hiring their replacements and developing them to unleash their full potential," commented Dr. Chester Tsang, Executive Council Member of the HKIHRM and Co-chairperson of the Learning and Development Committee.

"The 'Great Resignation' phenomenon is here to stay, organisations are recommended to hike up their investment in T&D to equip their existing talent pool.”

The survey has identified three key trends in employee learning and development as follows.

Reskilling and upskilling are key to talent retention and succession planning

Of the 102 organisations which provided data in 2021, almost 50% (47%) of them stated that it was very important to reskill and upskill employees. Furthermore, 44% acknowledged that it was quite important to do so.

The top three benefits of reskilling and upskilling employees were:

  1. Prepare for organisation growth (82%)
  2. Promote talent retention (65%)
  3. Reduce skills gap (55%)

"As the local talent pool shrinks from factors such as emigration and an aging population, reskilling and upskilling to enable talent retention and succession planning are at the forefront of employers’ mind,” commented Dr. Barry Ip, Vice President of the HKIHRM and Co-chairperson of the Learning and Development Committee.

Digital training is the future

The trend of organisations adopting digital learning technology continued to be particularly notable, with 94% of the 109 companies who provided data in 2021 partaking this trend. The figure far exceeded the mean of the past decade (65%), pointing towards the fact that digital training is the future.

Close to half (45%) of the companies which responded upped their spending on digital learning in 2021 compared with 2020, indicating the mass appeal of digital learning. Dr. Tsang considered that digital learning’s popularity was unwavering as work from home had become a permanent policy for many organisations across sectors.

"New trends in digital training from metaverse to boarding games will unlock new T&D strategies to heighten employees’ interest in learning,” he added.

The top three types of digital learning platforms were:

  1. Webinars/virtual classrooms (74%)
  2. Training videos (59%)
  3. Digital learning portal/e-library (48%)

However, the use of digital tools to deliver training did come with its fair share of challenges. The top three challenges were:

  1. Less interaction between trainer and staff (57%)
  2. Distractions (53%)
  3. Lack of networking interaction for participants (48%)

The pandemic gave rise to new learning contents

Of the 109 organisations which provided data in 2021, 81% acknowledged that the delivery of employee training was at least somewhat disrupted by the pandemic. Among all the responding companies, 64% introduced new learning contents in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The top three new learning contents introduced were:

  1. Health and safety during COVID-19 (64%)
  2. Supporting employees’ mental health (55%)
  3. Organising virtual class training (42%)

“The top three training areas for senior management were all in the strategic management category, reflecting that change and innovation topped organisations’ T&D agenda," said Dr. Ip.

"As the work environment was in a state of flux from factors such as the pandemic and the great resignation, how to develop company strategies in nimble response was a question the C-suite needed to answer well.”

Conducted from March to May 2022, HKIHRM's 2021 Training and Development Needs Survey covered 116 organisations across 20 business and industry sectors with 74,400 full-time employees approximately.


Image / Unsplash

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