Employee burnout in Hong Kong

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Yet only one in four executives and HR leaders in Hong Kong view employee exhaustion as a threat to transformation or as a driver for attrition.

New data from Mercer's The Rise of the Relatable Organisation shows a huge 95% of employees in Hong Kong admit to feeling at risk of burnout this year, the highest among markets across Asia. The reasons for the collective fatigue? Two in five (40%) complain about having to deal mostly with unfair treatment relative to their peers (40%), while one in three (35%) say they are not being rewarded fairly for the proportionate amount of work done.

Yet only one in four executives and HR leaders in Hong Kong view employee exhaustion as a threat to transformation or as a driver for attrition, even though nearly all (95%) organisations surveyed in Hong Kong are planning significant transformation this year.

Another deal breaker causing stress to employees in Hong Kong is the inability to work remotely or work hybrid permanently, as cited by eight in 10 employees. Even so, although one in three employees in Hong Kong say they are willing to forgo pay increases in return for flexible work schedules, this is less of a priority when compared to higher quality medical coverage and additional wellbeing benefits for themselves and their families.

On the looming threat of attrition, the data was mixed - despite 93% of employees in Hong Kong feeling satisfied in their current role, nearly two in five still plan to leave in the next six to 12 months.

Commenting on the results, Yan Jiejun, Mercer’s Head of Talent and Employee Experience, Career Consulting, Hong Kong, said: Companies in Hong Kong are still more traditional compared to their peers globally in favouring compensation and benefits as their employee value proposition. A shortage of talent has put pressure on companies to pay a premium for new hires and caused internal pay equity to become even more disconnected from external market dynamics.

"Although employees are drawn to new, flexible work models as a result of the pandemic, they are fundamentally still driven by rewards and it is encouraging to see employers taking active steps such as moving to skills-based pay, to ensure their compensation packages remain fair and competitive."

Building skills for employability

Per the data cited by Mercer, organisations globally invested more than US$2,800 per learner in reskilling last year, up from US$1,400 in 2020. However, it is unclear if the investment is paying off. All of the companies in Hong Kong surveyed in the study reported significant skill gaps in their organisation, even though nearly all (98%) employees in Hong Kong reported recently learning a new skill.

While providing opportunities to reskill and upskill is top of the people agenda of organisations in Hong Kong in 2022, barriers remain.

Lack of time aside (35%), one in four employees said they are not sure which skills to focus on as well as where to go to learn a new skill for work. HR leaders, too, have their reservations. They find it difficult to keep up with the pace of change and emerging skill needs (38%) and are concerned that upskilled talent will leave the firm (32%).

The good news is HR leaders in Hong Kong are also looking to build skills internally rather than acquiring talent, a significant shift from pre-pandemic. They are seeing the greatest impact from targeted learning investments (36%), rewarding skill acquisition and experiential learning through internal rotations (both 35%).

Yan added, "As employers continue to figure out which skills are most needed to drive business growth, what is equally important is offering more opportunities to facilitate experiential learning and rewarding the effort when employees pick up new skills so that it also encourages them to do better in their work."

Vicki Fan, CEO, Hong Kong, Mercer, chimed in: "With HR teams predicting lower energy reserves from their employees this year, employers need to carefully reconsider ways of working, employee wellbeing and upskilling efforts to balance the needs of both the business and the workforce."

For this report, Mercer considered insights from nearly 11,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders and employees globally, of which about 700 respondents were based in Hong Kong.


Photo / Shutterstock

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