Adding to their challenges, all employers are open to hiring remote talent but many are simply not ready. India, Malaysia, and Thailand are most "open and equipped", followed by Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. South Korea, on the other hand, is "open, but not equipped".

Across industries in 12 markets in Asia Pacific (Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam), 85% of respondents—who were surveyed in recruitment service Persolkelly's Workforce of the Future 2021—face challenges in building their workforce.

The main issues comprise:

  • Restrictions on global mobility, which is caused by restricted travel both across and within borders;
  • Lack of talent, which is intensified by restrictions on global mobility;
  • High attrition among workers with specific skills, either due to skills mismatch or to fatigue and disconnection caused the pandemic, and
  • Hiring and salary costs, which is increased due to a combination of global mobility restrictions, lack of supply of suitably skilled local talent, and high attrition rate. "This results in companies having to offer higher salaries for new Talent, and increase the compensation for existing talent to keep them from leaving," the report explained.

When it comes to building the workforce in general, Malaysia, along with Taiwan, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Indonesia, are markets that "face the least challenge in hiring locally". Meanwhile, Singapore is a market that faces "lack of talents locally".

Further, it was revealed in the report that:

  • The most in-demand skills in APAC are in technology (50%), sales/business development (48%), and digital marketing/eCommerce (37%).
  • Approximately half of the respondents in APAC are receptive to hybrid work arrangements.

The era of digitisation is a reason cited in the report, that led to the market for skilled digital talent being highly competitive. The respondents believed to successfully compete today, they had to quickly embark on digital transformation journeys. This could be in the form of developing smart inventory management systems and other processes based on the Internet of Things.

"Companies we spoke to recognise that to drive future success, they have to invest heavily in data science and AI," a commentary added in the report.

That said, other in-demand skills are in finance/accounting (29%) and supply chain (26%).

Looking at markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, technology comes as the top in-demand skills followed by sales/business development, and digital marketing/eCommerce. While Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are markets that rank sales/business development as most in-demand skill.

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Work routines

With regard to work arrangements amidst the pandemic, it was shared in the report that conventional work routines have shifted as companies implement work-from-home (WFH) arrangements "to ensure the health and safety of their staff".

Respondents (48%) also stated that they are open to hybrid work arrangements because they "recognise that a flexible model featuring a mixture of home and office work is more likely to help retain and attract talent." However, some respondents still find it challenging to adapt to hybrid work models as they are unsure "how to track and monitor the performance of their team members".

In specific, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and India are top markets that "lean more towards WFH than working-from-office." Markets like China, Vietnam, and Thailand, however, "exceptionally" prefer work-from-office arrangements.

Separately, across markets surveyed, all respondents are open to hiring remote talent—because it can help resolve lack of talent locally—but not all are equipped. India, Malaysia, and Thailand are those that are most "open and equipped", followed by Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. South Korea, on the other hand, is one market that is "open, but not equipped".

On that note, some common challenges the respondents face in adopting remote work are: performance management; time zone differences; language & cultural barriers, and lack of office to support operations.

Other findings

Primary considerations for workforce strategy (top three)

  • Malaysia
    • Equipping employees with skills for future responsibilities (62%);
    • Cost of employment (59%), and
    • Availability of talents (57%)

  • Singapore
    • Retention of talents (61%);
    • Equipping employees with skills for future responsibilities (53%), and
    • Availability of talents (53%)

  • Hong Kong
    • Retention of talents (62%);
    • Availability of talents (55%), and
    • Cost of employment (50%)

  • Thailand
    • Availability of talents (63%);
    • Retention of talents (61%), and
    • Equipping employees with skills for future responsibilities (56%)

  • Indonesia
    • Equipping employees with skills for future responsibilities (75%);
    • Increasing employee engagement (58%), and
    • Availability of talents (53%)

  • India
    • Equipping employees with skills for future responsibilities (64%);
    • Availability of talents (62%), and
    • Increasing employee engagement (54%)

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