Career development key to retaining young talent

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 13 Jul 2016

Companies are adapting to meet the requirements of young professionals, delegates at Hong Kong conference are told

Opportunities for career development, flexible hours and the chance to contribute to the creative process are all key to attracting and retaining young talent in Asia, delegates at the recent Classified Post HR Conference heard.
Held in Hong Kong, the event saw HR professionals from three leading companies – Telstra, Baxter Healthcare and KMPG –share their thoughts, tactics and experience of attracting young professionals.
Other factors cited as key included a good work-life balance, and the chance to work at companies whose branding matched the employee’s core values.
Rebecca Lucas, general manager, HR mergers and acquisitions at Telstra, explained that in tech industries, young people want to be allowed to express their ideas and get involved in the production process.
Telstra set up innovation hubs where employees can talk about their new ideas. Some of these make their way to board level, and, if approved, they can be developed and funded by the company, and the employee will have access to engineers to take the idea forward. It’s a great attraction tool, added Lucas.
The company’s branding is also very important, she said, with different aspects resonating with employees depending on the country they are located in. Telstra’s main appeal for young people in Hong Kong is that it’s an Australian company, said Lucas: this is because of the potential to move abroad and the familiarity of many Hong Kongers with Australia because of time spent studying at Australian universities or schools.
Echoing these sentiments, Susie Quirk, partner and head of people and change advisory at KPMG in Hong Kong and China, said the opportunity for career development was an important consideration for young talent in the region.
“In China and Hong Kong, the number one reason an employee leaves or stays is pay, but the number two reason is career development,” she said. She advocates that companies offer a clearly signposted career path that employees can access, including data on the date of their next bonus, remaining holiday days, their training portfolio and potential career progression.
“That’s what they want,” said Quirk. “They’ve grown up with the technology – they want it at their fingertips.” Based on the company’s understanding of young people’s preferences and their desire for ‘anywhere, anytime’ experiences, KPMG developed a mobile game to deliver training, and was rewarded with a 94 per cent take-up within a week.
Meanwhile Baxter Healthcare has devised a workplace environment where advanced coaching takes the place of traditional management.
Kitty Zhao, human resources director for Greater China, said young people in China are typically only-children, who have benefitted from more opportunities than their predecessors, but don’t always adapt well to a workplace where they are continually told what to do.
The coaching is provided by senior people and involves asking inspiring questions, rather than providing answers, so that “the solution is owned by the coachee,” said Zhao.
The relative sophistication of Chinese millennials compared with previous generations has also caused a rethink in the way the company considers incentives, she said. Baxter previously set up an overseas assignment programme with a two-year commitment, but just one employee opted to take up the opportunity. Others balked at staying for two years and many had already been abroad, so it was not as attractive a proposition as it would have been 10 years ago, said Zhao.