Hong Kong businesses “must encourage creativity”

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 13 Oct 2015

Rising salaries on offer for cultural and digital skillsets as city economy diversifies

Hong Kong has long been known as a financial services hub, but needs to encourage the growth of careers in the creative and cultural sectors if it is flourish, according to a government-backed discussion involving business leaders and management thinkers.
 
At the Creatives In Conversation event, prominent creative leaders said their industry offered ever-improving career prospects. In 2015, the creative sector is expected to contribute around 5 per cent to Hong Kong’s GDP, though this compares to 11 per cent in the UK, emphasising the opportunity to growth further.
 
Employers are beginning to value creative talent and show a willingness to pay higher salaries for the right skillsets, said Juliet O’Halloran, founder and CEO of Savvy Creative Recruitment, a Hong Kong and Singapore-based HR firm.
 
“Salary levels for general sectors were HK$12,778 [monthly], whereas our average for recent grads was HK$15,061 – that’s 18 per cent higher than general sectors,” she said, citing the latest JobsDB survey.
 
Growing competition for employees with good creative skills will soon push salaries up further, she believes. “People are actually starting to understand the value of very high quality design degrees and education, and they will start to pay to attract that talent because there is such a shortage of skills,” O’Halloran said.
 
The skills most frequently in demand include digital design, marketing and PR skills, branding, mobile app development, and writing and content. But candidates need more than just good qualifications or attractive portfolios, said O’Halloran – they also need the communication skills to present their portfolios to prospective employers and explain the creative thinking behind them.
 
Soft skills are key, agreed Michael Shreve, associate vice president of Savannah College of Art & Design, (SCAD), which has campuses in Hong Kong, the US and France. “Employers are looking for students with language skills, but really the cultural openness to be able to transition to different locations, to be flexible, to be understanding of doing business in different contexts where you may be the minority,” he said.
 
Shreve said SCAD’s 2014 graduates were working at companies as diverse as Hong Kong Disneyland, Mattel, Hasbro and Fox International.
 
That diversity of demand for creative roles is being seen within as well as across industries. Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation, which runs the city’s underground transport system as well as many below-ground retail outlets, is hiring people with creative skills to fill a variety of needs on both a freelance and full-time basis. Chief architect Andrew Mead said the company is trying to develop friendlier-looking stations that include locally produced artworks. That means MTR is offering more design-related jobs compared to 30 years ago, with many more to come, he predicted, as new roles follow on from technological advances.
 
“Some jobs in design didn’t exist 10 years ago,” said Mead. “We hire freelance artists and curators. There’s a whole cascade of creative jobs coming out, even in MTR, as well as in our advertising and retail businesses.”