Hong Kong and Singapore leading the way for attracting and retaining top talent

Author: Kate Whitehead | Date: 7 Dec 2016

Both score highly in World Talent Report – but some of its neighbours have work to do

Hong Kong and Singapore both ranked among the top 15 nations in the latest World Talent Report, published by the Institute for Management Development (IMD), which rates countries’ ability to develop talented individuals, and their attractiveness to globally mobile employees.
The report noted that the two countries benefit from being highly internationally minded environments, hosting the regional headquarters for many multinationals, as well as boasting low tax rates that attract overseas talent.
Malaysia also performs well in the talent survey, ranking 19th, though that represents a significant fall on 2015 . But other southeast Asian countries scored poorly: further down the list were Japan (30), Thailand (37), South Korea (38), China (43) and Indonesia (44).
The overall ranking is based on three factors: investment and development, appeal, and readiness.
“Many Asian countries might be amazing attractors of foreign talent, but they don’t invest enough in nurturing local talent,” said Professor Arturo Bris, director of the IMD’s World Competitiveness Centre.
Adrian Ole, director for human capital consulting at Deloitte Southeast Asia, said Singapore is particularly successful in developing partnerships between government and education systems, with a focus on leadership capability.
But he noted that Singapore’s investment and development ranking slipped this year, and speculated that if the city-state continued to fall back on investment it could see its numbers fall further.
“The investment Singapore has put in place during the past is why it ranks so high in the talent pool, but it has slipped in investment. By not being as focused on investment as it used to be, it may slip further,” said Ole.
Similarly, Malaysia has seen its overall ranking fall from fifth in 2014 to 19th this year as its focus on investment and development has been reduced.
“Malaysia has lost its significant standing in just a couple of years because it has slipped in its investment and development of leadership skills. I expect to see them coming back and looking at that again and following the lead of Singapore, where we see strong partnerships between government and education,” said Ole.
Anthony Thompson, regional managing director, Greater China, SE Asia and India at Michael Page, said he expects to see more countries bridging the gap.
“Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines - all these markets are making significant ground in terms of attraction and development of talent,” said Thompson.
Andy Bentote, senior managing director at Michael Page, is focused on the China market. He noted that it was difficult for talent to keep pace with the rate of growth, but said he believed the talent base was becoming better educated and more experienced.
“China is making progress - it’s a huge ship to turn, but it is getting there. I think China will continue to make good progress and expect that in five years’ time it will be ranked much higher in this survey,” said Bentote, adding that China is investing heavily in education.
Another key issue is political or economic instability that is impacting a number of countries in Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
In July, Thailand launched a new economic model - Thailand 4.0 - that focuses on technological innovation and digital development. Ole applauded the move, saying it is crucial to prepare the workforce for a new digital future.
“For Thailand to be successful, it needs to look at how and where these skillsets are coming from, and for education systems to be ready to develop them,” he added.