HR recruiting on the up in Hong Kong

Author: Kate Whitehead | Date: 7 Jun 2016

Number of job adverts increase significantly compared to last year, despite falling GDP

HR recruitment in Hong Kong is on the up despite a less than confident market.

Advertising for HR jobs in the city state grew 48 per cent in Q1 2016 compared to Q1 2015, as organisations sought to take previously outsourced functions back in-house, according to a report by Robert Walters.

“Compared to a relatively steady job market in the first half of 2015, organisations were more active in hiring in Q1 2016 and this led to the healthy year-on-year growth of the number of job advertisements,” Matthew Bennett, Robert Walters’ managing director (Greater China) said in the report.

Hong Kong recruitment specialists agree that the job opportunities for HR professionals are strong, seeing it as part of an ongoing trend – but they also add a note of caution.

Andy Bentote, senior managing director of Michael Page and Page Personnel in Hong Kong, Southern China and Taiwan, says there are some interesting developments in the market for HR executives, but expresses surprise at the 48 per cent increase in job adverts.

Bentote sees three key causes of the increased demand for HR staff: firms that are staffing up internal teams so that they can do more direct sourcing themselves; consumer organisations taking back control of hiring for their Asia business from third parties; and new organisations setting up in Hong Kong and taking on HR professionals among their first hires.

“Those with talent development and L&D skills, [who are] able to provide coaching and development, will be most in demand. If it’s a good candidate with a good skillset there are good opportunities – but it’s not boom time,” says Bentote, adding that he sees it as part of a long-term shift in HR to make key HR professionals more involved in business analysis and true commercial partners.

But he says the upbeat outlook is laced with a few less positive factors. “Hong Kong’s GDP was just under two percent a year ago and now it’s just under one per cent. That has led to some caution in the market,” says Bentote.

Nick Lambe, group managing director at Links International, says while the market in Hong Kong and Asia has been a little challenging so far this year, the general longer-term trend for the recruitment of HR professionals is good and he expects it to continue to rise as the market becomes more mature. He sees the elevation of HR’s role within the market place as the key reason for the continued upturn, noting an increased demand for HR staff with diverse skillsets.

“More and more organisations are looking to move their HR functions away from a generalist model to one of specialists across L&D, compensations and benefits, talent acquisition, and succession planning and training,” he says.

Lambe also notes the push for the heads of HR to join the board level further underlines the critical role HR can play in the overall strategic direction of the business. And he points to the availability of big data and the scope for HR to make the most of this for retention, succession planning and organisational growth.