Unpredictable. That’s one word analysts are using to describe the current talent market in Asia-Pacific countries. With unemployment rates dipping to pre-pandemic lows, job openings surging and global organizations expanding their APAC presence, talent scarcity is pushing HR leaders to rethink their recruitment and retention strategies. But unpredictable doesn’t have to mean out of control.

At a recent CHRO Round Table in Singapore, we at Korn Ferry reflected on how talent searches are evolving from the dual pressures of a tight talent market and potential global economic downturn. The biggest takeaway is that the market may be unpredictable, but for companies willing to be more intentional about their decisions and actions, there is huge opportunity. Here’s are some trends for companies to consider when hiring new talent.

1 Boomerang employees can offer a path forward

A supply and demand mismatch means there are far more job openings than applicants. In Japan, for example, companies average just two applicants for every role and millions of jobs remain unfilled. Bidding wars and counteroffers will continue, but money alone may not be enough. A recent survey found that having a “fulfilling job” is “extremely or very important” for 64% of APAC workers.

At the same time, thanks to the global economic downtown, we’re seeing a new trend: some professionals who left their job as part of the “Big Quit” are rethinking their abrupt departures— and their former employers stand to gain from these boomerang employees. When these former employees return, they not only hit the ground running but also bring valuable new ideas from their recent experiences.

2 Organizations with location flexibility stand to gain highly skilled talent

As employees seek greater control over where they work, some organizations are exploring dispersed operating models at bases throughout the region. For example, one FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) company offered senior leaders the option to work from Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore, while finance staff could work out of hubs in Malaysia and Thailand.

In addition to shoring up talent, a more dispersed operating model also helps organizations de-risk operations and customer bases in China, which has been slower to emerge from pandemic restrictions than other countries in the region. Apple is moving roughly five percent of its iPhone 14 production to India. Other manufacturers are expanding operations in Vietnam as an alternative to China. Companies that think expansively about location opportunities will be more attractive employers.

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3 Professionals are exchanging “hustle culture” for greater work-life balance

Professionals are pushing back against “hustle culture,” with some even embracing the global trend of “quiet quitting,” doing only the bare minimum their job requires. In China, for example, Gen Z is rejecting the exhausting demands of a 9-9-6 schedule — working 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week — in favor of less-demanding positions at regulated public sector or state-owned enterprise work. Here, quiet quitting is called “lying flat” or “tang ping,” a phrase that evokes dropping out of the proverbial rat race in favor of better work-life balance.

This trend is also seen in the rejection of “desk-time” or “face time” culture, where employees feel pressure to be seen at their desks — whether or not they actually need to be there in order to work. Remote and hybrid work helped illuminate the false assumption that time in the office equates with productivity, and top talent now expects greater autonomy over when, where and how they work.

Across the region, the pandemic elevated concerns around employee well-being and the dangers of burnout. As more teams return to in-person work, however, not all promises for better work-life balance are coming to fruition. Companies that continue to make wellness offerings part of their employee benefit packages, like mental health benefits or paid sabbaticals, stand to gain a recruitment advantage in a competitive talent market. The same goes for companies that offer remote or hybrid work. Benefits like schedule and location flexibility will position these organizations as employers of choice for top professionals.

4 Inclusion can unlock better team performance and build a future talent pipeline

Diverse and inclusive teams make better decisions 87% of the time and are 75% faster at bringing products to market, yet some APAC organizations have been slow to prioritize inclusion policies. That’s a huge miss, especially in a region home to a rich array of people, cultures and ethnicities.

Diverse hiring is a proactive approach to recruiting the best candidates regardless of age, race, gender or ability. It also includes infusing inclusivity into the everyday employee experience and investing in meaningful engagement with a diverse talent pool. Doing so will not only enhance current teams but also build a pipeline for future talent–– a move that can’t come at a better time.

Ready to embrace new talent acquisition opportunities in 2023? Contact us here to start the conversation.