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Current Trends in Human Resources Across the Asia Pacific for Quarter 2 of 2011

As we progress into quarter two in 2011, it is worth taking a look at some of the latest HR trends around the Asia Pacific region. Here is a brief description, from The Chapman Consulting Group’s point of view, of what is going on.

  1. Australian HR talent has become progressively more expensive on the APAC stage, thanks to the high Aussie dollar. To some extent this is eroding the competitiveness of Australia talent to land jobs in the regional headquarter settings like Singapore and Hong Kong, especially if they want to maintain the Australian dollar value of their regional salary.
  2. Indian HR talent continues to be highly attractive to move into regional positions in Singapore, Hong Kong and even China, due to their willingness to be mobile. Also the fact that a number of Indian HR practitioners are now holding regional roles from India means that they are gaining some of the requisite regional experience from their home market before reaching out for overseas opportunities.
  3. The HR job market in Singapore and Hong Kong remains buoyant, but perhaps not as strong as the same time in 2010. This is partly due to the banking sector having ‘calmed down’ from last year, when it surged after the end of the financial crisis. In 2010 the banking sector saw astronomic growth in the HR space, particularly in the hiring of practitioners in learning, OD, staffing and compensation/benefits. The hot skill-sets now are change management and OD, regional HR leadership abilities (generally with past Asian experience) and still Talent Acquisition (particularly those with in-house experience). We are seeing a similar demand for talent in the non-financial services sectors too.
  4. There is high interest in the Asia Pacific job market from HR talent sitting in the UK, Germany, France, Holland and Switzerland in particular. The delayed recovery of various European markets is leading to HR talent in these markets to look to Asia Pacific as the ‘bright-spot’ to develop their careers. We are seeing greater interest from both early-career and later-career HR talent, all willing to move to Asia Pacific on local terms. Those in mid-career HR jobs, often with families, are still finding the high living costs in the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong prohibitive to make the move.
  5. The China HR market continues to surge, and we are involved in more senior HR searches in China than ever before. The demand is very much for individuals who can ‘think locally’ but ‘act globally’. More multinationals are building on the trend of putting regional (and in same cases global) headquarter functions in China, and this is leading to a stronger demand/need for regionally experienced HR practitioners. This demand is being partly fed by local talent but has also opened the door for other Asian talent (predominantly from Singapore and Hong Kong) to relocate to the market.
  6. The Japanese HR scene is seeing more activity in 2011 than in 2010. The market in general remains sluggish, but there is a continued thirst for internationally-minded Japanese who can balance local domestic issues with an ability to report out well regionally and globally. The movement in the market is therefore coming from the desire from regionall HR Leaders to bring in Japan HR Leaders who can act more cohesively with the rest of the region. The banking sector in Japan, in particular, has seen renewed life in 2010 and 2011, with many HR movements between banks at the middle and senior levels.
  7. The Indonesian and Vietnamese HR job markets have surged, particularly at the HR leadership level. Continued high growth in both markets is leading to the regional headquarters often requiring a stronger leader or stronger team to cope with the growth. Out of the two, Vietnam used to be the ‘hot spot’ for ASEAN HR Leaders, but nowadays we are hearing much more noise in Indonesia, as the upward trend in living conditions create greater opportunities for multinationals. Both markets are still, however, facing headaches in sourcing this talent, as demand for this high potential domestic talent is definitely out-stripping supply.
  8. The contracting HR market is dramatically growing in Hong Kong and Singapore, particularly in the banking sector. Short-term contracts are still not necessarily proving appealing to the local population, who prefer the stability of a long-term job. However, foreign talent arriving in the market, particularly those from Australia and the UK – both markets which have many contractors – is snapping up the vast majority of these contracts. The most commonly demanded skill-sets for contracts have been in change management, OD, compensation and staffing. We are still not, however, seeing the growth of a large “interim management” HR contract market.
  9. We are seeing regional headquarters being dispersed around the region, with the vast majority of regional positions still sitting in Singapore, Hong Kong and increasingly China. However, we are also seeing regional roles being moved to India, sometimes Australia and even Indonesia. Where the regional roles are being dispersed out of traditional headquarter settings to another country, often this talent is wearing a double hat. So for example, the India Country Head may also double as Regional Talent Head.
  10. Large Centres of Excellence are becoming more common-place across Asia Pacific. Companies are reducing the number of ‘HR Manager’ roles and increasing the effectiveness of ‘HR business partner’ roles by backing them up with more support in HR operations, compensation, staffing, employee relations and organisational development. This is leading to greater complexity in the matrix of country, regional and global reporting lines. While these trends are not new in the more mature HR markets in the Asia Pacific region, it is placing a large stretch on the capability of HR talent in developing markets to “think outside of their country”.​


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