Trawl for talents: What do young talents want?

November 09, 2022 09:15
Photo: HKFYG

As Hong Kong continues to “trawl for talents”, several noteworthy employment trends among the youth shall not be overlooked. Understanding the needs of the market with humility and empathy would be most tactful to begin with – mere propagation of slogans and hubris would not be the most effective medicine.

According to Census, Millennials and Gen Z are slowly making up a larger proportion of Hong Kong population with nearly 10% of those who aged 20-29 in mid-2022. Across the world, Millennials and Gen Z have the reputation of showing more concerns over the state of the world they live in and being value driven. It is also common to find themselves aligning to ‘woke values’ – being aware or well informed with regards to issues surrounding marginalised communities. Commonly used to describe someone who has “woken up” to issues of social injustices, the younger generations are more aware of their employers’ corporate responsibilities or more recently their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards, that range from carbon net-zero and employee health and safety to workplace diversity and good corporate governance. And ultimately, they are more inclined to strive for stakeholder economy that includes having positive impacts not just to the local communities but our wider global village, but also less of shareholder economy, as championed by celebrated free-market zeitgeist Milton Friedman, where “businesses shall only answer to shareholders” – that could most aptly be summarised as to maximise profits and returns for shareholders at all costs. Beyond seeing a company merely pursuing profits, more Millennials and Gen Z are hoping to see their companies tackling some of the pressing issues of the world such as climate change and health inequity while helping their employees thrive comfortably.

Besides having purposeful social missions, Millennials and Gen Z tend to place more emphasis on striking work-life balances. They tend to prefer flexible working hours to a 9-6 work schedule and a fixed work location. This allows them more time to further their own interests outside, take care of their mental health while ‘get things done” within the pre-agreed deadlines. More and more global tech companies have been allowing their employees to work in a different country than their primary offices – this gives them more flexibility while retains talents within their global network. Particularly accelerated under the pandemic, “Work From Home (WFH)” policy becomes almost universal – and more Gen Z are becoming digital nomads, or referred as “anywhere workers”, embracing a location-independent but technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to work while travelling and venturing remotely. A few countries are introducing various visa options to lure foreign workers for extended stays – 46 countries have been offering visas for digital nomads. For instances, Brazil is granting temporary visas and residence permits for those working for foreign employers for one year and more. Indonesia announced a new visa protocol that would be effective for five years to retain foreign talents. Hong Kong shall get ahead to leverage its location in Asia to attract a diversifying class of talents especially when Hong Kong implements its post-Covid exit strategy gradually.

In addition, companies shall allow and even encourage employees to pursue their outside passions, even as their alternative sources of income. Millennials and Gen Z are multifaceted generations which many of them have their side-gigs as alternative sources of income. As demonstrated in the increasing number of Instagram (IG) shops and the increasing number of young digital business owners – their business and digital skills (mostly) could be in use and appreciated. Employees shall be allowed to undertake other paid work outside of their formal employments, as long as the formal work commitments are not jeopardised. Though conflict of interests maybe an issue to be attentive to, the nature of their formal work shall not restrict employees to other work opportunities. According to research published by Academy of Management, it suggests that people who have a “side gig,” or another occupation performed along full-time main job, perform better at their main job. This happens because a sense of empowerment and positive emotion are cultivated – permitting such flexibility could potentially reduce the chance of quiet quitting, while ensuring the needs of employees are looked after which may in turn enhance productivity and the sense of belonging, and ultimately higher job satisfaction. Notwithstanding the high living cost in Hong Kong and the skyrocketing property prices, employers should not limit its employees to take up outside paid work, not just for them to pay their bills, but to recognise their passions outside their formal jobs.

Rather than having employees performing certain mundane routine work, companies shall cultivate a strong learning and mentorship culture within their organisations. With ageing population becoming a prevalent phenomenon, Millennials and Gen Z would probably be “working” for much longer as they would be “younger” for longer – reskilling and upskilling are keys for the incoming generations to stay ahead. Learning and development culture would be crucial to transform and upskill the future workforce, with Millennials and Gen Z be at the forefront. Companies shall support the learning culture behaviourally and financially throughout the organisational hierarchy.

Once again, trawling for talents would need more than financial incentives. Heed to the market needs not against them.

-- Contact us at [email protected]



The writer is an independent researcher and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers initiative.