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Rethink needed to attract millennials and fill talent void in Hong Kong’s IT sector

Half of the 150 companies polled by the institute of human resource management were found to have talent shortages

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 8:46pm

Companies need to adapt to the work habits of millennials in order to fill Hong Kong’s chronic shortage of IT and fintech talent, according to the chief executive of an international recruitment agency.

Half of the 150 IT-sector companies polled by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management last year were found to have talent shortages. Meanwhile, the number of technology companies coming to the city has continued to rise, mounting pressure on those firms to fill talent gaps.

Figures from the government’s foreign direct investment department, InvestHK, showed the number of start-ups in Hong Kong increased 23.6 per cent between 2015 and 2016, with many of those firms involved in the burgeoning fintech industry.

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The number of employees in Hong Kong start-ups also jumped 41 per cent during the same period.

But Adecco Group chief executive, Alain Dehaze, said instead of searching for talent, companies should consider fostering their own through apprenticeship programmes.

“I strongly believe in the apprenticeship model because we see in a lot of countries the local education system is not providing talent that businesses need,” he said.

“So it is important that there is an alignment between what the companies need and the education system, so the education system can build the right programmes.”

Dehaze pointed to Switzerland as a model where children as young as 15 can do an apprenticeship.

He added that in the very near future, an overwhelming number of IT and fintech talent would be millennials – those born after 1980.

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“By 2020, 75 per cent of the global workforce will be millennials, so it means companies have to adapt and find ways to attract, develop and retain millennials – [who are] different from the previous generation,” he said.

One way for companies to attract the younger workforce is to be more open to contract work, he said.

Many millennials prefer to work on a project-by-project basis, which provides them with a better work-life balance and allows them to move from one interesting task to another, keeping them involved and productive.

“Thirty per cent of the workforce in the US is freelance, so we have to adapt the way we attract and manage them,” Dehaze said.

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“One way to become more attractive as an employer to millennials is to offer different kinds of contracts – not only the classical contract of indefinite duration, but also to be open to having more contractors and flexibility.”

Millennials also prefer to work in a collaborative environment instead of a classical hierarchical system, he added.

Chinese University dean of education, Dr Alvin Leung Seung-ming, said employers should consider this contract-based work preference as a strength rather than a negative.

“Because they are engaging in many projects, in many ways they are bringing a mix of experience, skills and things to their work that are transferable to a new project,” he said.

“So it could make them very productive and useful to the employer.”