With COVID restrictions relaxing, are employers pushing their employees to work from office or is there now a greater commitment to keep on offering work flexibility for a better work-life balance?

This was a question that was raised to our invited speakers, Jodi Kwok from Swire Properties and Kunal Mulchandani from English Schools Foundation (ESF) during a webinar that Randstad Hong Kong hosted in July with HR professionals and hiring managers.

According to the latest Randstad Hong Kong Employer Brand Research, ‘work-life balance’ has overtaken ‘attractive salary and benefits’ as the most important employee value proposition (EVP) factor Hongkongers look for in an ideal employer.

work-life balance topped HK EVP factor
work-life balance topped HK EVP factor

Work-life balance is also the most unmet talent expectation. Even though it is ranked as the most important EVP factor by respondents in Hong Kong SAR, it ranked 8th on the list of EVPs that employers are perceived to offer. This indicates a gap between employee's expectations and the perception of the company’s ability to offer a good work-life balance.

If an organisation's employee retention strategy falls short, challenges such as reluctance to change and a deficit mindset have slowed down many companies’ efforts to improve overall work-life balance.

having a growth mindset and creating an employee-centric experience

Both Kwok and Mulchandani were aligned on how an employee-centric experience - from engaging with job seekers to understanding why their employees are leaving - can improve work-life balance across the organisation and boost the employee experience strategy.

In the presentation given by ESF’s Mulchandani, he shared that after other contributing factors like COVID-19 and family circumstances, poor work-life balance was cited as the third reason why teachers decided to leave their jobs and Hong Kong.

According to the 2022 Randstad Employer Brand Research, 53% of Hongkongers who switched jobs in 2021 said that they left because they want to have a better work-life balance.

This shows that if companies want to retain talented employees in their organisations, offering adequate work-life balance would become an indispensable part of their strategy and talent management practices.

what work-life balance mean to hongkongers
what work-life balance mean to hongkongers

1. listen and respond to your employees’ requests

No matter the size of your company, every organisation has a pull factor that attracts qualified talent. To know what that is, Kwok from Swire Properties said that it’s important to listen to what your employees want, and invest to meet those requests so that they know that the company is serious about improving their work experience.

Companies can use these surveys to identify high-impact elements to focus on and promote to employees and job seekers. These factors are identified by the English Schools Foundation as well-being, professional growth, as well as compensation and benefits.

Swire Properties conducts full-cycle employee engagement surveys every two years, with pulse surveys being pushed out intermediately to keep pace with the changing talent expectations. Rightfully proud of their results, Swire Properties’ HR team received a 100% participation rate in one of the latest employee surveys.

Kwok attributed the company’s ability to turn feedback into action has enhanced employee experience and employer-employee relationship, which has improved the firm’s talent attraction strategies. Through word-of-mouth from positive experiences, Swire Properties was able to attract more in-demand talent to join the company.

2. the shift from a deficit mindset to a growth mindset

The sheer number of changes over these past two years have caused a lot of strain and stress to employees. Leslie Tang, Head of Client Solutions at Randstad Hong Kong said that many employees are re-evaluating their career purpose and reconsidering their career options, such as the company they want to spend their time with, and that train of thought has played a big role in driving the Great Resignation phenomenon.

While some may see it as a threat, Mulchandani urged business leaders and HR professionals to turn these threats into opportunities using a growth mindset. Candidly, Mulchandani said that having no other choice with COVID lockdowns helped with shifting the mindset of a traditional industry like the education sector.

Rather than implementing initiatives in response to the healthcare crisis, which could be recalled easily once the pandemic is over, English Schools Foundation equipped their workforce with tools and useful information. These resources allow their employees to make their own decisions of how work-life balance should look like for them and the workplace they work in. By applying these tools into practice, it has shifted the deficit mindset (what can my company do for me) to a growth mindset (what has the organisation provided that I can use to be in a better place?).

3. striking a balance that benefits both the company and the employees

For Swire Properties, flexible work is a part of their company culture. The company provides flexibility to their employees to work from home and start work at different times, as long as they are able to meet their job responsibilities and work deadlines.

However, Kwok stressed that the company is not just offering these work benefits to employees to pacify their requests. It is also important that the employees value face-to-face interactions to build repertoire and collaborate with one another to establish meaningful relationships, which is essential for talent attraction and retention.

being able to influence your stakeholders and get them on the same page for positive change

One of the biggest challenges that many employees and HR professionals face is the resistance to change from business leaders.

Stakeholder buy-in is a critical, if not the most important part, of fostering a good work environment. Rather than bumping heads with company leaders who have the last say, Mulchandani advised us to approach change management in the “most non-threatening way” and lay out all the steps for the stakeholders to earn their employees’ trust and turn them into advocates for the whole company.

Bringing everyone together through clearly assigned roles and responsibilities would also demonstrate the clarity of the goal, which would help align everyone on the same page. Middle-management employees will need to receive additional training and development to develop management and leadership capabilities in a flexible workplace.

However, one thing we learned from the multiple lockdowns during COVID is that we must expect the unexpected and be agile.

Kwok encouraged everyone to forge ahead, even if the steps to getting to the goal are different from the plan. To successfully find the equilibrium of work-life balance in your industry and in your company, HR professionals and business leaders will have to be agile and adjust along the way.

integrating work-life balance into your talent recruitment strategy

One key takeaway from the webinar with Kwok and Mulchandani is that flexible work arrangement is just a very small part of achieving good work-life balance in the organisation.

In response to one of the questions asked during the webinar, Tang said that flexible work should not be implemented as a ‘band-aid’ solution since poor work-life balance has been an underlying challenge for employers that needs to be resolved.

As employers explore the different initiatives and social activities and work-life balance strategies to offer to hybrid workers, it’s important to always communicate regularly. Through consistent and regular communications, job seekers will get to know your company’s efforts in improving work-life balance, and your employees will be reminded to use these benefits to improve their employee morale and work-life balance.

offer initiative by communicating with employee regularly
offer initiative by communicating with employee regularly

In a competitive market, business leaders will need to reassess their talent attraction and talent management strategies to stay ahead. Employees and job seekers today are looking for companies and jobs that provide career development opportunities as well as allow them to work flexible hours and remotely.

Taking the right marketing initiative and engaging with your employees through various communication channels can help boost even the smallest effort that HR professionals like yourself have made to a wider audience.

New World Development’s 4.5-day work week and hybrid work options are not new, as we’ve seen similar working arrangements being implemented in London and the States. However, being one of the first in Hong Kong to introduce it generated very positive news and a wider talent pool for the company.

Most importantly, it’s a test to find out if Hongkongers can be as productive as hybrid or remote workers with shorter working hours, so that we can eliminate the perception of presenteeism once and for all.

let randstad boost your ability to attract talent

At Randstad, we connect with industry experts like Kwok from Swire Properties and Mulchandani from English Schools Foundation to share new insights into the latest talent expectations and trends. We also conduct global and local surveys regularly to keep up with the changes in the talent landscape.

No matter how small or big your organisation is, Randstad is a resource and an additional channel that your company can engage to reach a wider pool of talent.

If you’re looking to grow your workforce or looking for a replacement headcount, connect with our team of specialised recruiters and let us help you find the talent who fits right into your organisation’s culture and is capable of driving your business performance. Alternatively, if you are looking for a new career opportunity to boost your professional career, visit our latest job listings and apply for jobs. 

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