blue suite: hong kong property market outlook and labour trends 2020.

Even though the activities in the property market are slightly muted as a result of the local unrest and global healthcare crisis, the property market in Hong Kong is reportedly quite stable compared to other industries. 

The inbound and outbound investments in the past 12 months have declined compared to 2018’s levels. However, we have observed steady growth in property and facilities management to sustain existing commercial and residential space.

More and more companies, overseas investors as well as the government, are adopting a conservative approach due to the fluctuating market prices. As a result, the number of land bidding exercises has also lowered, especially for second-hand transactions. Real estate companies are also holding off investments until they are able to make an informed and confident bid that would lead to a high ROI development. 

While there were no drastic salary cuts, some real estate or property developers have reportedly reduced salary increments. A number of professionals have also voiced concerns about their FY2020’s performance bonus, with most expecting at least a 50% bonus cut for their work this year. 

top in-demand jobs in hong kong’s property industry

Recruitment activities in the leasing and property investments space have reduced due to surplus of eligible candidates and fewer job openings. However, there are some other areas within the property market where talent is still in demand.  

With no end in sight, local property companies have stepped up on implementing new measures to prevent further local transmissions of COVID-19. For example, more property developers are investing in new technologies such as automatic temperature control and building management system software. 

Companies are looking for facilities and operations management professionals who are experienced in designing and implementing standard operating procedures and best practice protocols to help them tackle COVID-19. Firms are also looking for specialists who are able to create a one-stop solution via building management software as well as an integrated and user-friendly e-system for both residential and commercial buildings for contact tracing purposes. 

Talent who are up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies that can help drive cost and operational efficiencies are highly sought-after. Due to the limited pool of eligible candidates, companies often engage the services of a recruitment agency to identify and attract good talent.

challenges companies face when hiring in-demand talent  

Following the year-long unrest and introduction of the national security law, there is a trend of professionals looking for career opportunities in other countries, such as the UK and Australia. Some candidates have also requested to move to Mainland China to grow their portfolio. However, the impact to the size of the local workforce remains insignificant. 

Within the existing talent pool, there is a mismatch of talent and jobs, in terms of both quantity and quality. 

Employees in the property market tend to resign at the start of the year, after they have received their bonuses. Unaware of the scale of COVID-19 then, there exists a surplus of talent in construction and project management in the current market as those who have left their jobs find themselves struggling to find a new one amid the pandemic. Moreover, these professionals possess skills and industry knowledge that are relatively transferable from job to job, which makes it easy for companies to hire. 

On the other hand, facility management and leasing face greater challenges when hiring talent, largely due to a smaller qualified talent pool. 

Due to COVID-19 resulting in increasing work responsibilities, companies have a higher expectation of candidates’ skills and capabilities. Job seekers in facility management need to demonstrate good thinking and communication skills in response to the healthcare crisis. Not only must applicants have a pulse on new property technologies and trends, those who are able to manage the end-to-end process, which includes customer service and tenant management, will also be highly sought after. 

Within the leasing space, candidates who are currently employed are less likely to switch employers, especially if they are in a sales function as that would mean losing out on their FY2020 bonus altogether. Employers looking to attract such talent might have to offer a higher salary and benefits package, or a sign-on bonus, to compensate.

candidate’s salary expectations during COVID-19

With an increasing emphasis on job security among the local workforce, it is becoming more difficult for employers to attract talent if they are not already looking for new opportunities in the job market. Job seekers tend to have a strong preference for companies that have a strong financial track record and legacy in Hong Kong. These indicators help create a mental safety net for employees who seek job and income stability, which have become more critical drivers in these extraordinary times. 

There are also two types of talent in the job market that companies typically look for. 

The first group consists of candidates who are unemployed and active in the job market. Their priority is to secure a job as soon as possible, and hence have more realistic salary expectations given the current circumstances. While most of them do not ask for a salary increment with the job offer, employers should still expect to enter a salary negotiation for an increment of less than 5%. 

The latter group consists of candidates who are currently employed and have the skills, experience and network that employers are looking for. These candidates tend to have higher expectations of the remuneration package and would need a very compelling incentive to accept the job offer, resulting in a wide gap in terms of salary expectations. For instance, candidates would negotiate for up to a 20% salary increment before considering changing employers, as compared to 15% in the past.

meeting expectations on non-monetary benefits

High operational costs and a lower revenue have made it unlikely for companies to enter into a price war to secure talent these days. Another way that employers can attract and retain talent is to introduce more innovative and creative HR policies that would appeal to the local workforce, such as work-from-home allowances or full remote working benefits. 

Compared to MNCs and technology companies, traditional property developers did not react fast enough to shift their workforce from office to home in the first two COVID-19 waves. A majority of these firms do not have the policies and processes to support their employees to work from home. By the third wave, many real estate developers have designed effective contingency plans that will allow their workforce to work from home efficiently. 

Moving forward, there will be higher expectations on non-monetary benefits, especially flexible work arrangements. According to the 2020 Employer Brand Research, workers across all generations yearn for better work-life balance. Employees desire more autonomy and flexibility and companies will need to start thinking about how productivity and culture will look like in a remote workforce setting, which would undoubtedly require a mindset change. 

As a start, companies that offer flexi-work as an employee benefit would be better positioned to attract talent from the job market. Apart from flexi-work, candidates are also looking for employers that have a satisfactory response to COVID-19 and have shown to give their employees regular business updates to reassure them of their job status. 

If finding high performing leaders and talent remains a key challenge for you, contact us to find out more about our specialist talent recruitment and management services in the property sector. 

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fion yeung hong kong property engineering recruitment specialist

Fion Yeung

Senior Manager, Construction, Property & Engineering

With six years of recruitment experience within the construction and property space in Hong Kong, Fion partners with luxury property developers, REITs, private equity as well as hospitality groups to recruit experienced professionals and specialists in design management, engineering, quantity surveying to project management and construction management.