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Hiring in South East Asia: Guide and Trends in 2024

South East Asia hiring market to be driven by digitalisation, sustainability and ESG in 2024

After an extended period of widespread spending, the South East Asia job market in 2023 was marked by inflation and a slowdown in consumer demand.

Even though some consumers have resumed in-store retail experiences after the pandemic, overall spend fell as consumers cut back on spending. Many marketplace platforms and goods companies also saw a drop in e-commerce transactions.

“With the economic landscape being so uncertain, many companies were conservative when it came to hiring, leading to prolonged recruitment processes and slower decision making,” reveals Kimberlyn Lu, CEO at Robert Walters South East Asia.

After peaking in 2021 and 2022, tech salaries have normalised over the last year, with marked adjustment in hiring volumes. Layoffs across the industry also led to a large supply of available talent on the market.

Read on to find out more about Kimberlyn’s expectations for South East Asia’s labour market in 2024.

Flexibility, digital skills and contract hires to prevail

Moving into 2024, some labour market trends from the year prior will be here to stay.

Even though pay and benefits remain important factors, employees will continue to evaluate job offers more holistically, with Kimberlyn observing that candidates will seek out companies with a purpose, cultures and values that align with their own.

The demand for flexible work arrangements will also persist, even amidst a larger movement calling for more employees to return to the office. Often, candidates still make remote or flexible work the deciding factor between considering a new opportunity or rejecting it outright.

Employers will also value employees with digital skills, even for positions unrelated to tech. “The prevailing belief is that most job functions will intersect with technology and automation, so it is vital for employees pick up or be equipped with the right digital skillsets,” Kimberlyn states.

The demand for contract talent will continue in the year ahead as it offers companies the flexibility to adjust headcounts based on market conditions.

Integrating ESG into the hiring process

Companies are now strategically incorporating their environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, values and purpose into the hiring process as they recognise the importance of these factors to prospective hires.

“In the year ahead, there will be a more concerted effort to ensure hiring processes account for diversity and inclusivity. Employees will also have the room to be more vocal about pointing out practices that they feel are not up to scratch,” says Kimberlyn. “Job descriptions will also be crafted with increased scrutiny to ensure fairness and inclusivity.”

Key hiring trends for 2024

ESG, digitalisation, automation and sustainability will remain key focus areas for the hiring market in 2024.

From financial services to consumer and industrial, the demand for professionals with ESG experience will continue to grow across many industries. Based on Kimberlyn’s observations, this demand will also be spread across different functional verticals. Talents in HR, manufacturing, finance, legal and compliance, and other functions will be expected to develop and hone their understanding and application of ESG principles.

The growth of AI and machine learning will continue along with the larger trend of digitalisation and automation. There will also be a continued emphasis on cybersecurity to safeguard these digital platforms. Demand for talent with experience in these areas will thus remain robust.

With more consumers looking for sustainable options, Kimberlyn expects that industries focusing on renewable energy, electric vehicles and sustainable manufacturing and supply chain will experience positive growth.

Advice for talent attraction and retention

Across South East Asia, candidate motivations remain consistent to previous years, though candidates now have more points of consideration.

“A competitive salary and benefits package remains the baseline for all candidates sizing up new job opportunities. Beyond that, they now also place a lot of weight on whether the job offers flexible and remote work arrangements. They are also after benefits that extend beyond themselves to cover their family members, or other flexible healthcare and insurance benefits that cater to specific needs that are important to them,” notes Kimberlyn.

To recruit the best talent, Kimberlyn says that companies should ensure recruitment processes are transparent and efficient. Hiring teams should connect with candidates frequently on the next steps, be clear and honest about the opportunities and challenges in a given role, and tell a compelling story around the company’s values and purpose.

Ideally, interviews should be capped at two to three rounds, as lengthy, repetitive processes often create the impression that the organisation is unclear or indecisive about their search.

Kimberlyn also recommends offering competitive and holistic salary and benefits packages from the outset to attract quality talent.

When it comes to talent retention, transparent and consistent communications are also vital. Companies will do well to engage their talent in ongoing “stay” conversations instead of touching base during appraisals only. These conversations are a space for employees to share their career motivations, areas for growth, and career development opportunities.

“Priorities shift with time, so never assume an employee’s motivations are static,” says Kimberlyn. “Having these honest discussions helps companies become more attuned with their staff, boosting the chances of retaining top talent.”

Find out more

Request access to our 2024 Salary Survey to benchmark salaries and to find out more about key hiring trends in South East Asia.

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Kimberlyn  Lu

Kimberlyn Lu

CEO, Southeast Asia

Kimberlyn Lu, CEO of Robert Walters South East Asia, based in Malaysia, brings over 15 years of recruitment experience. She focuses on elevating leaders and fostering a dedicated team, driving Robert Walters to unparalleled success.

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