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Unlocking the Potential of Asia's Workforce

Hewitt Associates Study Identifies Three Critical Talent Challenges that Organisations in Asia Need to Overcome

Asia's growth has made human capital challenges in the region increasingly acute and intensified the competition for talent. A Hewitt Associates study involving more than 80 business leaders and senior human resource practitioners in China, India and Singapore has identified three critical talent challenges that organisations in the region need to overcome.

2.   Commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower, the findings in this study will be presented and discussed at the inaugural Singapore Human Capital Summit (SHCS) titled “People Strategies for Asia”, which will be held on 22 - 24 October 2008. The first of its kind in Asia, the Summit brings together global and regional industry and thought leaders, as well as government leaders from the region, to share and deliberate on leading ideas and practices in human capital management, and their application to businesses and organisations operating in Asia.

The 3C's of Human Capital Management

3.   Hewitt Associates has categorised these three critical talent challenges as the Capability Paradox, Shifting Cultural Norms and Changing Employment Contracts:


  • Capability Paradox: Asia is experiencing a tight labour market, especially for skilled professionals and talent, even though it contains some of the most populated nations. The relatively small talent pool in Asia has resulted in a leadership crisis in many organisations and an impediment to future growth.
  • Shifting Cultural Norms: At the same time, organisations in Asia are being confronted with a shifting set of cultural norms which shape the value systems of their employees. Asia's workforce is increasingly individual-focused. While life-long employment with one employer used to be common, employees are now changing jobs more frequently and are constantly searching for better employment opportunities. According to the respondents in Singapore, a significant turnover rate is expected in critical talent roles including managerial and entry level positions in the next three to five years. Organisations have also replaced seniority-based employment, with an emphasis on results and performance
  • Changing Employment Contracts: With greater emphasis on performance and customer orientation, employers have to provide their employees greater independence, empowerment, flexibility and challenging work, if they want to attract, motivate and retain the best workers.

4.   “We are now seeing a ‘supercharging' of these issues – shortage of talent and lack of experienced leaders – in environments where companies are trying to grow 10 to 50 percent. The rapid flow of capital from West to East, where more than a billion dollars a week, for instance, flows in to China to establish new businesses, continues to sustain these challenges,” said Mr Andrew Bell, Hewitt Associates, Global Leader for Talent and Organisation Consulting.

5.   Commenting on the Hewitt study findings, Mr Leo Yip, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Manpower, said: “Companies operating in Asia, the largest emerging market in the world, will face people challenges that are unique to the region. Adopting effective people strategies to address these challenges will be critical to leveraging the full potential of the region's workforce, and to sustained corporate competitiveness. This will be a focal topic at the Singapore Human Capital Summit. ”

6.   To underscore the importance of effective people strategies for the growth and success of a company, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency, said: “Many companies have realised that HR work no longer comprise traditional functions like payroll processing and staff welfare – it is much more than that – including talent development, organisational excellence, and moulding the culture of the organisation. This also means that HR work is no longer the job of just HR executives, but the job of everyone in the company, especially the bosses.”

Human Capital Imperatives that will Shape the Future

7.   The sheer speed and impact of the talent landscape on organisational success make it even more necessary that organisations in Asia pay close attention to the three key human capital imperatives - Programmes, People and Performance – identified by Hewitt Associates.

  • Programmes: The right talent programmes create high-impact solutions to meet current and future business needs. Organisations therefore need to proactively develop these programmes, which can range from strategic sourcing to retention and future opportunities for growth.
  • People: Organisations need to develop a high performance talent base and collaborative culture to manage, engage and retain talent. Focusing on leadership development, enabling and empowering employees, building sustainable relationships and creating an inclusive environment are integral components of such efforts. 
  • Performance: Adopting strategic approaches to managing the HR function can help organisations add value to their businesses. In addition to conducting continuous workforce planning and measuring the impact of human capital decisions on business results, organisations need to adopt a more proactive approach towards strategic HR to create a compelling employee value proposition.

8.   As Indraneel Roy, Global Head of Leadership Consulting, Hewitt Associates puts it – “In Asia, the driving force is growth and more specifically international growth. Asia has seen a 10 -12 year influx of investment. Now, homegrown Asian companies are more aggressive and courageous. Asian companies are pushing to see how fast they can grow and how big they can get. Organisations in the region with this kind of ambition have to necessarily have an aggressive Human Capital Agenda which cuts across the Talent Programmes, the talent they have and how they professionalise their HR function. Without this agenda, dreams will remain just that – dreams”.

9.   Details of the Hewitt Associates study, including the recommendations on how organisations can respond to these human capital challenges in Asia, will be presented at the Singapore Human Capital Summit 2008. As a strategic platform for the discussion and sharing of best practices on human capital management in Asia, it presents an opportunity for top-level executives to improve their people strategies and take their companies to the next level of organisational excellence. The programme for the Summit can be found at Annex.

Ministry of Manpower

The Ministry of Manpower aspires to develop a globally competitive workforce and a great workplace, for a cohesive society and a secure economic future for all Singaporeans. For more information, please visit

Singapore Workforce Development Agency

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) enhances the competitiveness of our workforce by encouraging workers to learn for life and advance with skills. In today's economy, most jobs require not just knowledge, but also skills. WDA collaborates with employers, industry associations, the Union and training organisations, to develop and strengthen the Continuing Education and Training system that is skills-based, open and accessible, as a mainstream pathway for all workers - young and older, from rank and file to professionals and executives - to upgrade and advance in their careers and lives.