Can a Global Working Model Calm the Asia Tech Talent Storm?

The Asia tech talent landscape is facing the perfect storm. While the layoffs led by U.S. big tech companies are beginning to impact this side of the world, the COVID-19 “hangover” is causing many tech talents to quit their jobs or move to another country.

According to the latest report from technology research firm IDC, more than half of the organizations in Asia Pacific (55%) experienced more employees quitting in 2022 as compared to the year before.

In Hong Kong, the wave of emigration — with a net outflow of 60,000 residents, mostly moved to the U.K., was reported last year — has also intensified the talent shortage and “brain drain” in the region.

“The pool of people that are emigrating are people from the early 30s to 40s. They are mainly junior managers or seasoned technology professionals,” said Paul Chan, managing partner of Pinnacle Lead, a Hong Kong-based talent advisory firm. “That is the pocket of talent that the city needs at the moment.”

IDC added that these factors have made filling vacancies in many IT roles complex or extremely difficult for 60% to 80% of Asia Pacific organizations. As a result, 37% are delaying their tech initiatives.

So, would global hiring of remote workers help calm the storm?

Global working model on the rise

The pandemic has changed the way we work and hire. New gig working platforms, like Microverse and QWork, match tech talents with businesses from different locations.

On top of being open to gig workers, the State of Global Hiring Report, which analyzed 260,000 worker contracts across 160 countries, found many organizations making jobs available to remote roles. 89% of the global contracts are designed for remote working. The report, published by a research and policy consortium focusing on global employment Deel Lab,  also stated Asia Pacific had become the fastest-growing region in hiring workers abroad.

“We expect this trend to stay — not only for the year ahead but in the long term,” said Karen Ng, regional head of expansion and market lead Singapore, ASEAN and India at Deel Lab. “This is because organizations now have more sophisticated HR strategy, corporate infrastructure, and digital tools to support a global and hybrid workforce.”

Nevertheless, Chan from Pinnacle Lead noted the design of the contracts did not necessarily reflect the working model in practice.

“The contracts are likely designed with the option to allow remote working for legality and liability purposes,” said Chan. “But in practice, are they all working from home? I can comfortably say no. But do they have more flexibility to work from home? I’d say 100%.”

The importance of cooler chats

Chan noted that hiring overseas tech talents to work full-time remotely could only help ease the talent shortage in specific operational roles or functions.

He agreed the wave of emigration in Hong Kong, combined with the post-COVID-19 working model, was driving more organizations to support their existing talents to work remotely overseas. Fast-paced technologies roles, like cybersecurity experts or coders, have always been outsourced overseas, “but it is hard to see the core and strategic roles being done remotely,” he said.

Focused on talent advisory in the innovation ecosystem, Pinnacle Lead works with organizations to develop a talent strategy that realizes their innovation visions. Chan added that COVID-19 proved businesses could survive with people working outside the office. But it also highlighted the importance of human interactions, particularly among those involved in pivoting the business with technologies.

“A lot of the technology visions came from brainstorming and interaction from cooler chats,” he said.  The shortage of tech talents, particularly the organization’s change agents or seasoned tech professionals, cannot be replaced by hiring overseas talents to work remotely.

Pivot your business with Web3 talents

Meanwhile, Chan said the Web3 talent landscape is a very different world.

Although enterprises are exploring Web3 technologies — like blockchain, digital assets, and metaverse — to pivot their businesses, attracting talents in this world requires different tactics.

“It doesn’t make sense for corporate to build a Web3 team; they simply cannot attract them,” he said. “Talents in this ecosystem are more youthful and cannot be boxed into a corporate world.”

Chan explained experts in these areas started early in the game, either as university students or as a part-time passion. They have since built expertise and digital assets allowing them to work as digital nomads — traveling freely and working remotely.  Web3 talents often set up small firms with satellite operations to provide advisory services for corporates.

Understanding global dynamics

Despite the tech talent turmoil in Asia, Chan said there are still multiple ways for enterprises to pivot their businesses with technology talents.

Being open for gig workers and ready for hybrid working can help identify skills for technical execution and operations. He added that the HR department’s support in enhancing employee experiences and connections was also crucial to handling talent shortage through virtual teams.

For strategic tech roles, like data specialists and digital innovations, Chan said enterprises need a talent strategy beyond recruiting the specific role.

“If someone has been in the business long enough and they are in a critical role when they leave, it’s impossible to find an identical person,” he said. This is when a talent advisory firm is helpful to analyze the corporate culture, business vision, and global dynamics to develop a talent strategy that helps to meet the ultimate digital innovation goal.

“Through understanding all the macro dynamics and applying them into the recruitment process, we can provide a deeper conversation beyond the JD [job description] of this hire, but what this hire means for your business digital goals,” he concluded.

Sheila Lam is the contributing editor of DigitalWorkforceTrends. Covering IT for 20 years as a journalist, she has witnessed the emergence, hype, and maturity of different technologies but is always excited about what’s next. You can reach her at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Nastco

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