How to maintain employer-of-choice standing with Hong Kong’s digital natives

By Howard Chan | Monday, 13 Aug 2018

If salary is no longer their top consideration, how do we best connect with today’s emerging workforce?

The key to hiring and retaining the new generation of employees is to create in them a sense of belonging to your company. For digital natives born into our new communications age, constant communication is vital. Yet doing so can be a challenge at times, especially when dealing with the most connected group around.

With data and intelligence so readily accessible now, the perception of a good work environment or an engaged management team will likely be clearly defined in this group’s minds. As such, breaking out of the mould of a rigid structure is important, as is clear employer branding when attracting new talent to your organisation. Here are some ways how to stand out from the crowd of Hong Kong employers.

Humanise the boss

With a wealth of information at their fingertips, the view of authority figures in the workplace has changed drastically for digital natives. This means that the voice of employee engagement needs to come directly from the business lead or management team. As such, this communication channel provides you a perfect opportunity to harness new digital mediums, including social media or mobile-driven platforms.

By breaking down communication and generational barriers, today’s top company leaders adopt a proactive voice – one that is typically personal and relatable, yet at the same time authentic to the individual. New generation employees in Hong Kong and abroad seek accessibility to management, and a view “inside the bubble” to meet the people beneath the title, and share in the values and insights that drive them forward.

Managed carefully, this window to the executive-level world helps you share the passions that drive your leaders forward, and creates a sense of motivation and purpose. If you can show that CEOs are humans too, the idea of growing with your company and even becoming a business leader one day suddenly seems more possible.

Ideally, keep the messaging from management more social as well. This makes your company feel less robotic, and gives employees a breather from the usual corporate tone. The personal touch for a CEO might come from an email commending someone on an exceptional job, a group photo with the team in another office – or simply a fun CSR activity. If you focus on the personal touch, every note from the “big boss” becomes a further reminder to employees that their leaders live in the same real-world environment that they do.

Prioritise work-life balance and diversity

Employee autonomy is crucial to Hong Kong digital natives, especially where they gain a greater say over their work mix. As such, offering flexible work arrangements, or implementing measures to enable them to work from home where appropriate, is important and appreciated. Provided they deliver, your team needs to feel in control of their own time, as opposed to being restricted to pre-set office hours, or forced to regularly work late before the boss goes home.

As digital natives become working parents, companies who offer support facilities will enjoy an advantage in attracting talent. We have seen this in practice with clients ranging from start-ups to banks, whereby firms offer internal kindergartens or playgroups for children of employees. In enjoying these benefits, today’s professionals see their company as making an effort in implementing more human values, in turn reaching out to specific individuals to make them feel included.

Organisational culture is seen as the backbone of any firm. Creating a community representing diverse backgrounds is an important to the long-term attractiveness of Hong Kong companies. Digital natives are less inclined to choose an environment that’s culturally monotone, instead seeking out inclusive environments, where people are visibly from different backgrounds, and where merit alone can determine their success.

For leaders and company boards, this can present a challenge – we often tend to seek out people like ourselves as workmates. Yet in casting off our conscious or unconscious hiring biases, and employing based on merit and skills, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, we create a positive environment that gives everyone a shot at success.

Creating an ideal physical work environment

Workplace happiness also comes down to the work environment, much of which is closely linked to surroundings and culture. This is why we’ve seen social media companies in Hong Kong deck out their office pantry with luxuries and treats more typical of a business class lounge. These areas often serve as a public area for company events: some technology firms have adopted similar furnishings, even hiring an in-house chef or barista. Various start-ups, meanwhile, offer games areas or chill-out spots for brainstorming sessions: all relatively inexpensive additions, but conducive to a more creative and borderless environment.

In short, new generation Hong Kong professionals seek working environments which stimulate both internal and external collaboration. And because play is a key to unlocking ideas and team blockages, many companies improve their offices with co-working spaces, pool tables and bistro-style pantries. These basic comforts help a company feel more people-friendly, and appeal to social and collaborative employees, who appreciate café-style touches that can in turn stimulate great work.  

Touch base on career progression

Millennials like to be constantly challenged and like to try new things and, as such, they may get restless easily. Therefore, it’s important to set short-term goals that engage their interest and ambition, to ensure they remain suitably engaged. Invest more time into a charting a clear career development plan with them, outlining clear goals every six months – and ideally providing leadership opportunities for core projects and tasks.

While this emerging workforce is often criticised for jumping between jobs frequently, having sufficient workplace recognition and a structured career path is a fair demand and, if delivered fairly, should appeal to the ambitious.

Remember that this community is very engaged on social media: which often means their work life is frequently represented on their personal platforms. In addition to the effort they already put in to making sure their social accounts look good, being able to mention the recognition and rewards from work can prove an added bonus to both them and their company. 


Howard Chan

Regional Director, Michael Page Hong Kong 

Workplace happiness Work-life Balance Millennials attracting talent Employer Branding

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