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Employers in APAC must revamp EX approaches to improve employees' intent to stay, wellbeing, and trust in leadership

Employers in APAC must revamp EX approaches to improve employees' intent to stay, wellbeing, and trust in leadership


Employees' intent to stay across Asia Pacific and Japan has significantly dropped, from 74% in 2021, to 66% in 2022. As for employees' wellbeing scores, for Singapore and Hong Kong, it is at 65%, while for Malaysia, it is at 71%.

Employee experience (EX) will remain in the spotlight in 2022 as workers in the Asia Pacific and Japan region (APJ) consider the job market and their employer’s continued efforts to support them, according to Qualtrics' 2022 Employee Experience Trends report. Organisations and employers across the region will therefore need to continue to develop and adapt their approaches to EX in line with significantly changing expectations to create workplaces of the future.

With data and responses from 12,000 employees across markets like Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Japan, decision makers can take note of the following domains to improve EX:

  • Employee engagement;
  • Intent to stay;
  • Growth & development;
  • Trust in leadership, and
  • Employee wellbeing.

Employee engagement

Report findings suggest that the level of enthusiasm, and connection employees have with organisations across Asia Pacific and Japan rose by two points from 2021, on par with global sentiment. Looking at 2022 employee engagement figures, at a global level, it is at 66%. Meanwhile, it is at 60% for Singapore; 69% for Malaysia, and 53% for Hong Kong.

As for the other markets, it is as follows:

  • For Thailand - 76%
  • For India - 85%
  • For Indonesia - 74%
  • For the Philippines - 77%

Translating numerics to linguistics, the report explains that "employee feedback calls for development of a nuanced approach to engagement - no longer will short-term gestures like a new coffee machine for the staff room be enough to provide employees with the in-office experience they want, create satisfaction, or improve commitment".

As such, organisations will have to continue adapting their approaches in line with changing employee expectations to engage and retain their talent in 2022 and beyond. They can do so by ensuring employees feel like they belong, and can meet their personal career goals; along with adapting physical and digital workplaces to better equip employees to be productive in a hybrid work environment.

Intent to stay

With reference to the phenomenon, 'the Great Resignation', findings revealed that there has indeed been a significant drop in intent to stay across Asia Pacific and Japan, from 74% in 2021, to 66% in 2022. This could be attributed to how employers recognise an increasing need for flexibility, wellbeing, inclusion, and purpose in the workplace, which are intrinsically linked to company culture and productivity.

Analysts discovered that demographics most likely to move jobs include women, those aged under 24, and individual contributors.

Organisations will thus have to work hard both to attract new talent and to retain their valued employees in the current environment, the report reiterated. In Singapore, an example cited, a 15-year high in talent shortages "calls for a new approach", hence talent retention through building a culture of inclusion, learning and development, and wellbeing initiatives will be "particularly valuable tools" for employers in 2022.

Across Asia Pacific and Japan, more than three in 10 (35%) responders shared that "going back to the office full time" would make them consider looking for new work. This reflects how important flexible work will be in attracting and retaining talent in 2022, the analysts said.

In terms of figures, they are as follows for 2022:

  • Intent to stay in SEA (Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines): 68%, whereby analysts highlighted that the talent reshuffle is a potential threat in 2022, especially around Lunar New Year when resignations tend to peak.
  • In Hong Kong: 59%, whereby the territory witnessed one of the largest drops in intent to stay, a trend more pronounced in women, with a mere 47% of women working as individual contributors intending to stay.
  • In India: 62%, where analysts shared that decision makers should focus on retention efforts, particularly for key talent in sectors such as technology, and healthcare.

Growth & development

Since meeting employees' personal career goals can address employee engagement, and intent to stay, decision makers should thus look at providing employees with learning & development opportunities in 2022. This is particularly relevant because previous surveys have shown 51% of people plan to quit their job due to lack of growth opportunities. At the moment, according to the report, growth & development sentiment in Asia Pacific is at 68% - which analysts said "reinforces an opportunity for improvement" across the region.

Trust in leadership

"Managers have had numerous challenges to overcome in the past year, including adaptations to maintaining productivity, fostering collaborative teams and maintaining company culture while working remotely," analysts commented. "[They] have been asked to adopt new skills and leadership styles while supporting employees through uncertainty, creating additional strain in their already stressful positions".

One way to cope with that is to have decision makers provide enhanced learning & development programmes, coaching, and training to support existing and emerging leaders, providing opportunities to hone new skills. Enabling leaders to gain additional expertise, the report revealed, improves manager’s engagement and retention, while boosting the same for their valued employees.

Regarding the figures, overall trust in leadership has increased in the past year, most notably with an 10-point increase in Australia and New Zealand. That said, not all markets have followed this trend as Thailand, in one instance, has seen decreases and Japan, in another instance, has dropped a full 6-points to 36%. With regard to Singapore, trust in leadership is at 62%; to Malaysia, at 69%, and to Hong Kong, at 57%.

As for the other key markets in Asia, it is as follows:

  • For Thailand - 79%
  • For India - 86%
  • For Indonesia - 79%
  • For the Philippines - 78%

Employee wellbeing

Credit to the pandemic, there is an accelerated focus on employee wellbeing and mental health which expanded the scope of wellbeing beyond physical safety to encompass emotional, social, financial, community, career and sense of purpose matters. This, analysts shared, is "a call to leaders to prioritise the overall wellbeing of their employees".

To do so, decision makers should "take a more strategic approach into the future". This means going beyond providing wellbeing resources, employee assistance programmes, and social activities, and into flexibility, for instance. "At the heart of wellbeing is a growing requirement for flexibility", analysts explained. "Employees want to choose the location and timing of their workday, customising their approach while prioritising their health and happiness".

That said, it is also noteworthy that flexibility should not be the be-all-and-end-all solution to employee wellbeing, as while remote work improved employees' mental, physical and financial health, one in five respondents who are parents reported that they feel their wellbeing is worst when working remote, while one in four respondents who are below the age of 20 said that their mental health has been impacted by working remote.

Looking at the levels of employee wellbeing across the globe, it is at 72% - the same level with Asia Pacific and Japan. As for Singapore, it is at 65%; for Malaysia, it is at 71%, and for Hong Kong, it is at 65%.

As for the other markets, it is as follows:

  • For Thailand - 78%
  • For India - 89%
  • For Indonesia - 82%
  • For the Philippines - 81%

What can decision makers expect from 2022

Beyond the domains to improving employee experience at the workplace, Qualtrics' report also shared four key trends that decision makers can take note of in the year ahead.

For starters, they are to note that leaders at highest risk of attrition globally, as there is a 20% year-on-year decrease in middle managers' intent to stay. Next, people will demand better physical and digital workplaces, as employees who are equipped with effective technology report improved levels of engagement, being more productive at work, are more likely to recommend their workplace to others, and also record higher levels of wellbeing.

For the third trend, lack of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) progress won’t be accepted as it has a direct impact on commitment to stay and positively impacts on employee experience. Further, remaining transparent about all DEIB efforts, and continuing to listen, and report on progress creates improved organisational culture, and assists in employee retention, the analysts shared.

Last, but not least, dip in employee resilience is a countdown to disaster as the pace of remote and hybrid work has presented challenging, round the clock workloads, and employees require permission and flexibility to look after themselves. "Nods to employee well-being are no longer enough; a culture that promotes and supports meaningful, daily action toward sustainability will improve employee resilience and be essential to maintaining engagement," the analysts said.

To sum up all the findings and explanations, courtesy of Qualtrics, employees would like decisions makers to know that:

Today we stand before you, ripping up the old playbook – yes, the one you rewrote just this past year – and demanding change.

We appreciate everything you’ve done for us this past year. You went the extra mile, supported us, and leaned in while we all figured this thing out.

You’ve worked with us and been flexible through the depths of the pandemic, but we sense the old ways are creeping back in. And, to be clear, the old ways weren’t working. A two-hour commute? Every day? Sitting in traffic, waving goodbye to that workout we might have done, or wondering if the kids made it off to school okay?

No, thanks. We choose flexibility. To work in the places that work best for us, to take time for our own wellbeing, our families, our friends. To not have to sneak away for a doctor’s appointment, or struggle through the day when we’re sick, just to be ‘seen’.

We demand change because we care. We care about our leaders who are struggling to keep up. They’re leaving, if you haven’t noticed, and we can’t navigate this new world of work without them.

And we demand it because we care about this organisation. It’s capable of better – better ideas; better innovations; better performance.

We don’t want this organisation to become irrelevant.

We don’t want to become irrelevant.

We can’t go back to the old ways of doing things – we won’t go back.

We’re already living in the new normal; we need to start working there, too.

[RelatedGlobal HR leaders rely on connection, compensation, and remuneration to attract and retain talent]

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