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Employers in Asia fall below employees’ expectations on flexible work arrangements: Survey

Employers in Asia fall below employees’ expectations on flexible work arrangements: Survey


While 56% of employers surveyed globally offer such options to employees, just half in Asia say they are, with less than one in three not planning to offer them in the future.

Despite economic headwinds, nearly six in 10 executives globally expect their firms to post stable or high growth.

However, in Asia specifically, business optimism is tempered by talent challenges, with 54% saying they will struggle to meet demand with current talent models, due to high staff turnover, an increase in quiet quitting, and difficulty hiring the right talent at the right price quickly enough.

These sentiments were echoed in Mercer’s Global Talent Trends (GTT) Study 2023, which included a pulse survey involving close to 2,500 HR leaders globally. Per the findings, a tight labour market continues to make talent attraction and retention a pressing priority.

Among more than 1,020 HR leaders in Asia who were involved in the survey, the top approaches considered in addressing the talent challenge are:

  • improving the employee experience for key talent (58%),
  • rethinking compensation philosophy and implementing new practices (54%),
  • and improving workforce planning (53%) this year.

Overall, key findings of the GTT include the need for employers in Asia to double down on offering work flexibility, focus on employees’ holistic wellbeing, and future-proof their organisations by creating skills instead of jobs.

Asia falls below the global average in flexible work options 

According to the survey, only half of the employers in Asia say they offer flexible work options for all employees — lower than the global average of 56%. Additionally, close to 30% do not plan on offering flexibility to all employees in the future. This falls below employees’ expectations, with nearly seven in 10 employees indicating last year that not being able to work remotely, or hybrid permanently, is a deal breaker when considering whether to join or stay with an organisation.

While this was so, to combat the impact of inflation, employers in Asia are on par with their global peers in using bonuses or implementing pay adjustments to increase employees’ total compensation package. However, Asia (22%) fell below the global average (29%) in providing a cost-of-living adjustment or other wage increases for the most impacted markets — what the survey acknowledged was a more sustainable way of managing compensation for organisations.

How leaders in Asia are prioritising employees’ overall wellness

As employers and employees alike would attest to, efforts to promote employee wellbeing are a key differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, beyond fair pay policies. This takes a holistic approach: covering physical, mental, social, and financial wellbeing.

However, while 40% of employers surveyed have made progress with initiatives to destigmatise mental health and encourage self-care (compared to 34% last year who planned to introduce a wellbeing strategy), Asia continued to lag in areas such as providing on-demand access to virtual mental healthcare (26% versus a global average of 32%).

At the same time, just 14% (versus a global average of 21%) have invested in financial wellness programmes that boost long-term financial security for their employees, especially the older populations.

Leveraging technology in talent development

The pandemic has underscored the importance of a skills-based talent model and agile work design in building the workforce of the future, and technology has, over the years, gained a key role in enabling this. On the first part, employers in Asia were noted to outperform their global counterparts in terms of training (60% versus a global average of 59%), and understanding talent development needs (56% versus a global average of 53%).

That said, this group falls behind their global peers when it comes to leveraging tools and technology such as AI to assess existing skills and identify skills gaps. In particular, less than 5% of HR leaders consider themselves advanced on this journey.

Commenting on the findings, Puneet Swani, Mercer’s Senior Partner and Career Leader for Asia, IMEA and Pacific, said: "The talent challenges organisations face today boil down in large part to a disconnect between what employers offer and what employees expect. Remote working, which is now an expectation, is a good example. There is no silver bullet when it comes to flexible work arrangements. Apart from weighing the pros and cons, organisations need to clearly communicate the reasons behind their return-to-work policies.

"When adapting to the future of work, it is also critical for leaders to build a skills-based talent strategy. They could start by breaking down jobs into tasks or activities, and have a clear understanding of what skills are required to perform those tasks effectively."

Lead image / Shutterstock

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