Learning & Development Asia 2024
How to attract and retain young talent: Insights from the eyes of Hong Kong’s youth

How to attract and retain young talent: Insights from the eyes of Hong Kong’s youth

Role swapping and innovation teams are some of the fresh new idea that a team of undergraduates came up with in this year’s HSBC business case competition.

What can GreenPrice, a social enterprise specialising in the retail of surplus and short-dated goods at discounted prices, do to tackle its talent retention challenges amidst fierce talent competition?

A group of undergraduate students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) proposed that the social enterprise can start out by having a dedicated recruitment system to find talent whose values are aligned with the company’s. Meanwhile, it is also important to identify the intrinsic drivers that motivate employees.

Inspired by the company’s story and entrepreneurial spirit, the HKUST team suggested two novel ideas – implementing role swaps and creating innovation teams. These strategies are focused on promoting the sharing of skills and stimulating creativity within the workforce, thus helping employees to better understand the company’s mission and boosting overall engagement with their work.

In fact, this was the task assigned to the competing teams in the final round of the HSBC/HKU Asia Pacific Business Case Competition 2024.

Taking place from 26 to 29 May 2024, the 17th edition of the competition was held in person in Hong Kong for the first time since 2019, involving students from 24 universities in 19 different locations around the world.

The team representing HKUST impressed the judges with their strategies and has been crowned champions of this year’s competition.

"The teams from 24 different universities showcased unique perspectives and demonstrated the innovative and sustainability mindset that we were seeking. All submissions highlighted remarkable problem-solving skills in real-world scenarios and were truly standout," commented Dr Peter Wong, Chairman, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) and The Hongkong Bank Foundation, in the conversation with HRO’s Roetta Wang.

“The winning team distinguished themselves through their capability to transform creative ideas into action, articulate presentation, quick-witted replies to judges' inquiries, and effective team collaboration.”

Creating opportunities for young talents

Organised by the Asia Case Research Centre of HKU Business School, the competition aims to nurture future business leaders by sharpening their critical thinking and broadening their global perspectives, as well as bridging the gap between academic theories and real-world business practices.

HSBC has continuously supported the competition since 2008, benefiting more than 90,000 students globally. “HSBC is committed to enriching the business skills and global perspectives of university students, broadening their career prospects, and promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion,” affirmed Wong.

“Through the competition, we’d like students to understand the importance of establishing their own network. I encourage all students to look outward – make some friends during the trip to Hong Kong and learn from each other.”

Commenting on their win in the competition, the HKUST team comprising four members – Stanley Hung, Tiffany Cheung, Regis Chong, and Tommy Wong, told HRO that their ability to communicate amongst themselves despite tight time limits helped them stand out.

“During the preparation time, we had a good division of labour, taking care of different parts while engaging in conversations to formulate the backbone of the business proposal,” shared the team.

And among all these, one of the easiest tasks was to "trust my teammates".

“When cracking the case, there is no room to be judgmental or untrusting of our teammates, and better outcomes can (only) be achieved if we all rely on our teammates more.

“We believe that only through frequent communication can we deliver a coherent presentation, and develop a clear storyline for the judges to understand.”

Meanwhile, the challenge to solve a business case without internet or computer access withing three hours has also strengthened their resilience and problem-solving skills.

“This competition really helped hone our skills in this regard and prepared us to succeed in tough tasks under time pressure.”

Retaining top talents

When asked about the keys for companies to attract and retain young talent in today’s business environment, the winning team said opportunities, value, and environment all play an important role.

“We value those (companies) that provide ample learning and growth opportunities. It's important not just in terms of career advancement, but also for developing our skillsets, mindsets, and abilities within the working environment”, they said.

In addition, they also aspire for a community where they can collaborate with like-minded peers and a culture that give them freedom and trust to initiate and create new projects that add value.

“We thrive in settings where our ideas are welcomed and our contributions are recognised. This sense of empowerment and acknowledgment is key to our professional satisfaction and motivation.”

From the employer’s perspective, HSBC’s Wong shared the following four key factors that the business community can consider:

1. Creating platforms and opportunities that enable employees to cultivate a diverse range of skills

This is particularly important in areas of leveraging on emerging technologies such as AI, which is going to have a profound impact on the business landscape.

Businesses can also invite their young talents in developing solutions that best fit their needs. “For example, at HSBC, we organise an internal competition (‘Data Quest’) which welcomes innovative ideas from all colleagues.”

2. Providing employees with opportunities to dive into new roles and experiences

It is essential in directing them towards a suitable path for their professional development.

It’s equally important to motivate employees to embrace new tasks and duties by utilising internal job rotation.

3. Creating a speak-up culture which enables everyone to share their feedback

Establishing effective communication channels is also crucial to ensure employees feel that their opinions are not only heard but also appreciated and respected.

4. Building inclusive workplaces which respect diverse perspectives and where everyone feels welcome and valued

The alignment of the visions of both parties (employers and young talent) has contributed to positive development outside of the competition – Stanley Hung, a member of the winning team, has received an offer from HSBC and will join the company as a management associate this August.

Maximising social impact

In fact, the case of GreenPrice, a social enterprise that tackles food wastage, was selected not only in line with The Hongkong Bank Foundation’s core purposes of nurturing youth, but also of cultivating a sustainable future.

Through the business case, HSBC aims to nurture the youth to better meet future trends and also cultivate a sustainable future for themselves by fostering a sustainability mindset as the future business leaders.

“We are happy to help prepare our youth to seek out sustainable options in a rapidly changing world and for societies to progress without leaving anyone behind”, said Wong.

This philosophy has also resonated with the aspiration of the young participants.

“Throughout the competition, we have tackled cases focusing not only on the business side of things, but also creating social impact. Moving forward, I feel very inspired to spearhead social change in and outside of work”, said the winning team.

Wong concluded: “As we get together in Hong Kong, we’d like students to draw inspiration from a city which is always experimenting, exploring, and defining its new identity. We all need to find relevance in a changing world.

“I strongly believe that when the participants graduate, they will bring fresh perspectives towards addressing the biggest challenges including the priority of sustainability, the impact of AI, and the importance of diversity and inclusion.”

Photo / Provided

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