skills shortage

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Skills shortage to worsen in APAC if hybrid work not allowed

Skills shortage has been a problem for most organizations even before the COVID-19 pandemic started. However, during the pandemic, remote working did enable some organizations to reduce the skills shortage gap as they were able to hirer employees from anywhere in the world.

For most organizations around the world, hybrid and remote work were necessities during the pandemic to ensure business continuity and avoid any disruptions. However, as COVID-19 moves from a pandemic to an endemic in most countries, organizations are now beginning to have their employees return to the office to work.

Despite the improved productivity from both remote and hybrid work, most organizations have already started preparing their employees to return to work. And this is being practiced across all industries. For example, the tech industry which championed remote working lifestyles has set dates for their employees to return, with some being allowed to continue in a hybrid work environment.

The financial industry is also requesting all vaccinated employees to fully return to the office. For most of them, hybrid work has been disruptive and brings increasing security concerns. In the education sector, most students have also returned to classrooms despite e-learning enabling remote learning.

However, after practicing remote and hybrid work for almost two years, most employees are now insisting on continuing the practice. Most feel that technology has enabled them to remain productive and, in some cases, increase productivity when working out of the office.

What’s more concerning is that a recent study by Poly showed that nearly 60% of all organizations in Asia Pacific believe that if they don’t address their hybrid work processes and plans, they will start to lose staff and will be unable to attract new talent. What’s more, organizations are already feeling the effects of this, with 58% globally seeing a greater turnover in staff since the start of the pandemic. In APAC, the effect is especially pronounced in India (78%) and Singapore (61%).

The new Poly study, Recruit, Retain, and Grow, analyzed work policies, culture, and wellness through the lens of over 2,500 global business decision-makers. Pierre-Jean Chalon, Senior Vice-President, the Asia Pacific at Poly pointed out that employees are voting with their feet in favor of companies that support workspaces with an effective organizational culture for people, and a robust technology enablement approach.

With recruitment and retention at risk, the study also showed that 67% of organizations in APAC believe they have a moral duty to protect employees from working too much. However, only 51% of organizations in APAC are taking steps to prevent people from feeling like they’re ‘always on’. For example, in Japan, 55% of organizations expect employees to manage their workloads and time but only 10% in Singapore and Japan have processes in place to make sure employees aren’t working long hours. In China, nearly 1 in 5 organizations say it is the nature of their job to work long hours.

Can hybrid work reduce skills shortage gap?

For now, it seems that organizations appear to be adapting well to the shift to hybrid work, with 72% of surveyed companies reporting an increase in productivity. The sentiment is consistent in APAC (76%), specifically in China (89%), India (86%), and Singapore (79%). In fact, hybrid working employees have also managed to reduce skills shortage as many enjoy the flexible working arrangements.

However, 62% of organizations in APAC believe that if employees aren’t in the office, they won’t build the relationships they need to progress their careers. This is especially prevalent in Singapore (71%) and India (65%). Other key concerns in APAC included employers being a concern if there is an unhealthy culture of overworking (50%). Employers are also concerned that remote working has made fostering and retaining work culture harder than ever (74%).

But the reality is though, employees are not as concerned about these as compared to their employers. For most remote and hybrid working employees, this working model in fact enables them to be more productive. Most employees feel they save a lot of time as they do not need to commute to work on a daily basis.

Realizing this, forward-looking companies are investing in software and devices equally with cloud applications and collaboration software at 92% each. In APAC, organizations are leaning towards collaboration software at 93%. Singapore employers are also placing a heavy emphasis on cloud applications (93%), second only to China (97%).

As businesses continue to ways to bring employees back to the office, they need to realize that hybrid work is no longer an option but should be a necessity if they want to retain their talent. APAC already has a big talent shortage and having employees return to work just for the sake of having them being physically present in the office would not only see them move to somewhere else.

The tech industry for example has already seen employees leaving their roles when being told to come back to the office to work, leading to skills shortage in some roles. Most of them are moving to organizations that have opportunities for hybrid work or flexible working arrangements. While some businesses are redesigning their office space, the reality is, most employees have pretty adamant about hybrid work.