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Know what motivates people - an Asian example

Posted by Kirsten, Michael at Thursday, 05/31/2012 1:00 am
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It takes a lot more than just a good salary to attract and retain most employees, yet there are some significant differences in what motivates people across regions. Cultural norms and values have a lot to do with employee expectations and motivations, and understanding these goes a long way to effectively targeting your retention efforts.

Although the labor market varies widely, in those markets with talent shortages, several key motivators for employees can generally be found. These have less to do with skills and experience and much more to do with the value that employees perceive they have—both within and outside the organization.

For example, ‘worth’ has a specific context in the Asia-Pacific market. In many ways, it’s more literal. Generally speaking, this is partly because employees are expected to play a bigger role in supporting those around them, including offering financial support, than employees in other developed western markets. While this could change as wealth is spread more widely in the region, there are deep cultural underpinnings to this way of operating—and organizations need to recognize these.

Offering an employee opportunities and responsibility as a way of attracting and retaining them is fine, but organizations must also show that they (literally) value their workers and demonstrate that they have real ‘worth’.

In Asia, hiring managers are more likely than those in any other region to cite ‘uncompetitive salaries’ as the main barrier to securing the right staff; and four in ten firms in Asia-Pacific outsource benefits and compensation processes to help them keep pace with changing expectations and talent shortages. While there is not always room to move on salaries, considering other elements to build responsibility, influence and status into a role can also make it more attractive. For example:

The right title: job titles are much more important in Asia than in most other developed markets. While this may be difficult to balance as a global operation with like-candidates in other parts of the world, job titles can be critical for staff to get a foot in the door with customers in Asia. If you’re expecting your staff to secure meetings with senior leaders from other customer organizations, you’ll need to ensure their business cards and job titles prove that they are worth the customers’ attention. Otherwise, you can be setting your people up for failure from the outset.

Leverage your corporate reputation: working for a profitable, influential and socially responsible organization is a key goal of many employees globally, but demonstrating the way in which your organization is innovative, shows leadership and gives back to the community is a major advantage in the region.
For the foreseeable future there remains the need to have distinct (and often quite different) hiring, retention and reward strategies in the different regions.

This post belongs to 5 Ways to Improve Your Recruitment in Asia-Pacific, a new whitepaper on recruitment challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. You can download your free copy here.