The Great Resignation has arrived in Asia and is impacting companies in different ways. PwC’s Asia Pacific Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022: Time for a rethink, a survey of 18,000 employees across Asia-Pacific, finds that the trend is going to continue for some time as a majority of workers in the region continue to rethink their working lives, and what work means to them. Employees want more meaningful work and are thinking about more than just financial rewards.
What does this mean for companies? To better understand what’s at stake, we speak with Norah Seddon, People & Organisation Asia Pacific leader at PwC. In this first of a two-part interview, we ask her about the impact of the Great Resignation on employers, particularly in the context of other macro factors at play that are impacting the labour market.
Unravel: What is the chief impact of the Great Resignation on companies in Asia-Pacific?
Norah Seddon: I’d answer that question in three parts. The immediate impact is that it is exacerbating an already existing skill shortage. There are skill shortages across different industries through the region. Historically, one might have heard about a skill shortage in tech or in financial services, but we’re seeing it across industries now.
The second impact on companies is in terms of what they are doing about it. We are seeing companies really focusing on what their employee value proposition is. For the first time ever perhaps, we have four generations working together. And it’s the first time we’ve got a very different environment, after COVID showed us that we don’t need to be in the office all the time. In our survey, you’ll see there is only a very small number of people who think they have to be in the office all the time. So, the impact on employers is that they’re now standing back and saying, right, well, how does this influence a rethink of our employee value proposition?
And third, companies are increasingly focusing on what their employees want. Two things that stand out are that people want to be treated fairly and equitably. And part of that is actually being paid fairly. And an integral part of this is transparency. How can I know if I’m paid fairly or treated fairly if there’s no transparency? The other thing that’s coming out is that employees want meaning in their jobs. What is the purpose? What are the ethics of the employer? What is their ESG policy?
Unravel: What is the message employees are sending to their employers through the Great Resignation? Is it more to do with COVID, or an already tight labour market?
Ms Seddon: I think COVID has given employees more freedom. They have arguably always had the freedom, but it has provided a peek into what that freedom can look like—in terms of who to work with and what to work on. The changed working conditions have provided an opportunity for employees to stand back and say and say ‘I want a job that meets my values’. I don’t think COVID itself was the key reason for this, but it gave people reason to pause and time to reflect.
I think COVID also challenged the imagination in terms of what is possible in terms of remote work. As a result of this, employees are making decisions differently today than they were prior to the pandemic.
The main message that employees are sending to their employers is that they want to be recognised for their uniqueness and for the value they bring to the organisation. The other thing they’re looking for is people-centric leadership that values them.
Unravel: Why are so many employees in the Asia-Pacific dissatisfied with their jobs?
Ms Seddon: I might actually look at that through a generational lens, because like most things, there’s no one answer. With younger generations entering the workforce, we now have four generations working together, and it is just very difficult for employers to keep all of them happy because they all want different things. For example, employees want to be recognised for who they are, their authentic selves, and leadership that accommodates that is becoming more important.
I think it is Gen Z that is driving most of the numbers in this respect. They aren’t the only ones dissatisfied, but I think they have an expectation of employers that perhaps some of the older generations don’t have. For example, this generation is looking for employers to upskill them – they want to and expect to be upskilled as a part of their job.
Unravel: One in five employees in the region intends to switch to a new employer. What is the implication of this on companies in a region that is already dealing with a serious skill and talent shortage?
Ms Seddon: Coming back to something I said earlier—this is compelling employers to revisit their employee value proposition. There are a number of employers doing this. Many employers are looking at what we call ‘total reward’. You’ve got your base pay and bonuses, but also the (tangible as well as intangible) benefits that come with working with an employer.
The other thing is a growing focus on creating inclusive and equitable workplaces. It was always important, but employees are rating employers higher if they feel that a company is doing well in this respect.
When we speak of the implications on companies, the immediate implication is a skills shortage, and also adapting their employee value proposition along with a growing focus on the workplace. For employers that don’t focus on these things, the implications of the one in five people shifting to a new employer will be greater.
Unravel: Lastly, how are the Asia-Pacific’s macro fundamentals and global trends such as supply chain disruptions, volatility in commodities prices and high inflation impacting the region’s job market?
Ms Seddon: As reported in our survey, it is interesting to note that 33% of workers are more likely to ask for a pay increase even with this macroeconomic backdrop. I’m not sure that this is linked necessarily to the macro aspects of the economy. I think it goes back to the skills shortage and the feeling that they can ask employers for more. I think the macro piece here is that there is an acute skills shortage—this is something that is coming through loud and clear in almost every conversation we have with a client or organisation, in all industries.
The second part of this interview delves into trends around upskilling and employee support. It can be read here.
Norah leads PwC’s People & Organisation business in Australia and Asia-Pacific and is a member of PwC’s Board of Partners. She is also a member of the PwC Tax Leadership Team. Norah is a tax partner based in Sydney and has over 25 years of experience in providing services to global and Australian companies on tax and people matters including stock based compensation plans, managing employment costs and risks and developing policies and processes. She also works with individuals and families with international tax affairs and investments. She is passionate about using technology to allow our business to evolve and to create career paths for our people.