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This article originally appeared in HongKongEcho 86: THE MILLENNIALS CHOICE: A new era for HR


Work-life balance is nice but it’s not what drives young talent. Ultimately, they want a place to progress. Christine Raynaud, CEO of Morgan Philips Greater China, lifts the lid on what’s shaping the next generation.

HongKongEcho: Is it still the case that money matters or are company culture and vision the keys for attracting young talent?

Christine Raynaud: Firstly, when we talk about young talent in our research it means less than 35 years old – so it’s a broad scope. What we see is that money still matters and it’s not only for the young generation. However we’ve noticed over the years that culture and direction have become more important drivers for talent attraction. Without wanting to appear too cynical, we’ve seen that when the younger generation wants to understand a company’s direction it also means, OK what is my future and therefore my promotion chances? So it links back to a quite self-centred reflection of why you work for a company.

An interesting point to note here is the importance of leadership and direct management, which rank quite low as drivers. There’s the notion of the ‘group’ rather than the ‘big boss’. This wasn’t the case not so long ago. Young talent want to be part of a collective, they’re not working for the one leader.

HKE: How do online tools play into attracting this talent?

CR: It’s interesting to see that in Hong Kong compared to China and Taiwan, people find jobs much more through referral or circle of friends; 31% are introduced to a company by a friend. Hong Kong is clearly less online than China. For example, recording video for recruitment purposes is generally still not high, but China and Taiwan are doing far more on that front.

What we’re seeing more and more are employer branding initiatives, through WeChat for example. Talent acquisition is shifting from sourcing talents directly on platforms like LinkedIn towards a question of attracting. How do you attract people who are passive to be interested in your brand? This is particularly the case for the next generation as they’re more active on social media. In Hong Kong this gap is more marked than in China. The next generation wants to apply fast, not fill forms. They want quick exchanges.

HKE: Retention has long been an issue. Is it still the case for young talent?

CR: I feel that retention is a function of market conditions. We’ve known a period of very high growth in this part of the world. On one hand you have inflation in cost of living and on the other hand you have offers to attract people. So if someone calls to offer 30% more salary, frankly everyone listens – especially if your lease is going up 30%! But this is changing as the market cools. Now we’re seeing a greater proportion of people changing jobs for 0-10% salary increase.

After that, why do people leave? What we’ve noticed for the younger generation is that there are two important drivers compared to more senior profiles. One is training opportunities and the other is benefits. After that it’s career progression and challenge.

Interestingly enough younger people don’t change jobs for a better work-life balance. In fact, we noticed those who have the most pronounced work-life balance criteria are the older generations. There’s always clichés about the next generation not wanting to work – maybe they look for a different environment but they’re not particularly looking for a place where they work less. I think it’s more about working differently and learning.

HKE: Are companies doing enough to meet these expectations about learning and training?

CR: The bigger firms are clearly more equipped to do so. I think it’s important in this region because generally speaking people have been promoted faster than they would have elsewhere. So you have a young population that accessed management roles without having as much time to build their skills. There’s a real appetite for learning. Medium-sized firms, for their part, can position themselves well through mentoring, learning on the job and giving opportunities to their young employees rather than formal training.

HKE: What about their desires for culture and working style?

CR: We’ve tried to understand more clearly what respondents want in regards to work culture. We found that people, particularly in Hong Kong, preferred a culture of competition; a style which has a strong orientation towards results rather than people and for processes and direction rather than flexibility and innovation. This is equally true for the young generation. It’s interesting because I hear from foreign companies all the time that say they’re targeting their young talent by being collaborative, people orientated and participative. But in reality, young talent want a company that wins.

It’s true that we have to involve them more in decisions and provide more of a focus on CSR initiatives, but I think this is maybe the cherry on the cake. They want an environment where they can express themselves and share, but at the end of the day they still want a business which is driven and has results. 


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