What are the important trends ahead for those looking to hire and retain top talent in Human Resources (HR) over the next one to three years? According to Michael Page’s discipline leaders from across Asia Pacific, as the HR industry becomes increasingly candidate-short, there is even more of an art to finding and holding on to the right people.

In today’s world, businesses are becoming more aware that their employees are just as important to their prospects as their customers. As such, the right hires in Human Resources become even critical.

Anthony Thompson, Executive Board Director and Regional MD at Michael Page says that as their value becomes more demonstrable, senior recruits in Human Resources are seeking more strategic roles. “Today’s HR leaders in particular will expect to be a part of the overall leadership team in your company – and not just as service providers for it.”

Expanding on this, Catherine Ng, Engagement Practice Leader at Aon, notes that today’s HR leaders need to expect a fast-changing role: “At least eight in ten of our clients are currently undergoing some kind of cultural transformation. There will be a need to focus a lot more on the purpose, and where we are in the journey,” she says. “As an HR leader, to hire the right people now, you need to be a lot more candid and truthful: and stress that we’re in this together.”

As PageGroup’s Regional Human Resources Director for APAC, Greg Tadman notes, cultural transformation is top of mind for many right now. “The delivery and the articulation of a company culture among corporates is varied: but the good companies really do put their money where their mouth is.” Below, we look at eight ways to do exactly that.

Thanks to our Page regional HR panel: Anthony Thompson, Executive Board Director and Regional MD at Michael Page; Catherine Ng , Engagement Practice Leader in Talent and Organisation Development at Aon; Greg Tadman, Regional Human Resources Director, Asia Pacific at PageGroup; and HR disciplines heads: Julie Yeh, Manager, Michael Page Singapore; Adam Oldman, Manager, Michael Page Australia; Grace Lee, Associate Director, Michael Page Hong Kong; Lisa Zheng, Director, Michael Page China.


Advice for hiring top HR talent 

1. Hire specialist skillsets that fit your company’s change journey

2. HR change makers now assess the full company package

3. People analytics is hot: success means mastering the culture clash

4. Drive to cultural HR fit through re-enacting the job

5. To sell the role, don’t spare the hard parts

6. The contract problem-solvers to the rescue

7. Prioritise mobility across borders

8. Gamify your search for digital readiness in HR Leaders


1. Hire specialist skillsets that fit your company’s change journey

As Aon’s Catherine Ng says, the important part of a hiring specialist HR talent to help drive change, is to carefully match their skillsets to the stage of your company’s change process. “At the early part of a change process, the kind of talent I need is very different from a later stage. Early on, there’s a lot of need for these people to come in as the change catalysts: it’s about stakeholder management, storytelling, and driving changes,” she notes. “At the later and more mature stages, that’s where broad-based hiring of people with the more technical skillsets comes – to implement those digital changes.” She cautions that getting it wrong can lead to mismatched roles and expectations, resulting in the brave new hire heading for the exit. A common place for mistakes? “Where an organisation’s culture is not as pervasive yet: and the company is quick to hire a lot more on-the-ground implementation folks,” she notes. “That’s where a disconnect will come in, and they will quickly become disengaged, and leave the company.”

2. HR change makers now assess the full company package

Our digital environment demands increasing transparency from companies, as new-generation employees seek productive, engaging and enjoyable working experiences. In turn, companies increasingly face the need for an integrated focus on the entire work experience: “This involves building the right programmes, strategies and HR teams to improve the working experience,” says PageGroup’s Greg Tadman. “According to Deloitte, organisations with a strong focus on training, improved work spaces and greater reward systems, will in turn excel in their company performance.” In a candidate-short market, progressive employers not only sell their business and brand to customers, but also to the best candidates. Grace Lee notes that the corporate website, employee branding on LinkedIn and implementing smooth mobile application systems are all now “a crucial part of the employee experience life cycle”.

3. Master the culture clash for people analytics hires

Employer engagement professionals such as Aon’s Catherine Ng work closely with big data or people analytics teams: and has a front-row seat on the talent race. “There is a war for such talent out there. In the relative scheme of things, HR might be a late starter in terms of the development of these capabilities – and the pressure for this kind of talent is high right now,” she notes. What do these hot hires bring to a company? “People with the required skillsets of big data and analytics have moved into a more agile way of working – so the mindset is a lot more open, and they’re a lot more receptive to change.” Many coming into HR big data and people analytics come from a technology culture, she says, whereas the demand is often from finance: “For many financial institutions requiring talent, we sometimes see a really big clash,” says Ng. “There are still fairly traditional ways, a lot of systems, regulations and governance in the financial industry – which is very different from technology.”

4. Drive to cultural fit for HR talent by re-enacting the job

When you’re seeking to bring in an HR agent of change to articulate and leverage your company culture, achieving the right cultural fit becomes all the more critical. Yet objective measures aside, there’s also the need to assess long-term thinking and positive motivations. In many organisations however, psychometric tests are reserved for C-level hires. Asks Julie Yeh: “How do you measure the unmeasurable, which is personality?” Research now attests to the benefit of job simulation tests, including a number of web-based solutions that are inexpensive and use objective benchmarks to measure the candidate fit. “If you have a role, and you need some proof as to the ability of someone, give them a real scenario case study,” she advises. After suitable consideration, candidates then get to pitch their approach back to you: “You’re then seeing the thought-process – the flow of how they think and approach a problem,” notes Yeh. “This is relatively hard to prep for – you either have it or you don’t.”

5. To sell the role, don’t spare the hard parts

Being transparent and frank with candidates is always the best policy: and as Lisa Zheng notes, the results can be surprising. Recently enlisted by an international client to seek a China HR director, she knew the company had faced financial difficulties outside of China. One candidate seemed a perfect fit, yet was concerned about the company’s prospects. After several rounds of interviews, the candidate accepted the opportunity, thanks to the company’s APAC HR director taking a frank yet encouraging approach to the concerns: “The opportunities and challenges of its China business left a good impression on my candidate and finally made her confident in the role and the company.” As Zheng notes, a vigilant consultant can also help hiring managers gather important insights. “Unlike Sales, HR candidates may not be able to present specific numbers to prove their performance.” Ideally she notes, work with a partner who helps you to recheck market references, to ensure a detailed and factual candidate profile.

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6. Contract problem-solvers to the rescue

In Human Resources, specialist contract roles are increasingly being created to fill numerous short-term gaps. The industry now has numerous talent-related projects around engagement, diversity and talent management, many with an expiry date of 6-12 months. HR contractors are likewise often utilised for HR maternity leave coverage. “The benefit for the client is flexibility to upscale and downscale when they like,” says Adam Oldman. He notes that recent HR contract roles have included talent acquisition; learning and development projects; HR analyst and reporting projects and maternity covers, adding that candidates likewise enjoy higher rates for the contract duration – and in return the premium of facing an immediate start date.

7. Prioritise mobility across borders

In a big company and a dynamic market, remember that your available talent pool stretches beyond city and national borders: as such, building a culture of mobility can provide for critical cover, and in turn offer unique development opportunities for the team. “Companies should make talent mobility a core value,” says Grace Lee. “Especially for those whose industry requires more technical know-how and hard-to-find talent in specific countries.” Talent mobility is a big driver of change at the C-level, agrees Greg Tadman. “Historically, there was a talent drain from Asia, with more talent leaving abroad. Increasingly now, many are keen to come here.”

8. Gamify your digital readiness checks for HR Leaders

As Aon’s Catherine Ng notes, one of the key skillsets that HR leaders need to display can be best summarised as “digital readiness” – or having the ability to adopt and adapt to fast-changing technologies as they arrive. “We’ve been looking recently at digital readiness,” says Ng. “While we’re in the midst of this fourth industry revolution, who are our digital leaders? We found out that there are a few differentials and tips to focus on in candidates: firstly, the curiosity of the individual: everything is now around how open you are to apply new knowledge. Second, your ability to adapt and change from a behavioural aspect. And lastly, are you able to very quickly break old habits? Because what is totally relevant today may be totally irrelevant tomorrow.” She says companies, including Aon, have a suite of tools – including mobile gamified assessments to search out these traits, which as she cautions, are less a function of age but of attitude: “These are examples of gamified assessment, to be able to sniff out these abilities to gain new information and become more digitally-savvy.”

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