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Stemming the Lunar New Year talent exodus

At the start of a new calendar year, some of the best people in Asian companies are already planning to embark on a new adventure with a different organization.

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Published by Questex Asia
on 25 Feb 2019

Stemming the Lunar New Year talent exodus

At the start of a new calendar year, some of the best people in Asian companies are already planning to embark on a new adventure with a different organization.

Their current employers - especially SMEs - just do not know it yet.

The talent exodus after a large annual bonus pay-out typically happens around the lunar new year. 

Enterprise Innovation speaks to Chee Tung Leong - former regional director of Gallup and current CEO of EngageRocket, a Singapore-based HR tech startup - about the causes of this 'talent migration' and what businesses can do about it.

Hopefully, it's not 'too little, too late'!

The tradition of giving out red packets to employees during the Chinese New Year - is that a case of 'too little, too late' for SMEs in the region, especially in retaining talent?

A study done last year showed almost 50% of Singaporean workers planning to quit their job within a year and with the employee engagement levels in Singapore consistently reported low, the risk of talent leaving after the Lunar Chinese New Year is extremely high.

If it is the only form of appreciation employees receive all year, it would definitely be ‘too little, too late’. Only if it is part of a culture of recognition can these risks be mitigated.

What are the key reasons for the talent drain among Asian companies?

Studies have shown that one in two people have left their job to get away from a manager. Employees are now looking for better experience and open communication.

During organizational transformation, many leaders choose to focus on communicating the "how" of the transformation rather than the purpose or the “why”. This can be extremely disengaging.

Investing in learning can be perceived as a waste of time and money by some companies in the region. However employees may also leave companies due to lack of growth opportunities or because they feel devalued or unrecognized.

Today, talents expect to grow within the company and benefit from individual learning programmes that will help them to acquire and improve on competencies and key soft skills. If companies fail to provide these, they are not only failing to upgrade their own capabilities, but are also subtly encouraging their people to find greener pastures elsewhere.

How could Asian companies mitigate this talent drain? What are the key areas to pay attention to?

The key to mitigating attrition is prevention, rather than cure. This means being perceptive towards early warning signals of unhappiness, instead of trying to mitigate the talent drain when it’s already too late.

Teams who are happier and more engaged are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization. As such, in order to plug the leak, managers need to get better at actively engaging their teams.

In 2019, the movement to create personalized employee experiences is gathering significant momentum. Equipping managers to move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to management to a “one-size-fits-one” approach would improve employee loyalty and productivity.

 Beyond the first few weeks of "on-boarding", employees go through other stages like receiving their first performance appraisal, taking on new assignments or projects, getting a raise or promotion, learning on the job and even eventually separation.

Making those moments meaningful and promoting a culture of open feedback and immediate responsiveness from management can help regain interest from your most valuable employees. 

Drone operators, data scientist, social media managers - these are just some examples of jobs in great demand today that didn't exist 10 years ago. Encouraging employees to develop new relevant skills also has the important benefit of improving engagement and retention. Training employees brings back their sense of being valued by the company.

People are organization’s number one asset, so keeping them engaged should be the organization’s number one priority.

How does technology, especially analytics, help in managing talent reward and retention, and in developing an effective human capital strategy?

Studies have found that organizations who are more advanced at using data to analyze the workforce proactively, make predictions, create and monitor comprehensive workforce plans make 56% higher profit margins than less advanced organizations.

Talent retention is an ongoing process, and needs to be applied across the six milestones of the employee experience: Onboarding, Engagement, Development, Performance, Transition and Separation.

In 2019, companies now have the software available to do this.

Business intelligence technologies have evolved to the point where having a unified view across different data silos is possible. It has become easier than ever before to track the employee experience across the different stages of their journey with the company and deliver insights about how to engage them better. In some applications, managers can even get tailored suggestions on what actions they should take to reduce the risk of their people quitting.

One of the means of getting timely data is through pulse surveys - short surveys sent frequently to employees on specific topics, with results and analysis delivered in real-time. Leaders can then access what their people are feeling, and take immediate and targeted action on any red flags. For example, managers can learn to identify employees who are burning out and rebalance their workload.


This article was first published on Questex, on 1 February 2019. Information is correct at the time of publication.

Last Modified Date: 25 Feb 2019