No letup in Asia's hiring activities

Employers in the region continue to stay bullish on recruitment despite the uncertainties in the world's economy.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

Notwithstanding the U.S. subprime woes, the current inflationary pressures and prospects of the global economy slowing down, most employers appear upbeat over their infocomm technology (ICT) staffing plans across Asia.

An IBM spokesperson told ZDNet Asia it remains "aggressive in hiring for a broad range of positions, including sales, corporate functions and technical leaders, as well as business consultants".

Charles Caldwell, Citrix Systems' Pacific human resource director, said in an e-mail interview: "While we are keeping a watchful eye on current economic trends, we remain committed toward recruiting new talent to support Citrix's dynamic growth in the Pacific region as well as at a global level."

Geraldine McBride, president and CEO of SAP Asia-Pacific Japan (APJ), said the current economic issues have not adversely impacted its APJ's growth nor its hiring plans.

Region's talent for global gains

Multinational companies are leveraging talent from the Asia-Pacific region to serve their global customers.
IBM, for example, set up the IBM Asean Regional Contact Center in Malaysia. The facility's multi-lingual workforce provides post-sales technical frontline services, pre-sales technical support and strategic outsourcing helpdesk support to the company's global clients worldwide.
The IT vendor also chose Singapore as the location for its sole manufacturing facility, which produces IBM's newest mid-range disk storage product, System Storage DS6000. A company spokesperson said the assembly line and tools for this product were developed by its Singapore team.
Geraldine McBride, SAP Asia-Pacific Japan's president and CEO, said the software vendor's commitment to train future IT specialists from the region is underscored by the recent launch of its University Alliance Program. Already established in 36 European countries and the United States, the program is aimed to reach over 300 universities in Asia by 2010 and help establish a talent pool in the industry.

"With significant growth in Japan and the faster growing markets such as India and China, SAP APJ continues to be the growth engine for SAP worldwide, growing software and software-related services revenues for the first quarter of 2008 by 36 percent [in constant currency terms]," McBride told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

The company's regional office "remains a net hirer of global talent", she added. "We increased our headcount in the Asia-Pacific region (including Japan) by more than 1,300 full-time employees, or about 14 percent, in the first quarter of 2008 and are planning to add another 3,500 staff in 2008," she said.

K. Srini, head of human resources strategy at Satyam Computer Services, said although the global consulting and IT services provider is not freezing its headcount, it is taking a "preliminary cautious approach" and will revisit the its hiring plans and targets in coming months.

Hungry for talent
Most of the employers ZDNet Asia spoke to said the "war" for tech talent rages on, especially for specialized skills.

Caldwell said: "We still see a tight ICT talent pool, especially in attracting talented individuals who possess rare skill sets required for the growing, emerging virtualization market [that Citrix plays in]."

Companies have learned from the volatility of the last 10 to 15 years, during such periods such as Asia's currency crisis and the dot-com boom, that while one region may be lagging, growth can still be leveraged from another region.

"The Pacific region promises to be a growth opportunity," said Caldwell. "As a result, the demand for talent will remain high and companies will still have to offer competitive total rewards packages to attract the right talent."

SAP's McBride cited Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) latest Annual Survey on Infocomm Manpower, which revealed the country's employment rate for the infocomm industry grew by 8.9 percent in 2007 to around 130,400, "with every expectation of continued growth".

"The strong competition for talented people is likely to continue over the next three to five years," she said. "With SAP's core asset being its people, talent management is high on SAP's corporate agenda and remains an integral part of our future business strategy."

Although Citrix's Caldwell does expect employers in the region to offer more pay to secure candidates, he noted that compensation is not the main driver for attracting talent.

"Besides offering a competitive total rewards package, we promote effective HR practices to ensure the well-being of our employees, such as a work-life balance program to create great work environment," he said. "In my observation, most candidates tend to look at the 'big picture' that a company offers."

According to Caldwell, the war for talent is "becoming a more demographically-driven issue as compared to an economically driven issue". This is a result of an increasingly ageing population, he said, but noted that at the same time, there is an "up-and-coming wave of digital generation of young people, termed as Generation Y, who are joining the workforce".

"This upcoming workforce is made up of workers who are bright, self-assured and tech-savvy. They want the freedom to work from anywhere using their own personalized devices, which is not a norm in most companies," Caldwell said. "As a result, businesses face increasing pressure to adapt their management practices and mindset in order to attract and retain the young talent."

IBM's spokesperson said: "Companies should focus on salary increments relative to productivity and growth. For there to be a positive change in salaries, growth levels have to first reach a satisfactory level, and the onus is on both employers and employees to ensure that productivity remains a key priority."

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