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Asian firms boost salaries to secure IT talent

Firms in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong are hiking salaries and resorting to other staff-retention practices as they compete to attract skilled IT professionals
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

IT professionals in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong saw salary increases of up to 40 percent last year, as companies in those countries jostled for skilled IT talent, a new survey finds. Businesses in the region have also resorted to other retention practices to keep their staff.

According to the Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2008 released this week, basic salaries of IT staff increased between 20 and 30 percent in Hong Kong last year. The high attrition rate also resulted in a strong counter-offer trend, with companies dishing out increments well in excess of 30 percent to retain mission-critical staff, said the international recruitment consultancy.

In Singapore, IT professionals enjoyed increases of between 10 and 20 percent. There were also scenarios where candidates enjoyed more than 40 percent jumps on their existing salaries, said Robert Walters.

"As a result, any organisation offering increases of below 10 percent faced a significant risk of the candidate accepting other offers, or a counter-offer by his or her current employer," the recruitment firm said.

In Malaysia, as the competition to hire the best IT employees intensified in 2007, organisations focused on best practices in staff retention.

Apart from direct strategies such as higher salary increments, joining bonuses and counter-offers, other initiatives included better managed and more dynamic career progression, flexible benefits and effective employee relation programs.

And companies in Singapore also increasingly focused their resources on staff-retention initiatives.

Mark Ellwood, managing director of Robert Walters in Singapore, said in a press release: "It has become increasingly evident that while the first challenge is to successfully hire talent, ongoing development and internal incentive programs are essential for retention and to ensure [employees] feel their career progression is being taken seriously."

In addition, counter-offers fast became commonplace in Singapore last year, with existing employers ready to offer matching or better salary packages, increased job scope and other benefits to convince their employees to stay, the survey revealed.

"However, research has shown that counter-offers rarely work as anything other than a stop-gap solution. The majority of employees who accept counter-offers leave their current organisation within a 12-month period," according to the consultancy.

The survey's salary figures are based on placements made by Robert Walters through 2007.

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