A StrategicRISK survey of senior Asia- Pacific risk managers shows that attracting and hanging on to talented employees, and millennials in particular, is a constant headache for nearly everyone

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Whether it’s keeping staff safe, managing an ageing workforce, dealing with the ever- increasing costs of employee benefits or ensuring ethical behaviour (from suppliers through to the chief executive), people risk encompasses many elements. But which elements are keeping Asia-Pacific risk managers awake at night?

According to the StrategicRISK Asia-Pacific Advisory Panel, made up of a select group of senior risk and insurance professionals, retaining a talented workforce is by far the most challenging people risk to mitigate. In the survey, risk managers were presented with a series of people risk issues and asked to rate their top three. The full results are published in the latest Knowledge supplement on People Risk, which can be read here.

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Almost all respondents (96.15%) chose attracting and retaining a talented workforce. This was followed by injury to workers (physical and mental) at 42.31% and unethical or fraudulent activities of staff or contractors, chosen by 40.38%.

Risk managers in Asia consistently cite people talent issues as one of the top risks to their business. In the StrategicRISK Asia Risk Report 2015, these were second only to economic conditions.

“It’s one of our most complicated risks to manage,” says Telstra chief risk officer Kate Hughes.

“We talk about building a global brand and identifying growth businesses, [but] the only way those things are going to come into effect is if you’ve got the talent to enable it.”

In transforming itself from an Australian telecommunications business to a global technology company, Telstra is creating a shift in the skill set required of its current and future employees.

“How do we compete with the Googles, the Yahoos and Apples of the world?” asks Hughes. “What can [employees] find with us that they can’t find there? Because if we can’t solve for that, then the ultimate risk of not executing on our strategy will be absolutely realised.

“Also, how do you keep your employees engaged when the world around them is shifting as quickly as ours is, and how do you build a resilient workforce when you’re constantly going through cost-cutting pressures, major transformational reforms, and asking people to do more with less and absorb 3% inflation into their budgets every year?”

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It’s a common challenge raised by risk managers around the region. As one manager told the survey: “Some roles require niche and specialised skill sets that take months and years of on-the-job training for employees to become proficient.

“These skillsets are unique to the landscape, environment and culture of the country and therefore cannot be easily imported or acquired externally.

“When these employees leave the company, they take the years of on-the-ground experience with them and leave behind a competence gap in the organisation.”

Another explained: “Our growth plans rely on attracting the right talent at the right time, and then keeping them in competitive labour markets.”

A third risk manager wrote: “Attracting and retaining talent is a constant challenge due to the ‘war for talent’ and also the changing needs of generation Y.”

Indeed, a recent report by Deloitte said businesses must adjust how they nurture loyalty among millennials or risk losing a large percentage of their workforces.

According to the report, 44% of millennials say that, given the choice, they expect to leave their current employers in the next two years.

That figure increases to 66% when the timeframe is extended to 2020.

Millennials’ loyalty to their organisations is connected to leadership development opportunities, workplace flexibility and a sense of purpose beyond profit.

Unfortunately in South East Asia, more than 70% of millennials (globally, the figure is 60%) feel that their “leadership skills are not being fully developed” to ensure the creation of a new generation of business leaders. This has a direct impact on short-term attrition, since seven in 10 respondents who are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed are likely to leave in the next two years.

Jason Seng, Singapore leader of Deloitte’s South East Asia human capital practice, says: “Millennials generally need to feel valued or they’re likely to lose interest in their work, even if they are paid well.

“Local managers also say that it helps to give encouraging comments to keep them motivated, but agree that Singaporeans, and Asians in general, are less likely to pay compliments to employees even when duly deserved. Local leaders should be encouraged and reminded to give due verbal recognition for a job well done.”

He adds: “Local managers should also be more open to, and accepting of, flexible working hours, work patterns and virtual working; as well as respect the individual’s perspectives on work-life balance instead of expecting them to respond ‘on demand’.”

People risk