Self-accountability and perseverance – human resources in a new age

January 27, 2021 | 13:56
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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a curveball for the human resources market in 2020, impacting hiring activities throughout the year. Adrien Bizouard, country manager of Robert Walters Vietnam, shared with Tom Nguyen some key advice for employers and employees alike for the coming year.
self accountability and perseverance human resources in a new age
Adrien Bizouard, country manager of human resources recruitment agency Robert Walters Vietnam

What do you expect will happen to human resources and salaries this year?

Vietnam remains very short on talent across industries, which is understandable, given its young population. While this is usually highlighted as a major advantage, from a human resources (HR) perspective, it means a lack of people of experience to fill middle management positions.

Given that Vietnam is still a growing economy that has managed to retain positive growth even in 2020, it is expected to remain a strongly candidate-driven HR market defined by the scarcity of fully qualified candidates.

Despite the shortage, a large portion of clients and companies will refrain from systematically reviewing salaries this year and will implement at least some degree of salary freeze, with raises tied to promotions or extra responsibilities.

However, organisations which need to grow, replace, and hire will still be willing to offer significant salary increases to entice the right people to move.

COVID-19 has been a determining event in 2020. How was the hiring market impacted, and how will this affect the main trends this year?

The pandemic definitely had a major impact, raising unemployment across the globe and even in Vietnam, where this is rather unusual. The pain was mostly felt among skilled labour professionals while positions on the middle and senior management levels – which Robert Walters generally focuses on – were reasonably stable.

Based on our Salary Survey 2021, the pandemic was not a complete show-stopper in Vietnam but has created a lot of uncertainty and delayed plans. At the beginning when the lack of visibility of what would happen was the greatest, there was a marked reduction in hiring activities, especially in the more traditional manufacturing industries like fast-moving consumer goods and healthcare.

However, it was more a delay than anything – HR departments still had recruitment budgets to use and country managers had headcount and growth plans to pursue and as the initial shock wore off, the market quickly rearranged itself to find a new balance, with alterations made by both business and consumers.

This has led to the hiring market thawing out since July and August, with more and more companies contacting us with plans to launch operations in Vietnam and manufacturers shifting focus to meet shifting consumption trends, such as the growing spending on home improvements, from furniture to consumer electronics and home appliances.

The impacts of the pandemic were felt far less sharply in Vietnam than in other markets, which has been widely regarded as a success. However, this also means that local businesses were less pressed to shift to new working methods such as remote working. Could this mean Vietnam will not be a first-mover in this field?

It is true that many organisations decided to wait and see how things go, and make the appropriate changes as and when necessary. This does not mean things will not change – it is just that we have not been forced to change like other markets.

Having said that, the Vietnamese populace remains extremely young and adaptable, so even if the shift begins later, it might proceed faster than at other places. Some key opinion leaders have already started communicating about new working arrangements and new office designs are appearing in the market. We at Robert Walters have also done a couple of conferences in partnership with some consulting firms, providing advice on how to adapt the workplace and create more collaborative environments.

In fact, many organisations tried working from home, with very interesting results as the vast majority of people realised that they did not really like it. Maybe due to the unique Vietnamese culture where multi-generational families are living together, making working from home difficult, the experiments have recentred the workplace as a social hotspot.

What advice would you give younger local professionals about the development of their set of skills?

We face a generation who want to experience work and learn constantly, to the point where the feeling that they have stopped learning could prompt employees to change organisations.

My advice would be not to give up on an organisation because it is not perfect. It is important for them to be accountable for their own development and not rely solely on the organisation or their boss to draft their personal development plan. Most of our development is driven by us, our capability to put plans in place, stick to them, as well as learn on our own.

In a nutshell, I would suggest accountability, planning their development, being clear about what they want to do. Sometimes it is hard to tell what you want to do, but stick to it for some time and learn because moving around is not going to solve anything.

I would also advise young professionals to not be afraid of being specialised. There is a genuine fear of being locked into a sector by becoming too specialised but having a functional or an industry expertise is definitely going to give you a competitive advantage in the market.

Advising patience and commitment are very topical as the Salary Survey 2021 shows that the majority of professionals in most sectors are looking for a new job. Why do you think this is so?

Given how dynamic Vietnam is, there is always some temptation. Employees may believe that they could find more gainful employment at other organisations, but the grass is not always greener – and I think this is what many professionals realised in 2020.

Many professionals base their decisions on what their friends are doing. If they see a couple of friends moving on, they could start thinking it is time for them, too. If they see someone get a significant raise, they would want one too, without thinking to check if it came as a result of a promotion or the assumption of additional duties and responsibilities. As an international recruitment brand, we are trying to regulate this because too many people moving around can disrupt the employment market and is not constructive on the long term.

At the same time, I actually believe professionals are less likely to go through with the move than before, given the current uncertainties. We also see employers being much more protective of their key employees, trying to retain talent in a candidate-driven market.

I believe the HR scene will be somewhat more conservative, with both employer and employee enjoying a measure of protection and fewer departures. There certainly is an interest in moving, fuelled mostly by curiosity, but it will not necessarily turn into heightened activity.

Robert Walters is one of the world's leading specialist professional recruitment consultancies and focuses on placing high-calibre professionals into positions at all levels of seniority. The Salary Survey is based on an analysis of placements made across its network of offices and specialist disciplines. The information is supplemented by a survey done with candidates across 31 global countries including Southeast Asia. Now in its 22nd year, the survey is used by employers, HR managers, and employees for benchmarking salary levels within their industry. Find the new digital edition of the Robert Walters Salary Survey 2021 here.

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