LewisNg, COO SEEK Asia

Employees Increasingly Seek Flexible Working Environments


Winning the war for top talent means that employers today need strategic approaches to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees.

According to SEEK Asia’s chief operating officer (COO) Lewis Ng (pic above), the fast-evolving employment market stems from automation and more advanced and powerful digital technologies reshaping the employment landscape.

Lewis cited a recent study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) which stated that the percentage of core skills that would change by 2025 is 40%, with some 50% of all employees needing re-skilling by that time.

This trend is expected to become more pronounced in the years ahead when more powerful technologies – such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Advanced Analytics, Robotics – become more mainstream.

“Even Cybersecurity roles would be constantly sought after due to the all pervasive Digital Economy of today,” explained Lewis. He added that, at the other end of the spectrum, jobs that could see a decrease in demand over the next five years included data entry clerks; accounting, book-keeping and payroll clerks; as well as administrative and executive secretaries.

“With employers accelerating the digitalisation of work processes, this means that some jobs that have been lost will never come back, and those that do will require new ways of working and new skills. In other words, jobs and skills will be transformed in years ahead due to greater technological adoption by companies.”

Lewis was speaking on the topic of “Reimagining a Post-pandemic Workforce” at MyFintech Week 2022, a five-day event organised by Bank Negara Malaysia bearing the theme “Advancing Digitalisation for Recovery, Sustainability and Inclusion held from 24th to 28th January 2022.

As COO of SEEK Asia which combines two leading employment brands JobStreet and JobsDB under one roof, Lewis is responsible for driving sales growth acceleration and revenue streams while ensuring world class customer experience in all the markets SEEK Asia operates namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand.

Throughout his 20-year career, Lewis held various leadership positions in digital companies, providing him with experience and expertise in building teams and processes, while also designing and implementing strategies in the various Asia-Pacific markets.

The ‘Great Resignation’

Lewis also enlightened the audience that there is a global trend happening called the ‘Great Resignation’, also known as the ‘Big Quit’, of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs primarily from 2021.

“This trend is due to employees looking for more flexible working environments and greater support for mental health from companies. Hence, addressing burnout is one of employers’ key challenges in retaining their best workers,” said Lewis.

A recent study done by JobStreet also indicates that 80% of employees in Malaysia are considering switching jobs: “The pandemic has prompted jobseekers to re-evaluate what they want from work – and factors include work practices, values and relationships they seek.”

“Hence, employers must also adapt to stay competitive. For many employees and often the best talent, this period also represents opportunities to reflect and search for their next career move. Being a pioneer in meeting these expectations can put firms in the frontline in the war for top talent,” emphasised Lewis.

He recommended for employers to adopt a ‘preparation’ rather than a ‘protection’ approach to embrace change while preparing the workforce to meet future demand for digital skills through rapid upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

The importance of flexible working arrangements 

Lewis is also of the view that flexible working arrangements is a key differentiator in winning the war for talent. 

“Flexible work is one of the most coveted benefits an employer can offer. It allows workers to better integrate their home and work lives, while giving them the opportunity to meet their personal needs, family obligations, and other responsibilities,” said Lewis. 

According to the ‘New World of Work’ survey, flexible work is one of the biggest and most important workplace changes derived from the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that 71.1% cited remote work and 35.7% cited flexible/staggered schedules as paradigm shifts going forward. 

Meanwhile, some of the fastest-growing career opportunities offering flexible work are computer and IT, medical and health, sales, project management, customer service, marketing, accounting and finance. 

“It’s not just a fad. The rate of remote work is expected to nearly double what it was prior to the pre-pandemic. This arrangement is beneficial for both workers and employers. Some benefits for workers include no commute time, reduced stress and fewer distractions. Employers, on the other hand, get to enjoy their own benefits like increased employee engagement and more productivity,” said Lewis. 

Lewis advises employers to customise and adapt flexible working models that fit their employees’ work and personal needs. Factors to take into consideration include flexible working days or hours and flexible locations or set ups to be supported by appropriate enablers such by user-friendly collaboration tools to allow employees to easily connect with others, within or outside the organization and are able to access remote technology as well as human resources support whenever they need to. 

“Being a pioneer in meeting these expectations can put firms in the frontline in the war for top talent,” he added.

In addition, Lewis also recommended for employers to continuously build ‘value-based workplace cultures’ together with emphasis on cultural elements such as relationships, appreciation for work, and work-life balance.

“Emphasis should also be placed on employee well-being holistically – not just by monitoring their employees’ physical health, but also their mental health. Employees these days would rather work for companies who are aware and sensitive of their needs: Such as work-life balance, meeting family obligations, and maintaining health and wellness.

“Flexibility in work arrangements provide employees with a sense of empowerment that their concerns are being addressed, in addition to their work and efforts being acknowledged and appreciated.”

Lewis also recommended for employers have programmes to meet the objectives of upskilling and reskilling so that employees are able to continuously stay relevant in a fast-digitizing workplace.

“Additionally, studies also show that it’s time to get serious about social and environmental issues. A great majority of respondents below 30 years of age would exclude companies that don’t match their beliefs in environmental responsibility and diversity and inclusion,” added Lewis.

JobStreet’s Mission

Against a recovering employment market, it is the mission of JobStreet to improve people’s lives by helping employees rediscover their ‘passion’ and employers reinvent their businesses.

“In our upcoming campaigns, we will focus on helping jobseeker’s transforming their career and employers’ transforming their businesses, starting with the launch of Asia’s Biggest Virtual Career Fair happening in March 2022 simultaneously across 6 countries where SEEK Asia operates, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand,” said Lewis.

“Thousands of jobs will be available during the three-day virtual career fair with top employers participating from various industries. Job seekers can also look forward to an interactive experience during this virtual event as they will be able to browse through job postings seamlessly with engaging multimedia contents or benefit from instant interaction with employers.”

Employers can also participate to seek out the best tech talent available in this region. A series of Signature Reports will also be produced to keep job seekers and employers updated on the market trends and insights.

JobStreet is also looking at partnering learning institutions in support of building the Future Workforce.

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