The current HR trends in Southeast Asia show a new professional jobs model called career cushioning. It is a growing trend where workers hold down multiple jobs due to the uncertain employment climate affecting countries regionally and worldwide. According to the Remote Work Report by Employment Hero, the COVID-19 pandemic changed how people perceive their work. 

Now, employees expect more and are either seeking promotions or looking to get new jobs while still holding down their current ones. Employment is different from what it used to be, with remote or hybrid work becoming the norm and the poor state of the global economy, meaning that people are earning less money.

Amidst layoffs and talent crunches, what are employers looking for and how can HRtech help

HR technology (HRtech) is further altering the landscape, and HRtech trends in Southeast Asia show the impact of COVID-19 on organisations. In the Digital HR Transformation Survey 2022 by professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), 79% of respondents saw digital transformation accelerating within their businesses due to the pandemic. Moreover, 96% saw HR’s role evolve to become someone who enhances an employee’s experience or designs a path for their development.

Using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is helping in recruitment, analysing employee performance, and automating HR. Experts also use tech to source, match, and assess candidates who suit their businesses. The AI can respond to messages through chatbots when you’re unavailable and send pre-scheduled messages to prospective customers.

Benefits and challenges of career cushioning

The benefits of career cushioning are plenty. For one, it means people will have more work and potentially earn more money. Secondly, with two or more jobs, it ensures the employee’s job security because they will always have something to fall back on if they lose one. Third, they will improve their skills, build talent stacks, and network with other professionals.

Conversely, career cushioning can affect an employee’s productivity and efficiency. They can become fatigued or experience burnout from running from one job to the next. Furthermore, long hours at work can affect someone’s health, meaning they spend more time at the hospital than in the office.

Future of HR and employee work in ASEAN

The current global economic challenges are affecting many businesses. Costs of production and doing business are high, energy costs have risen, and interest rates are increasing. Last year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) experienced mass layoffs. Tech companies like Sea Limited and Shopee let go of many workers to streamline their businesses. This trend is commonplace as companies try to cut expenditures and maintain cash flow, meaning workers face job losses as businesses tighten their belts.

Rather than career cushioning, another way for employees to safeguard their work and well-being is through upskilling—improving one’s skills to match their company role. Second, employees can talk to their managers to discuss hybrid and remote work to boost productivity. In addition, turning a hobby into a job may help ease financial pressures and take advantage of the gig economy. 

Companies should adopt an employee-centric approach to enhance employee experience and efficiency in the workplace. For example, Singapore-based Darwinbox formed a partnership with Microsoft and will use its predictive AI to help employees integrate data effectively. There will be better workforce management, payroll, automation, use of AI chatbots, better recruitment, and more available thanks to the ever-evolving technology.

According to a press release from Allied Market Research, the global HRtech market is expected to reach $76.5 billion in 2031, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.2% from 2022-2031. Asia-Pacific (APAC) will have the fastest CAGR of 11.7% in that period. There is a strong need for highly skilled workers, better data integration, and cybersecurity and data privacy protection.

With the HRtech sector set to grow, startups can adopt technology to recruit better and manage staff well. Other businesses in the industry can help innovate new recruitment solutions in regional companies.

Like it or not, career cushioning will likely continue to be one of the standout HR trends in Southeast Asia in the next couple of years. People want to have options, enhance their skills and value, and maintain their job security in uncertain economic times. They are also embracing the flexibility of hybrid or remote work and using it to build up their side jobs.

HRtech trends in Southeast Asia show that the region is adapting to the employee-centric changes foisted upon them in recent years. Much emphasis is being placed on taking care of workers, using technology to recruit the ideal employee for the company, and innovating HR solutions like AI-driven employee and payroll management. Overall, ASEAN will have to maintain this tech-driven model in recruitment and maintain the digital transformation push to innovate more solutions for the HR sector.