Due to the ongoing talent crunch in Southeast Asia, startups cannot afford to lose their best employees. Finding ideal replacements would be costly, time-consuming, and challenging. Companies must improve their employee engagement and retention techniques to ensure workers are well taken care of and to guarantee the business’s long-term success.

According to Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study, senior executives in Asia believed that the talent challenge showed no signs of abating and that there was a labour shortage crisis. Nearly two in five employees planned to leave their companies before the year ended because their job and workplace expectations would not be met. 

We discuss hiring amidst Southeast Asia’s talent crunch in 2023 and beyond

Furthermore, one in three Asian employees was willing to forgo salary raises for life-related aspects of employment, such as getting time off and being allowed to work flexibly. Nearly seven in ten employees were unwilling to join or stay at an organisation not offering remote or hybrid work. While upskilling and reskilling workers was essential, HR bosses found it challenging to keep up with the emerging skill needs and felt that upskilled employees would leave for another company.

Additionally, the percentage of energised workers in Asia dropped from 74% in 2019 to 63% in 2022, the lowest level in the history of the Mercer study. The risk of burnout was also high, with eight in ten employees feeling likely to experience it.

Downsides of high employee turnovers

Some reasons for the talent crunch in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) include intense competition in the region, inadequate startup funding because of the struggling global economy, and a lack of skills and tech knowledge. Moreover, regional regulations and laws limit the ability of businesses to recruit talent from across the border. 

Organisations with high employee turnover develop bad reputations and take a hit on their branding. Turnovers signal the presence of a toxic work environment or one where employees do not receive the compensation and benefits they deserve. It also shows a lack of leadership, which does not reflect well on the company’s vision and mission.

When businesses have high turnover, the new talent has to start over, and salaries must be high because it is difficult to find replacements in competitive markets. Cash flow will be affected by the need to pay for recruitment, and the startup will have less left for its other operations. Furthermore, constant turnover means it is challenging to maintain a consistent culture in the workplace.

Strategies for retaining top talent in ASEAN startups

Companies should adopt correct recruitment strategies to match their business’s stage. If the startup is in the early stages, it should build a team focused on product development and marketing. In contrast, if it is in the latter stages, it can focus on diversifying or boosting its market share. Employees may leave because they do not align with the company’s vision, cannot find growth opportunities, do not have a career path, or receive the competitive benefits and salaries they expect.

Establishing a healthy, collaborative work culture makes employees more committed to the startup and excited to contribute to its success. Employees who are engaged and satisfied at work will serve customers better and be more productive. Company heads should also make sure to continually show the workers the vision and mission of the business to create and maintain values that everyone aligns with.

For example, the Singaporean cashback platform, ShopBack, engages its employees by offering clear career growth opportunities. The company believes in highlighting the work done by its employees, which can boost morale and make other workers more productive.

ASEAN startups must embrace the region’s digital transformation and adopt technological solutions. Human resource technology (HRtech) is becoming widespread in the area, and companies should consider partnering with HRtech companies to access innovations that will improve staff recruitment in Southeast Asia.

Employees want health and mental wellness benefits as part of their compensation packages. The flexible benefits platform, Mednefits, allows businesses like Carro to personalise their employee benefits plans and control the costs companies pay for their workers. The flexible benefits model also attracts top talent by giving them a custom option for their medical needs.

Investing in elaborate team-building activities can keep employees engaged and help enhance the company culture. For example, the team can participate in charitable activities to support the local community. These gatherings will strengthen relationships, making them more productive.

The uncertain economic landscape means startups will be careful when considering scaling their teams, according to Ethan Ang, co-founder of tech jobs portal Nodeflair. Businesses must ensure that their recruitment, employee engagement and retention strategies are robust enough to overcome the talent crunch in Southeast Asia.