Post Covid, Young Employees No Longer Put Wages First
As global economies begin to rebound after Covid-19 and unemployment rates in countries like the US and UK reach new lows, companies are finding themselves in an increasingly fierce competition to not only recruit but also to retain workers. Though Hong Kong has largely been spared the Great Resignation that has ripped through Western societies, the labour market turmoil caused by the pandemic has nevertheless stimulated more employees to look for pastures new. As young people share their conceptualisation of an ideal job in MWYO’s Youth Beige publication, a bi-monthly publication that seeks to chronicle youth sentiment on topical issues, it is clear that they have more than wages on their minds.
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 in the city, for instance, makes sick leave policy an important consideration for young workers weighing up new job opportunities. With some recovered patients of Covid finding themselves loosing pay and embroiled in labour disputes after failing to obtain the documentation required for paid sick leave, it is not surprising that young people are often mentioning medical-related benefits when describing ideal working conditions. A flexible paid sick leave policy that does not require the submission of Doctor’s Note for short (e.g., 3 days of fewer) absences, for instance, is something that is valued quite highly in this post-Covid era whilst there is also newfound appreciation for comprehensive employer-sponsored health insurance schemes. Indeed, such policies are now considered by a proportion of young workers as indicators of a friendly working environment that fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty, making them more likely to stay with the company in the long run.
In addition to the provision of medical benefits, the pandemic has also placed renewed emphasis on the importance of harmony in the workplace. Though the proliferation of remote working technologies and the quasi-regularisation of remote working arrangements have reduced the need for face-to-face communication, the ability for employees to interact with one another in both professional and social settings remains important. In fact, the prolonged periods of working from home and lockdowns have arguably made young fonder of casual water-cooler talks and the ability to simply walk up to a colleague for quick discussions on work issues. A number of them would go so far as admitting that a friendly working environment (with regular after-work social activities a welcomed add-on) is a significant factor both when considering new job opportunities and deciding whether or not to remain in their current positions.
The values of one’s employer have also emerged as a factor young people consider when evaluating job options. The idea that aligning the values of employees with that of the employer will create an effective working environment is by no means new. During this pandemic, however, it has taken on new life as a means of talent retention. Some young workers, for instance, feel that working for an employer whose corporate values align with their own enhances job satisfaction. This in turn makes them more inclined to stay in such jobs. Employee alignment with company values can be achieved by giving workers a greater understanding of his/her role in the context of the wider society. Indeed, young people have said that a greater appreciation of the extent to which their role contributes to the company’s operations and the society in general constitutes a powerful factor that keeps them engaged at work and remain loyal to current employers.
The emphasis on non-monetary benefits, amiable working environments, and agreeable corporate values is largely symptomatic of a wider change that sees Hong Kong’s new generation of workers re-evaluate their priorities. With Covid making us all the more aware of our mortality, young people are increasingly prepared to forgo societal markers of success (a high-paying job) in order to focus on things that they hold dear. In reality, this is likely to translate into a willingness to accept jobs that are slightly lower paid but offer better work-life balances, positive environments, and a corporate mission they support. As the global economy begins to show signs of recovery and the battle to attract and retain talents heats up once more, employers in Hong Kong will do well to consider how their workplaces could be improved in order to meet the aspirations of the city’s new generation.
Originally published in China Daily on May 30, 2022