This year brings an important turning point for people around the world as they scramble to find ways to recover from the impact of 2020. Major economies in Southeast Asia took a drastic hit during the crisis last year, but are now poised for growth as the market picks up and new trends emerge.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic outlook projections for 2021 predict a 5.2 per cent growth in ASEAN countries and a 8.3 per cent in emerging and developing Asia. As these nations pick up their trajectory, the recruitment industry is set to be a thriving market in the Asia Pacific.

The recruitment market is a regional hotspot. The staffing market is on its way to an inflection point, with a growth projection to over US$10 billion during 2020-2024. After a challenging year for recruiters, this recovery in momentum comes as a relief as normal order resumes.

There is a catch, though. As businesses resume and hiring is ramped up to keep up with the pace of demand, the market is seeing new recruitment trends shaped in the face of adversity.

But what will this mean for employers looking to gear up with the top talent, namely in the tech sectors?

The intensifying tech talent crunch in Asia

Across the globe, the issue of a crushing talent shortage is looming over the economy. The e-Conomy SEA report reveals that 70 per cent of the region’s population has now gone online. With the acceleration of digital consumption, businesses must engage innovative tech solutions to meet the demand of a significant demographic.

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This dynamic shift online, paired with disruptions in way of life have contributed to massive efforts in digital transformation, and an increased need for talent to fuel this movement.

However, the process is not as efficient as it should be. Sixty-eight per cent of tech hiring managers surveyed in Southeast Asia said it took more than three months to fill an open tech position on their team. Additionally, 70 per cent of these tech hiring managers stated that the shortage of tech talent had negatively affected the speed of their product development.

The talent crunch can be seen in markets like Singapore, a business epicentre and tech hub, facing a talent shortage for workers with the right tech skills for her economy to keep with the pace of digitalisation. The infocomm sector will need another 60,000 professionals over the next three years.

Job sites see up to 500 new tech vacancies each week and software engineers have revealed that they receive up to three offers each day from recruiters. However, the nation produces 2,800 infocomm graduates yearly, creating a colossal shortfall in supply.

Similarly, in India, the “offer-to-joining” ratio is a 10:4, with only four digitally skilled professionals taking up the offer in every 10 offers. Much of this talent crunch has to do with border closures and stricter foreign worker policies as an obstacle to overseas hiring as a solution.

Also Read: How to bridge the tech talent gap in a post-pandemic world

Businesses have been taking a tactical approach to navigate the shortage of talent: by aggressively pushing for more recruitment activity such as job site posting, scouting on social platforms and general activity that increases their pool of candidates. This may not be the most pragmatic, in fact, it can be counterproductive and hurt companies in the long run.

Companies or recruiters end up with a long list of applicants that are unsuitable for the job or those that may have different expectations from what was advertised. This process puts a dent in the cost in terms of money or time spent on assessing candidates that are not a good fit.

Tech professionals have more power today than ever

A constant pursuit of strong tech talent has brought about an order shift as talent now holds a coveted spot in the hiring funnel. Companies are unable to ensure that they hire and retain top talent when these talents are sitting on multiple offers daily.

The fact is that strong talent do not apply for roles as much as companies reach out to them directly. However, this approach can only do so much; talent can choose who they respond to, depending on how much of their demands are met.

Speaking from almost 20 years of experience in recruitment, top tier talent reject offers for reasons ranging from an unmatched salary to a less-than-desirable role.

Furthermore, past research from Deloitte has 83 per cent of job seekers have had a poor candidate experience. This has potential repercussions for the employer, in the ongoing war for talent, as a poor applicant experience can change a suitable talent’s mind about a role or company they once liked.

What’s next?

As talent continues to be a critical blocker in the digital industry, recruitment holds an immense untapped opportunity to solve the talent shortage. In the Asia Pacific, however, hiring practices have continued to be stagnant and cost-inefficient. There has been a slow adoption of technology to automate many of the processes that do not require human intervention.

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For starters, it is worth acknowledging the importance of digitally-skilled workers. They are enjoying better job prospects, and are responsive in their salary expectations. Old recruitment practices are no longer sustainable as these new dynamics are likely to stay post-pandemic.

Talents, especially top-tier talent, will need to be placed first in the hiring process. Companies have to be more transparent about roles. In an increasingly competitive market set to continue, job specifics and salaries have to be communicated for more accurate and faster matching.

Companies do not just need to approach talent first, but they have to approach the right talent. It is not uncommon for job vacancy site postings to be vague about job scopes. For instance, an IT professional specialising in Unix customer support may respond to a job vacancy ad that failed to mention that the hiring company runs on backup software support. On the other hand, resumes often mention the worker’s particular skill set.

What recruitment solutions firm Grit has done is created a talent-first marketplace where companies apply to talents. Unlike the traditional and more commonly seen approach where recruiters offer jobs on social channels such as LinkedIn, the platform focuses on curated talent.

Highly-skilled digital professionals will first need to apply to the marketplace and will only be accepted if they are qualified as digital or tech talent.

Employers are then able to browse the pool of curated talent with visibility of each skillset, salary expectations, active status, notice period and visa status. When companies apply for talent, they do away with the need to filter out unsuitable applicants and instead get the pick of the litter.

This also helps manage expectations for both ends as everything is laid out on the platform. With these solutions, candidates can enjoy a transparent and fuss-free process while employers can cut costs by 60 per cent and reduce the hiring timeframe by two-thirds. In addition, Grit will also be offering a feature for organisations to crowdsource referrals through the Grit Platform as they look to improve the ways organisations can access qualified talent faster and enable talent to get rewarded for finding their network quality roles.

Despite the economy being on a trajectory path, challenges around foreign visas and a shortage in the local supply of talent still stands in the foreseeable future. For companies to compete in the current market, hiring practices will definitely have to change.

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