26 Entrepreneurs Reveal How to Find And Keep Great Talent in Hong Kong

A special thanks to Bridges Executive Centre in Hong Kong for sponsoring the Hong Kong edition of our Global Startup Report.

In this week’s chapter 26 entrepreneurs share their thoughts on how to find great talent in Hong Kong.

A) To find qualified talents in Hong Kong, referrals can be a good and simple recruitment channel. The candidates referred by your community are most likely high quality, with sound reputation and can more readily match your specific requirements. Recruitment advertising costs can be saved too.

If you don’t have nice referrals, you may consider recruitment agencies that have solid talent management experience in recruiting and screening. Although there are many types of talent information available online nowadays, it’d be difficult for you to pick the potential ones in such a large pool. Recruitment agencies are helpful in this situation for selecting suitable candidates for your company.

B) In order to retain your staff in Hong Kong, comfortable and compatible working environment that enables your staff to work in harmony can’t be neglected. Pleasant workspace makes your employees less stressful and finally it increases their productivity.

Previously, some companies believe that allowing their staff to work at home can make them happy; however, it seems not 100% true, because the staff will have less interaction and communication with other co-workers and may feel isolated at last. Work efficiency will drop as well.

Offering comprehensive employee remuneration package is also a good way to keep your quality staff. Benefits like health and dental insurances, paid vacation, discretionary bonus and education fund are good incentives to boost employee morale.

@FionSen / Bridges Executive Centre

The best way to find and keep great talent is to have a very clear mission, culture, and direction for your business. In this sense, Hong Kong is no different than anywhere else in the world. Capable people want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves and they want to be contributing to building something worthwhile.

Know that you are only as good as your team. From the first time you meet a prospective hire, tell them how much they matter and make them feel valued. Often this means paying them what they are worth. This will pay off in the long run.

Hong Kong is unique because it is a destination for anyone that is interested in Asia. Working in Hong Kong is not just about the job – it is about the opportunity to live in a city where the weather is beautiful, a 5 minute taxi ride from the centre of the city can place you on a beach or at the top of a mountain.

You can easily travel around East and Southeast Asia and see all different types of cultures and ways of life. More often than not, talented people are interested in adventure so it usually helps to emphasise the fact that working in Hong Kong is more than just the job, it’s a lifestyle.

@AllisonBaum / Fresco Capital Advisors

This is the million dollar question! In a city where most young people want to go work for a bank or property developer it is not easy to find smart capable people willing to work for a small company, and even harder to keep retain them for the long-term. Obviously it’s preferable to find talent through referrals so the sooner you can build-up your local network the better.

Be targeted in your search for talent – Rather than advertising on the mass-market job sites (jobsdb.com, etc) try customised job postings on platforms like LinkedIn

Once you have found the right person, the ball is in your court to hold onto them! Keep them excited about their work and the company by showing them the potential for personal development as your business grows. Always remember you are competing with big companies in finance, property and logistics which may provide job security but are not as dynamic or exciting as start-ups or small businesses.

@RebeccaJo-Rushdy / BaoBae

Keeping best talent is a mix of salary and work environment. The young and bright people will value working at a company with purpose where it’s self fulfilling to work., Hong Kong is an expensive city so salary needs to match up with the local cost of living.

@AntoineDeroche / Datafield

Finding talent in Hong Kong is difficult, particularly in the tech industry. With most of the IT talent traditionally working in the banking and insurance industries, there are few programmers with the experience and knowledge of cutting edge technologies.

This is gradually changing, but there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately there can be a bit of a “diva” edge to the coders who are on the cutting edge because they’re very aware they’re in high demand, which can make for some interesting work environments.

Ultimately, keeping talent is the same wherever you are in the world – treat people with respect, create a supportive work environment and pay them a fair salary.

@ScottBowler / Opencall

We need a lot of patience. As a small company, it is important to not only find people with the right skills, but the right fit is equally (if not, more) important. If you find the right people, then you can focus your energy on the work tasks and not spend time on people management issues.

We source our talent from a variety of sources: the Jobs page on our Myflat.hk site, the network of participants through the Chinese University of Hong Kong entrepreneur program (in which we participate), and our own personal and extended networks.

As a start-up, we cannot pay high salaries. To keep strong talent, there are various incentives:

– A good product – developers want to be inspired by what they’re building. Luckily for us, our tech team is very passionate about Myflat.hk and the business model, so this keeps them motivated.

– A focused environment – there is very little wasted time when you work for a start- up. Everyone just concentrates on their work, without feeling like they have to put in the “face time” required for a 9-to-5 job.

– Flexible hours – some of us came from corporate backgrounds and had very long work hours. We still work long hours at Myflat.hk, but at least we don’t need to be in the office at 9am if we stay up until 3am working.

@MatthewTam / MyFlat

It is extremely hard to build a stable team in Hong Kong as it is easy for the locals to find new jobs. It took me more than 6 months to create the “perfect” team, in which I can fully rely upon. The only real tip I can offer is try to find people who believe in your company. As to how you find them, well it truly comes down to circumstances and luck. I recently found my designer at a workshop but then I also lost a copywriter to another workshop a few months back. I guess you win some and you lose some…

At Locaclick, there is no hierarchy and I see all colleagues as partners. Everyone is encouraged to speak up, to raise ideas, to criticize and object. Maybe that helps too?

In final, when you meet someone worth having on board, do your best to woo, win him/her over. You never know how far your seduction and negociation skills can bring you… 🙂

@MichaelWajntal / Locaclick

This is still a big challenge in Hong Kong but has vastly improved over the last 5 years. Creating high quality and great work yourself, that you want to see in others is a first step to further improve this situation and to attract more talent to Hong Kong.

@HolgerBartel / Open Device Lab

Finding great talents is not easy. Usually they are those with strong experience and therefore they are expensive. However I experienced working with fresh graduates who was surprising talented.

In Hong Kong a lot of things are driven by bonus. There is less corporate feeling than in western countries I believe. Therefore to keep a talent you will have to keep him/her excited and motivated, but also pay them well.

@AdrienTerras / digitalin Consulting

There are jobs websites like JobsDB and Recruit.net, and there are various recruiters like Cogs Agency (for tech recruiting) and others, but I prefer to network through Linkedin and by going to events to see who is active in the community.

Although Hong Kong is notoriously expensive when it comes to real estate and there are some highly compensated individuals here, that doesn’t mean it’s the most expensive place to hire people. In fact, I’ve found that many people here are used to a salary lower than what I would expect to pay in my company’s headquarters in Utah, where the standard of living is substantially less costly.

Where I believe the greatest opportunity lies, in my opinion, is in being able to treat employees well. My experience is that many employees have been mistreated, overworked, and don’t get the respect and training they would like to get.

I recently interview an employee of Rackspace here in Hong Kong, and he said there was no way he would leave his job. It wasn’t pay, it wasn’t perks, it was all the soft stuff that doesn’t cost anything, but is hard for most companies to make a priority, like culture.

Startups and entrepreneurs that focus on creating a transparent culture that prioritizes customer service, training, and respect will have a distinct edge over their competitors when it comes to retention.

@JoshuaSteimle / MWI Hong Kong

I think offering people the ability to use their own creative abilities, ideas, and judgment to try something new and to see it through with the accountability resting on them is very rewarding and fulfilling. If they’re given the opportunity to try and whatever the result, they know that they’ve learn and grown from the experience.

@BrianTong / Deals Hong Kong

We have plenty of talent in Hong Kong, a lot of them are multi-linguistic, and the most important thing is that most of them can speak English as well as Mandarin.

Generally, compared to western countries, talent here are relatively cheaper, and a lot of business owners find this an advantage for building their business here in Hong Kong. There are plenty of job post websites around that you can find the right talent in Hong Kong.

@MichaelMa / WYND

1. Start with friends: Find people though Facebook, social media, friends, friends of friends and then start looking at JobsDB.com and other resources.

2. Know what’s important to them: Knowing what’s important to them is the hardest part. Something that could be meaningless to you such as practicing English while working in your company is already fulfilling and worth achieving for them.

Therefore make sure to communicate more and understand what’s important to them. One of our interns from China wanted to practice English and we nurtured it by asking him to give presentations etc. So that personal attention, the mentoring, coaching is what most young Hong Kong talent will be looking from you.

3. It’s extraordinary: Keep reminding that they are participating in something quite out of the ordinary. Another thing we do is, we purposely keep changing rules every six months by listening to our best talent that we want to keep as we believe that it’s ‘Our Business’.

4. Red-pocket money: Although competitive pay is important, however those simple gestures during Chinese New Year of giving red-pocket money, moon-cake coupons on festivals, annual dinner etc will boost their belongingness to your company.

@SaralKochar / TechPacker

I think you need to be transparent with your vision for the business with the team that you are developing around you but when you make promises make sure they are achievable. Reputation is everything in a tight market like hong kong.

A lot of good talent can some through referral and the relationships of you and your team. If people respect who you are, how you operate and what you are doing then they will work with you and stay with you. Finally make sure if it is a fast growing business make sure the team feels like it is sharing in the benefit along with the founders.

@ChrisGeary / BSD Academy

Hong Kong people are generally tech savvy. Look around, one of your friend’s friends may turn into your marketing guy or lead engineer. Immigration laws are not strict here, allowing you to hire from anywhere in South East Asia, or western countries and/or tap into the engineering talent pool in mainland China. That’s pretty much how I assembled my team in Hong Kong.

There is an interesting trend in Hong Kong’s tech firm’s company culture. Startup offices here are often friendly, cozy and homey. I have seen a 50-person company sit in an apartment-like space, with employees sitting right next to each other like in a war room while walking around in slippers.

I have also seen a company that keeps cats and allows employees to cuddle with them while working. Personally, I do lunches with my whole team every day to mingle and get the latest updates on their social and work lives, so I can help them in a more personal way to develop their career. Our company’s annual turnover rate is lower than 5% and I attribute that to our company culture.

@JeffreyNg / Zorpia

Posting job openings online may not always get what entrepreneurs wanted. Its more promising to join meet ups. If you need a developer, go to a developer meeting and meet them.

Describe your business to them, and make them interested in your plan. These meet ups are constantly ongoing. Great talented work individuals in HK are demanded, and to keep them, theres got to be something that is interesting for them.

Most oftenly, these skilled work talents may have their own vision. Listen to them more like friends, and perhaps let them experiment with their ideas too.

@KifHong / Alitobit

This is a difficult problem in Hong Kong, one that I don’t have the perfect answer for. I’ve found all my partners and greatest employees through old-school networking via my friends and social activities. While networking events are valuable for making connections, often they can be forced social encounters which don’t lead to meaningful conversations.

@TimothyKau / LuxTNT

Most local companies demand their workers to be on-time at work and long hours at the office. I give flexible hours and option to work from home. Our staff loves this.

Communication with staff. In most local companies the boss will always talk, not allowing the staff to speak. Give respect by using proper communication with your staff will give them better self-esteem.

Clear bonus scheme but not as much as you would expect from western companies. People are general happy with just little bonus.

@WayneCheung / Soundfreaq

Always be pitching and a competitive salary will help.

@JasonNgan / Bindo

you have to fight with investment banks to hire the best talents in Hong Kong – instead of (just) offering good salary, providing work-life balance and opportunity to build something meaning in a startup are attractive to the talents I believe.

@AndrewChan / AfterShip

It’s tough anywhere, but turnover in HK’s tech sector can be especially high. But keeping staff stimulated and focused on meaningful projects is one way to retain talent. We focus on word-of-mouth for hiring.

@DanielLevinson / Kovurt

This is the same everywhere in the world. Solve a problem that will affect the future of humanity. @AlanTsui / Kites

This is the tricky part : resource of great talent in HK is not limitless. And big corporate / banks are providing huge salaries to attract most talented person.

Providing free transportation to attract new territories residents in HK island can be a good trick. It will not cost you a lot, as MTR price is quite low, and it can make the difference compared to other company packages.

@AdrienLopez / Ado Studio

It’s not easy to find great talent in Hong Kong, so when you do, do whatever to keep them!

@FrankieTam / FifthWisdom

“Haigui” or sea turtles is a mandarin term for overseas educated Chinese who come home from abroad. Many of these HK/Chinese nationals want to live and work in Hong Kong giving them the mix of eastern culture and western culture.

The way to find great talent is to be open with them with your intentions and see if there is a good fit. Like any relationship in this world, talent hiring is a 2 way street. Just as much as they want a job, you also need the right people, which many organisations forget.

@ZachHegde / Ming Global

Network, network, network and be quick, don’t rethink an offer you are going to make to a talent, they will talk to someone else right after they left your office.

@JeffreyBroer / Surround App

Image credit: stuckincustoms

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