On Tuesday, 21st February 2023, Prospect convened a breakfast with nine Hong Kong industry leaders to share a preview of the Prospect State of the Industry Review findings. Emma Dale led the discussion at Prospect’s first in-person event in Hong Kong in three years.
It was wonderful to reconnect with agency leaders and in-house communications leaders in Hong Kong after years of virtual-only interactions. During the event, attendees discussed their experiences in 2022 and their expectations for 2023. Here’s a summary of the conversation:
1. Workplace flexibility has become a defining characteristic.
In many instances, flexibility has been responsible for staff retention, especially in the absence of salary increases and bonuses. However, while flexibility has been embraced by talent at all levels, the risks for juniors outweigh the positives. Attendees observed that limited opportunities for on-the-job training, socialising and in-person client interaction has negatively impacted not only the professional development of junior and mid-level practitioners, but also their individual happiness. Many companies have implemented a 3/2 work from office / work from home split to maintain some balance, although this varies by company and sectors.
2. Retention continues to be a challenge.
We’ve observed a lot of job movement in the past few years. As one agency head observed, the previous approach of retaining staff by minimizing ‘push’ factors is no longer effective. Employees now need to also provide ‘pull’ factors to compel staff to stay. This requires that supervisors develop individual plans to incentivise high performing talent to remain in their employment. Despite best efforts, people still move on to other opportunities, and in many cases former employees become future clients, so there is value in maintaining positive relationships.
3. Training and promotion
In many instances companies provide training opportunities but face an uphill battle in ensuring team members attend and participate. While some firms have intrinsically linked training completion to promotion, others have taken a hands-off approach, providing support when employees seek and undertake training independently. Some leaders have observed the ‘lie flat’ movement adopted by many juniors, where they do their jobs but are not compelled to rise-up the ranks. This movement presents an ongoing challenge for the industry as a whole.
4. Demand for quality talent has skewed salary levels.
While salaries have always differed between sectors, salary ranges in 2022 especially within agencies are more extreme than ever before. Outliers exist at each level, with some employers paying way above market price to fill urgent needs. The risk for high salary earners is a reduced bonus, salary freezes, or job cuts as agencies seek to reconcile expenditure with their client pipelines. The consensus was that given the economic environment 2023, clients are unlikely to increase their agency spend.
5. The Hong Kong market is evolving.
According to attendees, Hong Kong is getting back on track following the events of the past few years. While there was a mass exodus of talent in 2021 and 2022, leaders observed the recent return of people to Hong Kong as they found that the grass was not necessarily greener elsewhere. While returnees are welcomed, there is a still a long road ahead to attract international talent to the city.
Check out the Prospect State of the Industry Review below.