Comparing HR Markets – The UK and Hong Kong

4 Minutes

Where have the last 16 months gone! After four years in Hong Kong I returned to the UK last ...

By Kirstin Hunt

Managing Director, UK and Europe

Where have the last 16 months gone!

After four years in Hong Kong I returned to the UK last May and it has been very interesting to observe the differences in the HR market.

On a daily basis I get asked by my HR contacts; “What do I see as the major differences between the UK and Asia” and “How do I enjoy working back in the UK?”

So… Weather aside I love being back in London! It is and always will be for me one of the most dynamic, culturally diverse and forward thinking cities. I arrived back the week that Brexit was announced, which after the initial shock and uncertainty of the announcement, I soon recognised that businesses are carrying on with a sense of pragmatism, well aware that they need to prepare for a range of possible outcomes.

Of course there is continued uncertainty on the expected shape of the labour market, employment laws and immigration policy, however the stance from a number of HR leaders is now how best to build a more productive and stronger workforce.

HR has a pivotal role inaugurating a thorough data cleansing and pre-empting possible talent gaps. Without doubt both in Hong Kong and in the UK it is those organisations who are forward thinking, constantly looking to evaluate the state of their business and workforce within it who will be able to attract and retain the best talent.

Whilst in Hong Kong I recognised a clear difference between those businesses who had strong visionary leaders, who took the time to discuss their people agenda, rather than the far too often knee jerk reaction to hire someone asap with little evaluation of what skills were really needed to help drive the business forward. Of course this works for the short term but you would quickly see a pattern of higher turnover as staff are less engaged and unsure on their long term direction and career path.

In the UK I have also seen a huge focus on; learning, quality of data, teamwork, and reengineering projects to create a more globalised & streamlined approach for organisational excellence and I strongly believe it is those companies who are able to retain their best people. In the UK HR is increasingly recognised as a partner to the business and no longer just about delivering on operational and administrative areas to ensure costs are controlled effectively.

When we look at attraction and retention this is where I see some of the major differences. Within the UK I have seen a massive shift with regards to flexible working. In our recent Global HR survey 78% of UK respondents were offered flexible working arrangements versus 47% in Hong Kong.

In the UK key motivators for a job change have shifted away from purely salary and job title (certainly two of the main reasons for a job move whilst I was in Hong Kong) to other considerations such as;


1) Working for a business which values HR

2) Companies who can offer some flexible/agile working arrangements

3) Businesses who take pride in creating a productive and energised workforce


Companies who consider the above are definitely securing the best talent and will be in the strongest position to hire individuals who demonstrate strong commercial skills, strategic understanding, and who appreciate the important role HR has to play in the wider organisation.

Please do take the time to look at our recent Global HR Survey Results which further highlights key global HR trends. I look forward to holding further discussions with HR professionals on their priorities and it will be very interesting to see how the market develops and what trends emerge over the next few months.

If you would like to discuss the current HR market or how to secure the best HR talent for your organisation, get in touch at km@elliottscotthr.com