Looming ‘Great Resignation’ wave fizzles out in South-east Asia as job security takes priority: Survey

Hiring new talent, however is expected to remain challenging in South-east Asia, including in Thailand.

The Nation

The Nation



October 12, 2022

BANGKOK – The great majority of professionals in Thailand and Southeast Asia were inclined to retain their current jobs, after a resignation wave had loomed over the region last year, according to the report by British recruitment company Robert Walters.
Nearly 50 per cent of professionals in Thailand, who had thought of resigning in the past year, did not leave their jobs — the highest percentage in Southeast Asia.

A survey of professionals and companies across six Southeast Asian countries showed that:

● four out of five (80 per cent) wanted to resign in 2021, but 42 per cent of them were still in their current jobs;

● 86 per cent had reassessed their relationship with work during 2021, with inspirational colleagues and work culture among the top priorities;

● 40 per cent of professionals saw no change in how their current companies are retaining them

The survey results in Thailand were along similar lines:

● 80 per cent considered resigning in 2021, the joint highest in the region with Singapore, behind Malaysia, but, 56 per cent were uncomfortable to quit without a new job;

● Up to 56 per cent of employers in Thailand said they had taken measures to retain staff, but 36 per cent of professionals were not aware of these efforts;

● A mix of salary increments, promotions, and changed job responsibilities remain key to retaining top talent.

The survey results are proof that the “Great Resignation” wave may not be a total reality in Southeast Asia, based on the latest survey from specialist professional recruitment firm Robert Walters.

The survey suggests that professionals are valuing job security during uncertain times, with more than half (59 per cent) indicating that they are uncomfortable quitting without a new job in hand, and 81 per cent of those who have thought of resigning willing to change their minds if conditions are right.

Hiring new talent, however is expected to remain challenging in Southeast Asia, including in Thailand. Nearly 76 per cent of companies found difficulty in doing so in the past year. The survey also pointed to a perception gap on retention efforts, as 40 per cent of professionals in the region claimed they were not aware of “changes” by their employers to engage and bridge their concerns.

The “Robert Walters Great Resignation Reality Check” report surveyed over 2,600 professionals and more than 1,100 companies. The survey aimed to understand attitudes towards resignations, the reasons behind staff turnover, and to unlock retention motivators. Conducted in June 2022, the research covered six Southeast Asian countries — Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

While 79 per cent of professionals surveyed in the region expressed their intention to resign in 2021, more than 4 out of 10 (42 per cent) had yet to do so. Malaysia saw the most professionals (82 per cent) who had thought of resigning in the past year, followed by Singapore and Thailand (both 80 per cent).

Gerrit Bouckaert, managing director at Robert Walters Southeast Asia, believes employers will experience even greater hiring movement in the remainder of 2022 and 2023.

“Rather than a ‘Great Resignation’, businesses can expect an accelerated hiring market across Southeast Asia in the coming year. Professionals are not quitting on a whim, but rather looking to move between jobs. In the face of a possible recession, we expect professionals to act with caution, and only move jobs when they have an offer in hand,” he said.

The situation in Thailand is very similar, the survey showed.

While 80 per cent of professionals in Thailand had considered resigning over the past year, 50 per cent of them had yet to resign (the highest in SEA). The top reasons why they have continued in their current jobs are: not finding the most suitable job yet (58 per cent), lack of opportunity in chosen field (32 per cent), and concerns over job security in a new company (24 per cent). This suggests that while employees in Thailand have been ready to make a move, most are still in the midst of planning it for the near future.

However, with more than four out of five surveyed in Thailand saying they would stay in a job if the conditions are right, it is good news for employers. Salaries continue to play a pivotal role in reversing this decision, with professionals flagging that a holistic package of salary increments (38 per cent), promotions (30 per cent), and a change in job responsibilities (27 per cent) will best retain them.

Colleagues, and a culture that inspires employees to do their best, are what professionals in Thailand value most in an employer (42 per cent). This ranked just above compensation and benefits (41 per cent), as well as flexible work arrangements (35 per cent).

Staff turnover in Thailand has increased in the past year, according to 72 per cent of companies surveyed. To retain staff, employers have taken significant measures, including matching or increasing salaries (56 per cent), providing training and upskilling opportunities (50 per cent), and offering greater flexibility and remote/hybrid work arrangements (45 per cent). However, 36 per cent of the professionals interviewed said they were not aware of changes made by their employers, pointing to a perception gap.

Other findings for Thailand include:

● Overly high salary and benefit expectations pose the biggest challenges to employers (68 per cent), high competition for candidates (41 per cent), and lack of technical qualifications (40 per cent).

● More than 4 out of 5 employees (83 per cent) have reassessed their relationship with work over the past year. Key areas include spending time with family and friends (67 per cent), their mental and physical well-being (58 per cent), and the meaning/fulfilment of their jobs (51 per cent).

Punyanuch Sirisawadwattana, country manager of Robert Walters Thailand, said: “Companies need to wake up to the new reality of a post-pandemic workplace, creating an environment that is suitable for the talent they want to attract. It’s a more competitive hiring market than it once was. I’d advise going beyond good remuneration and benefits, and finding new engagement channels to show appreciation for employees. Beyond this, employer branding needs to continue even when candidates become staff.”

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