Hong Kong businesses 'backing training and development'

Companies based in Hong Kong are investing heavily in employee training and development, according to new research.

The survey, conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) in July 2015, shows that 3.5 per cent of annual employee compensation is being spent on boosting the skills of employees - a figure that represents a ten-year high.

It demonstrates how HR departments are prioritising training and development budgets in an effort to not only boost employee retention, but also make sure that staff are adequately prepared for their roles.

More than four-fifths (82 per cent) of companies surveyed said they had a training and development budget, with the construction/real estate property development, wholesale/import/export/trading, retail, and banking/financial services sectors committing the most resources.

"We are pleased to see that employers [are] more willing than ever to invest in employee training and development," said Barry Ip, co-chairman of the HKIHRM's learning and development committee.

He added that despite the economic uncertainty facing Hong Kong at the moment, businesses understand that investing in human capital is the best way to "strengthen local competitiveness against our rivals".

A competitive edge
So why should companies be paying so much attention to their training and development programmes? The simple answer is that a well-drilled workforce will give businesses a competitive advantage, while a commitment to staff development is vital when competing in what is still an employee-led employment market.

"The data reflects the mature business mindset of the management of Hong Kong companies who champion human capital in bad or good times. We expect the growth momentum in training budgets for employees will continue for the rest of 2015," Mr Ip stated.

Having a training budget is one thing, but having an effective training programme is another. Companies are placing a lot of resource into creating talent development programmes, with the development of high-potential employees (84 per cent) and succession planning (66 per cent) seen as the two main benefits.

Businesses are also running graduate/management trainee programmes, as these are seen as an excellent way to get staff in at the ground floor and align them with the company's values and goals from day one.

Using technology effectively
Technology has caused a major shift in training, as there has been a rise in the use of non-traditional technology-enabled learning platforms. For example, 55 per cent of organisations now use such programmes, while only three per cent have reduced this year's budget in this area.

The use of technology means webinars and video can be used to provide a much more immersive training experience, while mobile devices allow people to participate regardless of where they are located.

"While instructor-led training is still the mainstay of staff training for most companies, we see a growing trend of mobile-enabling technology used for staff training, such as learning apps," added Chester Tsang, co-chairman of the institute's learning and development committee.

"More and more companies will resort to non-traditional technology-enabled training approaches to maximise training flexibility, efficiency, user experience and accessibility for their employees."