Purpose and belonging at the core for Southeast Asia workers

15 June 2020 Consultancy.asia

The business environment in Southeast Asia is demographically and culturally suited to adapt to changes in the global workforce, according to Deloitte’s latest Human Capital Trends report.

The Big Four accounting and advisory firm has been observing trends in the global workforce every year for exactly a decade now, amassing more than 55,000 responses over that period. This year, the most striking finding of the report is that the human side of the workforce has fallen in sharp focus.

For a few years now, the role of a business has been expanding from just ensuring employee safety to maintaining employee wellbeing. This extends to the emotional and psychological factors of ensuring that employees have a “sense of purpose and belonging,” according to Deloitte’s new report.

The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated this trend. As businesses transition to work from home arrangements, the individual and personal situation of each employee and its impact on the working structure has come under the spotlights, and organisations are having to manage a whole new set of considerations.

The importance of well-being in business performance

In fact, Deloitte’s study points out that as many as 96% of respondents to its survey position employee wellbeing as an “organisational responsibility.” This shift in responsibility has partly been driven by the realisation that employee wellbeing has a direct bearing on the performance of a business.

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents explained how giving employees a sense of purpose and belonging allows for more coherent operations. Including the workforce in the target-setting and ideation process makes them directly aligned with organisational goals, which can tremendously boost performance.

According to Deloitte Southeast Asia’s Human Capital Consulting Executive Director Indranil Roy, this correlation is even more pronounced in Southeast Asia. “Purpose and belonging will remain at the core for workers in Southeast Asia, as cultures across the region place emphasis on deep relationships and human interactions, not only in the workplace, but also with family and in their social circles,” he said.

The relationship between artificial intelligence and the workforce

On the other hand, he argues that businesses in Southeast Asia have a long way to go when it comes to employee wellbeing. “While talent in Southeast Asia demands a focus on wellbeing as “table stakes” to join and stay in an organisation, they often take this into their own hands and many organisations in the region continue to struggle to meet expectations in this area.”

According to the research, embedding a sense of purpose can also help businesses manage generation gaps within their organisation. While age groups in the workforce have had a part to play in human capital strategies previously, the advent of Industry 4.0 tech and all its related changes is expected to exacerbate this gap to a large extent.

The workforce

The report points out how older age groups are not only less tech savvy, but they also lack the agility and flexibility of roles that is required to work in a tech charged environment. While tech is rapidly permeating through the business environment, experts predict that human intelligence will remain central to extracting the potential of new technology such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and Internet of Things, among others.

Working alongside technology requires versatility and familiarity with the digital sphere, which will be a key consideration for businesses as they develop human capital strategies. From a generational perspective, Roy predicts that Southeast Asia is well positioned to manage this change.

Demographic-based segmentation of the workforce

“Despite the fact that countries in Southeast Asia are very diverse and vary in terms of economic maturity and growth, there are some common trends that can be observed. Firstly, Southeast Asia has a young workforce with heavy millennial presence in the workplace. This means we have a high number of social media naturals, who are tech savvy and are attracted to and can adjust quickly to remote working and human-tech interactions,” he said.

Under the circumstances, such a scenario has benefited the region. “This has bode well in today’s Covid-19 times – the workforce in Southeast Asia has adapted well to the changes in work arrangements, and have remained productive,” explained Roy.

Going forth, Deloitte urges businesses to learn from the new work structures in the crisis, applying the techniques that have emerged to maintain employee wellbeing and productivity. The firm has strong human capital advisory capabilities in Southeast Asia, and will be looking to support this transition to new working structures.