I coined this expression a few years ago and frankly, I’m surprised it didn’t catch on. Particularly in Asia, many companies seem content to let their recruiters simply ‘weed out’ candidates that don’t get a check in the boxes. In doing so, they are losing sight of finding someone who can meet the performance objectives without being burdened by the employer’s preconceived success factors.Indeed, these factors are often in reality ‘status-quo’ factors.
The ‘Weeder’ recruiter will disqualify candidates who don’t meet the salary band, required years of experience, job title expectations or all mandated skills.
The ‘Seeder’ will identify the motivators and performance benchmarks of meeting increasing challenges over time, the ability to acquire or hire skills that they don’t currently have and will understand how they overcame obstacles relevant to the hiring company.
If you want to seed your organisation with different skills and make hires capable of developing beyond the role they are being hired into, look to your gatekeepers! It might be worth reminding them that great performers are unlikely to be interested in lateral transfers or in companies that equate future potential with check-box hiring.
Author Peter Udall
Education First (EF) is an international training company that has helped 15 million people learn a new language. Based on 750,000 adults taking English tests in in 2012, EF have released their 2013 ‘English Proficiency Index’ (EPI). Their annual results have allowed EF to compare standards across countries in much the same way as the Pisa tests compare international education systems. Their conclusion is that English Proficiency in Hong Kong is in ‘stagnation’ as Mandarin rises.
In absolute terms, Hong Kong’s EPI Ranked 22nd with ‘Moderate Proficiency’, grouped with South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The latter two are increasing proficiency, whilst Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan have declining proficiency. The ‘Moderate Proficiency’ group lags behind ‘High Proficiency’ countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, in 11th and 12th places respectively.
The Hong Kong report and infographic (download the PDF) makes several observations, such as “Hong Kong struggles to maintain its traditionally high level of English proficiency” and “Hong Kong presents itself as an international hub for business, trade, and finance. English is today’s language of global commerce. If Hong Kong’s English proficiency cannot keep pace with that of its neighbors, it may be losing its competitive advantage.”
The Hong Kong report also noted also noted that ” With mainland China as Hong Kong’s top trade partner, accounting for half of its total trade in 2012, mainland tourists has compelled the retail and service industries to hire employees who can communicate with these guests. To accommodate these economic realities, the Hong Kong government adopted its trilingual policy in 1997 and has invested millions in improving its workforce’s Mandarin skills. As a result, the number of Hong Kong residents who reported that they can speak Mandarin increased from 33% in 2001 to 48% in 2011. Though the rising importance of Mandarin has not devalued English in the Hong Kong job market, it follows logically that when the focus shifts from a single foreign language to two, there is less time allocated to English study than previously, and proficiency levels suffer as a result.”
Note: The ratings exclude countries with the highest (C1+C2) and lowest (A1) proficiency ratings, based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) Languages scale.
The Global Talent Competitiveness Index measures the performance of countries across the world on their talent competitiveness, i.e. their ability to attract, develop and retain talent. Produced by Adecco, INSEAD and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) the 2013 GTCI Report doesn’t include HK specifically but makes some interesting observations.
Human Capital is the #1 CEO challenge for Asia (page 70).
The ‘Importance-Adjusted’ strategies for managing Human Capital in Asia are:
- Grow talent internally
- Provide employee training and development
- Raise employee engagement
- Improve performance management processes and accountability
- Increase efforts to retain critical talent
- Enhance the effectiveness of the senior management team
- Improve corporate brand and EVP to attract talent
- Hire more talent in the open market
- Improve effectiveness of front-line supervisors and managers
- Improve leadership development programmes
The full 284-page report makes for some interesting reading, with a China specific report on page 110.
Identifying a High Performance hire in Hong Kong, or anywhere else, is relatively straightforward. During an interview it will be apparent that they have sought out and achieved ‘stretch’ career goals, take pride in being ‘the best’ and are mentors and leaders that staff like to follow. Hiring high performers can be difficult as everyone wants to employ a ‘sure thing’ who will achieve more than a regular employee.
Tomorrow’s High Performers are today’s High Potentials and they share the same competencies, which are evident through behavior.
Identifying High Potential is harder, as you are looking for behaviors that might not have yet been marked through significant achievement.
You will see in the table below some typical high performer competencies and questions that will allow you to look at the associated behavior.
|Competency||How to investigate behavior|
|Using Business Expertise||Tell me about a time that applying your industry experience to a problem provided tangible benefits.|
|Solving Problems||Tell me about a time you had to analyse information and make a recommendation. How did you do that and what was the outcome?|
|Demonstrating positive behavior||Tell me about a time when you encountered obstacles while pursuing a stretch goal. Did you reach the goal and how did you overcome the issues?|
|Showing innovation or flexibility||Describe the most creative idea that you’ve implemented to solve a problem. How did you come up with the solution and was it successful?|
|Being aware and effective||Have you ever been displeased with your own performance? Why was that and what did you learn or do about it?|
|Developing healthy working relationships||Describe a time that you received disappointing feedback from your boss. How did you feel and what remedial actions did you take?|
The investigation should reveal behaviors indicative of the competency. For example, if an interviewee was to have behaviors indicative of having and ‘using ‘business expertise’, you might see them:
- Keeping up-to-date on current business knowledge and trends
- Anticipating the effect of new business trends on current practices
- Understanding and applying new information to the workplace
- Implementing strategies to enhance the efficiency or productivity of the organization
Once you have hired your high potential employee, you need to keep them challenged, developed and stimulated. Give them increasing responsibilities and autonomy, partner them with a high performer, provide training, recognition and leadership access when appropriate.
Please subscribe to our Facebook Page to see more Hong Kong interview advice in future blogs:
- Identifying a Leadership hire in Hong Kong
- Interviewing across cultures in Hong Kong
- Interviewing across generations in Hong Kong
- Who not to hire in Hong Kong
When I speak to overseas candidates applying for jobs in Hong Kong there are a few key questions that I ask, as a professional recruiter:
- “Why the interest in Hong Kong specifically”
- “What obstacles to you and the family expect”
- “Who have you applied to already”
These are loaded questions.
If you have done your homework, you will probably realize that already. If the questions elicit any of the following responses, your application is in danger of failing before it’s even started!
- “I’m not looking just at Hong Kong, I’d consider anywhere in the world with a good climate and an environment favorable for….”
- “We expect the kids to miss family and there will be the usual adjustments….”
- “I’ve been applying extensively online for the last few months and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere…”
To find out why these answers will relegate your application, read more.
The ESF (see our schools page) is the largest provider of English Medium of Instruction (EMI) in Hong Kong. As reported in The Standard today, ESF chairman Carlson Tong Ka- shing said the ESF may have to increase fees by at least 23 percent when the Government subvention is phased out. The ESF already operates two Private Independent Schools that operate outside of the subvention. One of these, Discovery College has announced fee/levy increases amounting to 53% over 5 years.
ESF are running a business that is oversubscribed, so inflation-busting fee increases are likely to be sustainable in the short-term. The Education Department has approved the DiscoveryCollege increases, so Government has again signalled that EMI is a matter purely for private sector market economics.
For an Expat middle-manager with a couple of children, unchecked increases of this magnitude could be enough to make an ESF education unaffordable.
The resulting reduction of globally experienced staff, that bring overseas working practices and international experience to the local workplace will impact Hong Kong’s competitiveness.
The Washington Post recently posted that “If you’ve been out of work for more than six months, you’re essentially unemployable. Many companies won’t even consider you for a job.” In an experiment carried out by Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University, he found that employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who’s only been out of work for a few months than someone with more relevant experience who’s been out of work for longer than six months. The graph illustrates the findings that, based on the experimental data from the US, the short-term unemployed are 5 times more likely to be called back than the long-term unemployed when applying for a role in their own industry.
Obviously there are differences between the US and Hong Kong, but what are your perceptions? If your CV indicated you have been out of work for 6 months or more, have you noticed a declining level of employer interest? Does your CV even state that you are unemployed?