Majority of Hong Kong HR executives indicate they are in post-recovery phase of COVID-19, digital technologies key for future, finds KPMG global survey

Majority of Hong Kong HR executives indicate they...

Building talent through upskilling and reskilling identified as key factor for future workforce


22 September 2020, Hong Kong – A majority of human resources (HR) executives in Hong Kong (77.5%) indicate that they have passed the 'recovery phase' in terms of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 and have entered into either the 'resilience phase' (62.5%) of supporting and developing leaders and employees to manage through uncertainty, or the 'new reality phase' (15.0%) of adapting to the new world. This is significantly higher compared to 59% of executives worldwide who indicate the same, according to a KPMG study.

Conducted in July and August 2020, the KPMG 2020 HR Pulse Survey is a special edition research initiative in place of the global annual Future of HR survey, with a special focus on exploring what the future holds as HR organisations contend with the impacts of the pandemic. Nearly 1,300 HR executives in 59 countries and territories and 31 key industry sectors took part in this year's survey, with 320 (25% of the total respondents) coming from Asia, including over 60 executives from mainland China and Hong Kong.

Asia executives surveyed, including 42.5% of Hong Kong respondents, have ranked 'managing performance and productivity in a predominantly remote environment' as the top capability required by the HR function to add value in today's environment. Naturally, 'adopting digital technologies to support remote working and collaboration' is identified as among, or for some markets like Hong Kong, the most important initiatives for the HR function in managing the implications of the pandemic and moving to a new working reality over the next 2 years.

Peter Outridge, Partner, Head of People & Change Advisory, KPMG China, says: "The priorities of the HR function have clearly shifted as a result of the pandemic. With the mass transition to remote working, HR leaders need to rethink their traditional work models and how to keep people in their organisations connected, engaged and productive. The HR function also needs to work with the rest of the C-suite to re-evaluate what productivity means in the new reality and architect the workforce of the future."

'Building talent through upskilling and reskilling' is cited by 40% or more surveyed executives in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Asia overall as the most important factor for shaping their organisation's future workforce composition. Most mainland China executives think around 11-20% of their organisation's total workforce will need to be upskilled or reskilled in the next 2 years. This figure is higher in Hong Kong, with more executives seeing this need for up to 30% of their workforce.

Jonathan Lo, Partner, People & Change Advisory, KPMG China, says: "The pandemic presents HR with a unique opportunity to drive workforce connectivity and productivity through embracing a digital mindset. HR resources can be better used engaging in workforce shaping that is anchored by predictive analytics, information flows and process automation, among other digital capabilities, to help turn workforce insight into action."

Only half of the surveyed respondents in Asia, with the same percentage of Hong Kong respondents, indicate that HR in their organisation is proficient in using data and analytics to target and recruit their future workforce. This percentage is higher in mainland China, at 59%.

Most Asia HR executives, including more than 55% Hong Kong respondents, expect to make the biggest investment over the next 2 years on 'new or updated learning and development platforms' and 'enterprise service management' (i.e. connecting and automating their organisation's back office across the enterprise to provide a connected employee experience). Mainland China executives also identified 'advanced artificial intelligence, machine learning platforms, or related technologies' as a key investment in the coming years.

Overall, a high majority (over 80%) of surveyed executive in mainland China and across Asia have found their function playing a leading role in their organisation's response to the impacts of COVID-19; this number is even higher among Hong Kong respondents (93%). As talent risk emerges as the top challenge now faced by CEOs in China[1], it becomes even more crucial for the HR function to develop targeted talent management strategies to retain talent and support business growth.

[1] KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook: COVID-19 Special Edition:



About the survey

The HR Pulse 2020 survey covers 1,288 HR executives in 59 countries and territories (with majority representing from the largest economies in the world) and 31 key industry sectors (such as asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology, and telecommunications).

A third of the companies (33 percent) surveyed are C-suite and 29 percent are HR executives such as senior vice presidents. Approximately 32 percent of companies surveyed report an annual revenue of US$1B+.

The survey was conducted in from July 21 to August 7. Note: some figures may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

About KPMG China

KPMG member firms and its affiliates operating in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau are collectively referred to as “KPMG China”. KPMG China is based in 26 offices across 24 cities with around 12,000 partners and staff in Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Foshan, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Haikou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, Xi’an, Zhengzhou, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR.  Working collaboratively across all these offices, KPMG China can deploy experienced professionals efficiently, wherever our client is located.

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 147 countries and territories and have more than 219,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. In 1992, KPMG became the first international accounting network to be granted a joint venture licence in mainland China. KPMG was also the first among the Big Four in mainland China to convert from a joint venture to a special general partnership, as of 1 August 2012. Additionally, the Hong Kong firm can trace its origins to 1945. This early commitment to this market, together with an unwavering focus on quality, has been the foundation for accumulated industry experience, and is reflected in KPMG’s appointment for multidisciplinary services (including audit, tax and advisory) by some of China’s most prestigious companies.

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