Employee dissatisfaction emerging as key issue as workers return to office — survey

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EMPLOYEE TURNOVER in ASEAN companies is becoming a critical management priority as workers return to physical offices, with pay and benefits as well as limited opportunities to advance among the key sources of discontent, according to a study by professional services company Mercer.

The study, conducted in three major ASEAN developing economies, (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines) said post-pandemic employers need to address the new difficulties in attracting and retaining talent.

The COVID-19 pulse survey incorporated input from more than 850 employers worldwide amid labor shortages and return-to-office plans, including vaccination policy and workplace safety protocols.

It found higher turnover in the hard-to-hire mid-career professional segment.

In the Philippines, most respondents reported a higher turnover rate, with 67% citing pay dissatisfaction as the main cause for attrition, followed by the availability of better benefits elsewhere (52%) and limited career advancement (41%).

More than half of the survey’s respondents reported moderate to significant difficulty in attracting mid-career hires, compared to recruiting senior executives (33%) and entry-level positions (13%).

Maria Theresa E. Alday, CEO of Mercer Philippines, said: “For organizations to thrive in this new work environment, it is important to look beyond the pandemic and understand what is needed to address workforce challenges. This means that there is a need to review the organization’s trajectory, reset priorities, and redirect attention to key issues that really matter — taking care of the workforce’s needs today and leading on tomorrow’s transformation. Companies can no longer take business, workforce, culture or HR transformation in isolation. The future of work is no longer about gaining a competitive advantage, it is about staying relevant.”

Mercer said financial incentives such as employee referral bonuses (48%) are being widely implemented to attract talent, but added that reputation (69%) and culture (86%) are also significant, including practices like workplace flexibility and support for employee well-being.

Godelieve van Dooren, Mercer’s CEO for the South East Asia Growth Markets, said: “The pandemic accelerated the need for employers to reassess their talent strategies and if a company wants to retain talent, it should focus on understanding why employees want to stay and work on those motivations. If competitors for talent offer more benefits in the same areas, the inertia for employees to stay is weakened, outside job opportunities become more attractive and it will be more difficult to attract and retain talent. Companies must reinforce the right reasons and take a positive approach to managing retention, which will be more effective over the long run than simply reducing turnover.”