From the Great Resignation to the Great Burnout, employers in Asia continue to grapple with shifting employee priorities


Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study underscores how winning organizations are tuning into employee needs and values to rethink ways of working, upskilling and well-being for success


Asia, 6 May 2022 – Talent attraction and retention are top of mind for executives across Asia, with seven in 10 executives saying they face a labor shortage crisis – a concern most pronounced in Japan (88%) and China (75%). The talent challenge shows no signs of abating. Despite 85% of employees in Asia feeling satisfied in their current role, nearly two in five still plan to leave in the next six to 12 months, reflecting that organizations have yet to keep up with evolving employee expectations of work and the workplace.


Drawing on insights from nearly 11,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders and employees globally, Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study, “The Rise of the Relatable Organization” highlights how winning organizations prioritize reskilling and well-being while partnering with employees to co-create the new shape of work.


Work in Partnership: Seven in 10 say not being able to work remotely is a deal breaker

One in two employees across Asia say the future of work is about balance – fitting work around life and no longer life around work. Compared to 2020, employees today say they are more likely to stay with their employer due to “life” related factors, such as flexibility and time off, compared to “work” related factors, such as career progression and development.


One in three employees in Asia are willing to forgo pay increases to be able to work flexibly, closely followed by well-being benefits. Nearly seven in 10 employees (with the exception of Japan at 51%) say not being able to work remotely or hybrid permanently is a deal breaker when considering whether to join or stay with an organization.


However, more so than employees in Asia and organizations globally, executives in Asia are concerned about the impact of permanent hybrid and remote working, especially the ability to build and maintain colleague relationships (89%). Seven in 10 also believe fundamentally that work gets done in an office, not remotely. With 48% organizations in Asia saying they are struggling with scaling up and sustaining hybrid work, there is significant work to be done in evolving their flexible work culture.


Puneet Swani, Career Business Leader, AMEA, Mercer, said, “Employers need to bridge the gap in expectations and embrace new, flexible work models to cultivate a workforce that can design their own careers. Those who find that balance and align their policies to the wants and needs of their employees will not only boost the motivation and engagement of their existing workers, but also will win the best talent.”


Build for Employability: 97% of companies see significant skill gaps

The pandemic supercharged companies’ race to reskill, with organizations globally investing more than US$2,800 per learner in reskilling last year, up from US$1,400 in 2020. However, it is unclear if the investment is paying off. Nearly all (95%) employees in Asia reported recently learning a new skill, yet a staggering 97% of companies report significant skill gaps in their organization.


While providing opportunities to reskill and upskill is top of the people agenda of organizations in Asia in 2022, barriers remain. Lack of time aside (36%), one in four employees said they are not sure which skills to focus on as well as where to go to learn a new skill for work. HR leaders, too, have their reservations. They find it difficult to keep up with the pace of change and emerging skill needs (37%), identify employees with the most potential to effectively leverage new skills (36%) and are concerned that upskilled talent will leave the firm (35%).


Addressing skill gaps is more pressing than ever for organizations to realize their strategy, meet evolving business needs and ensure the employability of their talent well into the future. The good news is HR leaders in Asia are looking to build skills internally rather acquiring talent, a significant shift from pre-pandemic. They are also seeing the greatest impact from targeted learning investments (42%) and experiential learning through internal rotations (42%).


Mr. Swani added, “Despite an uptick in experimentation during the pandemic to close the skills gap, companies in Asia and their employees are still very much in the learning phase. Employers need to figure out how they can offer more opportunities for employees to pick up new skills and make rewarding skill acquisition more visible throughout the organization.”


Deliver on Total Well-Being: Eight in 10 employees at risk of burnout

The percentage of energized employees has dropped significantly from 74% in 2019 to 63% this year – the lowest level in the study’s seven-year history. Across Asia, the number dipped to 56% and 44% for Japan and Singapore respectively, well below the regional average of 68%.


Eight in 10 employees in Asia, including a staggering 95% in Hong Kong, feel at risk of burnout this year. With nearly all (98%) organizations planning significant transformation this year, the collective fatigue could put these plans at risk. Yet only one in four executives and HR leaders in Asia view employee exhaustion as a threat to transformation or driver for attrition.


Mr Swani said, “The silver lining is that one in three executives in Asia see prioritizing employee well-being as the people initiative that will deliver the greatest ROI in the next two years. As companies transform, it will be critical to rethink the employee experience and their well-being strategy more holistically and inclusively. Enhancing digital adoption, improving the communication of strategic vision, and addressing organizational complexity will be key.”


Understanding the Talent Drivers

A fundamental change in people’s values is underpinning a structural shift in the labor market. With a record number of employees switching jobs last year, understanding talent drivers is critical. After job security, organizational brand and reputation is the #2 reason for employees who joined their current employer, up from #9 before the pandemic. Staying relevant requires organizations to listen intently to their stakeholders and walk the talk on their core values through company purpose and work standards.


Renée McGowan, President – Asia, Middle East & Africa, Mercer, said, “Recovery in the region remains fragile amid challenges of rising inflation, geopolitical conflicts, climate change and digitalization. A top worry for executives in Asia is business resilience, which is closely intertwined with the resilience of their workforce. A thriving workforce creates a thriving business. Now more than ever, organizations need to consider the role of all their employees in shaping solutions and addressing challenges from hybrid work and well-being to reskilling and sustainability – so they’ll feel more relevant, connected and valued.”



About Mercer 

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 83,000 colleagues and annual revenue of approximately $20 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on LinkedIn and Twitter.



APPENDIX: About the 2022 Global Talent Trends Study

The seventh edition of Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study brings together the voices of nearly 11,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders and employees representing 16 geographies and 13 industries. 
Read the report.



Five trends for 2022: What relatable organizations in Asia are getting right


1.     Resetting for relevance: Listening and engaging talent by reflecting their values in the new shape of work.


  • Only 55% of employees say their company is meeting all their needs. This figure is even lower in Japan (31%) and Singapore (45%).
  • 96% of employees expect their employer to pursue a sustainability agenda that balances financial results with social issues, diversity/equity, and environmental impact.

2.     Working in partnership: Working with employees on career, health and rewards to stay ahead.


  • Nearly all HR leaders (91%) think there is more work to be done to build a trusting culture at their company, particularly as many consider shifting to a hybrid working model.
  • Gig working remains a favored strategy for the C-suite, with seven in 10 executives expecting that gig workers will substantially replace full-time employees at their company in the next three years. But with fewer than 6 in 10 full-time employees open to gig working, more needs to be done to make this a viable, attractive and secure option for employees.

3.     Delivering on total well-being: Actively supporting and nurturing a healthy workforce with benefits that matter.


  • Almost nine in 10 companies currently offer or plan to offer training and tools to help employees identify and support others facing mental health challenges.
  • Across all demographics, financial worries have increased, with half (53%) of employees saying they feel insecure about their financial future.

4.     Building for employability: Prioritizing and aligning skills for employees of all backgrounds to the work of the future.


  • Close to 90% of companies already have or plan to adopt an AI-powered internal talent marketplace platform to facilitate movement.
  • With a growing aging population in Asia, 43% are proactively offering older workers different employment options, including phased retirement, and 42% of companies enable employees to adapt retirement benefits to their personal circumstances.

5.     Harnessing collective energy: Designing employee-centric work experiences, to earn, learn and laugh together.


  • HR teams are predicting low energy reserves this year: 47% expect their workforce will have just enough energy for their work but not to go above and beyond, and 27% expect even less energy across the board.
  • 88% of executives in Asia say they have asked more of HR in the past 18 months and will continue to do so in 2022.
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