As one of the most important economic clusters in China, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) looks to develop itself into a leading international economic and innovation hub on a par with other world-renowned bay areas such as New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.
The GBA comprises two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and the nine municipalities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province. The strategic significance of the GBA was underscored by the promulgation of the Outline Development Plan in February 2019.
While setting out the overarching direction for the socio-economic development of the region, the Outline Development Plan provides a framework to guide economic integration and co-operation among the GBA cities. One of the key policy objectives in this endeavour is to augment and strengthen the GBA’s talent pool by creating an environment conducive to nurturing and bringing in high-calibre talents.
The GBA development is expected to have far-reaching ramifications for human capital enhancement as well as people and talent flow in the region. Mindful of this, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) conducted a poll in April 2019 to collect HR professionals’ opinions on the GBA development, in particular how they foresee the impact it may have on Hong Kong companies’ people management strategies.
General perception of GBA development
The overwhelming majority (90%) of the respondents participating in the poll were aware of the GBA Outline Development Plan.
When asked which Hong Kong industries would be mostly likely to benefit from the GBA development, 41% indicated the banking and insurance sector, which was followed by financial services/fintech and technology-related industries.
While more than half of the respondents believed the impact of the GBA development would be mainly positive; one-fourth said it was still premature to predict what will transpire.
Likely positive and negative impact
As for the likely positive impact, “more markets for products and services”, “a larger talent pool” and “freer capital flow” were cited as potential benefits by 63%, 50% and 47% of the respondents, respectively.
In terms of the likely negative impact, “intensified competition” was an issue most of the respondents were concerned about. Among other issues, data privacy, policy/regulatory ambiguity/uncertainty, and cyber security were at the top of the list.
When asked to predict any talent movement in the industry to which they belonged, slightly more than one-fourth of the respondents expected to see a shift of local talents to other GBA cities, while other respondents of the same proportion foresaw no significant movement. Still, another 25% said it was too early to tell.
Regarding the factors that may facilitate the movement of talents between Hong Kong and other GBA cities, a vast majority of the respondents (86%) considered tax incentives to be effective. More than half reckoned that simplifying the passenger clearance process at cross-boundary checkpoints would be useful. Improving transportation infrastructure and networks was also seen by many as important.
Challenges Expected to be faced by Hong Kong employers and talents
It is reasonable to expect that as Hong Kong organisations look to hire talents from other GBA cities, they may face a host of challenges in maintaining a competent and co-operative workforce with employees from diverse backgrounds. These challenges could be multifaceted from differences in work culture, work ethics, regulatory and legal environment, and salary level, to tax arrangement, to assimilation into the local workforce.
As for Hong Kong talents seeking employment in other GBA cities, similar challenges can be expected to confront them.
With the GBA development gathering momentum, talent flow within the GBA city-cluster is likely to increase, resulting in the whole manpower pool becoming more vibrant and dynamic. From the perspective of Hong Kong employers, even the GBA talent market may become more competitive with increased people flows, organisations that maintain a good employer brand will always stand a better chance to attract and retain talents possessing the most desired qualities and competencies.
If the governments of the GBA cities are to encourage the interflows of talents, it is necessary to step up the facilitating measures and expedite their implementation. As revealed from the survey, priorities should be given to introducing tax incentives, streamlining passenger clearance at cross-boundary checkpoints, and providing more efficient transportation infrastructure to facilitate cross-boundary commuters.
When it comes to addressing the challenges expected to be faced by employers and employees as a result of cross-boundary employment, the HR function will have a pivotal role to play. For instance, they can help organisations to cultivate a more inclusive corporate culture which embraces workforce diversity. This can be achieved by developing a formal code of practice on proper workplace behaviour, setting up a transparent system for handling employee grievances, and coaching staff across different levels and functions on team-spirit. Furthermore, HR teams can organise talks and invite experts to speak to staff on topics pertaining to building an inclusive workplace culture and promotion of work ethics.