Keeping ahead of Asia's tech jobs boom

06 Jul 2007

The desire for personal growth on the job, rather than enhanced compensation or better job security, has emerged as the most important factors for Asian telecom and IT workers, according to a Telecom Asia-TNS salary study of telecom and IT professionals in the region.
Issues such as career advancement potential, availability of resources to do the job well, and a sense that employers value the opinion and knowledge of the workforce all rank higher than base pay as key factors when considered a job move.

The salary survey, carried out in April by Telecom Asia and market researcher TNS, involved 245 respondents holding various telecom and IT jobs in Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia.

While average salary increases ranged from a healthy 8.7% to 19.5% in 2006 across the four countries, the survey found that three-quarters of respondents are looking for new work - 51% passively looking, 19% actively searching and 6% looking for a job in a new industry. The outlook for pay hikes in 2007 was somewhat lower than last year, ranging from 10.7% in the Philippines to 5.5% in Singapore.

Expectations of lower increases might be part of the reason behind such a high percentage of workers on the lookout for a new position. Despite the strong rebound in annual increases over the past two years, 42% of employees believe that their total compensation is somewhat or much less competitive compared to other employers. Just 22% of respondents, however, said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their compensation package - obviously, the grass is usually greener somewhere else.

Given the solid salary hikes and general level of employee restlessness, telecom executives with operations in the Asian-Pacific region say they are much more cognizant of a tightening telecom job market and are taking steps to cope with it.

This is supported by a report released last month by Ernst & Young on the Asian telecom sector that reported that 44% of the operators interviewed said hiring and retaining the right people was a key challenge. The report went on to say there is no shortage of base-level skills, but a 'real shortage of quality management staff who understand telecoms and can operate in a fast-changing environment.' It noted that cross-cultural challenges, such as language barriers, can undermine regional prospects.

'Technology changes in the telecom industry are rapid and continuous,' notes Colleen Rush, head of human resources for recently formed Nokia Siemens Networks. 'Having enough people with knowledge of new technologies always presents a challenge. Right now, IMS skills and experience are in short supply.' Rush adds that 'retaining employees with telecom skills is of the utmost importance.'

Juniper Network's VP of marketing and partnerships Shailesh Shukla says finding skilled telecom workers and partners is becoming more difficult. 'It's a significant challenge in terms of getting skilled folks who know much about wireless broadband and IP to deploy these networks' in Asian countries that are building out their telecom infrastructure. Juniper recently started new training initiatives in China, India and Malaysia to help solve the problem.

'We have invested in building a much more robust training and certification program,' Shukla adds.

Retaining skilled workers is difficult throughout the region, especially in India, said Cisco's VP of worldwide service provider marketing Jeff Spagnola.

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