SMEs in Asia feel the pinch in global talent war

In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, business imperatives are driving SMEs in Asia to transform or be left behind. The CISCO APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index 2019 revealed that a good majority of SMEs (43 per cent) are digitalising to survive the competition, they also recognize that being digital will enable them to become more agile as they bring new products and services to keep up with customer demands.

 The Index also showed that as high as 39 per cent of SMEs do not have digital plans in place. Correspondingly, they fall at the lowest end of the Digital Maturity Index – Digital Indifferent. Whilst the challenges may differ according to business nature and industry sector, one of most critical factors to a successful digital transformation is having the right talent in place. The lack of digital skills and talent was cited as the biggest of the top five challenges small and mid-sized businesses face in their digital transformation journey.

 Respondents to the survey revealed that China was the most affected with 24 per cent of small and mid-sized organisations in the country rating it as the biggest hurdle to their digital transformation. Compared to 19 per cent of SMEs in Hong Kong, 17 per cent of those in Australia and 12 per cent of those in Indonesia, although it still ranked as the top challenge in their digital transformation journey.

 From a sector standpoint, the SMEs in financial services are the least concerned with inadequate skill sets, although this is a key concern among the infrastructure sector. Not surprising considering the growth and emerging technologies making the headlines in the Fintech space perhaps .

Explore ‘Build or Buy’ Talent Strategy
In today’s highly competitive hiring market, companies are vying to attract and retain the same talent with the right skill sets. SMEs need to realise that this is ever more so in the tech sector, and that top talent with the demanded digital skill sets are few and far in between and often comes at a premium. SMEs need to explore a ‘build or buy’ strategy when it comes to finding and retaining the right talent to grow their business in a flexible and sustainable way.

Adopting progressive work practices, such as flexiwork arrangements, cultivating work culture that attracts young talents and building employee branding are some of ways SMEs can adopt to win the battle for tech talents to fuel their digital projects compared to large enterprises.