Long hours and domineering management are biggest concerns for Hong Kong employees

22 January 2020

  • 65% of employees cited long hours as their primary concern, with Generation Z singling out a lack of workplace diversity (65%)
  • 81% of employees said strong corporate culture is one of the most important factors when deciding whether to join or stay at a company, with Generation Z viewing it as equally important as salary
  • Introducing equal gender pay is seen as the top priority for companies in the next 12-24 months

A survey of more than 1,000 working professionals and 100 senior in-house human resources and legal managers in Hong Kong, conducted by the Employment and Pensions team at Deacons, Hong Kong’s oldest and largest law firm, reveals significant disillusion with corporate culture standards in the city.

The number of employment related complaints handled by the Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong has increased by more than 70% in the past three years, and with the city facing intensifying competition for talent from other major Asian cities, Deacons decided to undertake a survey to examine the current strength, characteristics and perceptions of corporate culture in the city.

The inaugural Empowering the workplace report 2020 – released today, found that long hours (65%), domineering senior management (64%) and lack of communication from senior management (60%) were the three leading concerns of employees. Companies cited a lack of communication from senior management (72%) as their primary grievance.  For Generation Z, a lack of diversity in the workplace ranked first (65%). Emerging issues such as not having a whistleblowing policy (47%) and a lack of support for mental health and stress (45%) were viewed as more concerning than traditional areas such as racism and insufficient child care provision (both 35%).

The survey also found that employees have a far stronger understanding of well-established company policies in relation to diversity & inclusion (73%) and paternity & maternity leave and benefits (70% and 68%, respectively) compared to whistleblowing (57%) and the use of AI and automation in the workplace (50%).

Commenting, Cynthia Chung, Partner and Head of Employment and Pensions, Deacons said: “As we enter the Year of the Rat 2020, Hong Kong’s business community is facing steeper competition than ever before.  Companies that promote a ‘speak up’ culture, healthy work-life balance and fairness and equality, will win the hearts and minds of employees and be more productive and profitable businesses as a result.”

Modernising corporate culture

Reinforcing Hong Kong’s reputation for having a more conservative working environment, 34% of companies described their workplace as “structured” and 23% said “traditional.”  More than 70% of companies believe “hierarchy” to be an “important” or “very important” attribute, in sharp contrast to just 5% of employees.

More than two-thirds of employees in Hong Kong do not have a favourable view of the corporate culture of their employer, with one-third describing it as “weak” or “very weak.” In contrast, 66% of companies surveyed believe their corporate culture is “strong” or “very strong.”

Emphasising the potential for Hong Kong based companies to embrace a more modern approach, 39% of employees said their ideal workplace culture would be “supportive” and almost one in four said “dynamic.”

Generation Z’s progressive thinking

81% of employees said a strong corporate culture was “important” or “very important” in choosing to join or remain at a company, ranking it the 4th most important factor out of 28.  However, money still talks, with 89% of employees saying it is the most important factor.

Demonstrating a shift towards progressive thinking, 80% of companies view strong corporate culture as the most important factor in retaining and attracting talent, marginally ahead of annual leave and salary (both 78%). This prescience could mark a growing understanding of the changing behaviours and attitudes of Generation Z, who placed corporate culture on a par with salary (both 84%). The youngest working generation placed far greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion (83%), equal gender pay (81%), flexibility to work from home (81%), and CSR credentials (78%) than all other age groups.  In contrast, only 63% of other age groups viewed CSR credentials as an important factor.

Health and equal wealth

Looking at what changes companies should prioritise in the next 12-24 months, employees highlighted improving health and safety (16%), introducing equal pay (16%), reducing working hours (12%), and improving insurance and wellness packages (9%).  Generation Z felt particularly strongly about introducing equal pay, with one in four ranking it the top priority.

On what initiatives could be implemented by Hong Kong’s Labour Department in the next 36 months, employees proposed standardising working hours (48%), increasing the minimum wage (41%) and introducing a statutory right to request flexible working (40%).

“The changing attitudes of modern-day employees are pushing companies to reassess corporate culture in order to attract and retain the best talent.  With employment disputes on the rise, companies that do not have adequate policies in place to address both traditional and emerging issues, or that simply aren’t communicating those policies on a regular and timely basis, are more susceptible to legal action as employees increasingly exhibit zero tolerance for unethical or discriminatory behaviour”, Elsie Chan, Partner in Deacons’ Employment and Pensions practice added.

“As the survey demonstrates, introducing equal gender pay, tackling long hours and ensuring that employee wellbeing is nurtured, are demands that cannot be ignored.  Strengthening corporate culture is not just good for staff morale and for driving productivity, it is fast becoming a legal imperative.”