The start of a new year offers business leaders a critical opportunity to recalibrate strategies for a new era of work. While already a norm across industries, there has never been a more important point to take stock of, especially on the employee engagement and talent retention front, than right now.

In 2023, with recession woes and inflation at an all-time high for many countries in the region, businesses may not be able to provide financial incentives as easily as before and will have to look toward more sustainable ways to ensure they come out on top with talent procurement and retention. With that, businesses can expect to see four key trends at play in the year ahead.

1. The Bar for Employee Experience Will Be Raised

It is no surprise that employee experience is a top priority for a large majority of workers. In fact, 47% of senior leaders themselves consider it to be a priority. However, just as customers today are increasingly demanding hyper-personal experiences, there is a growing sentiment among employees for personalized worker experiences that take local and cultural considerations into account. Especially in South East Asia – an extremely diverse region – businesses are often guilty of capping this commitment with just celebrations of ethnic and religious holidays.

Instead, hyper-personalization of employee experiences often involves crafting curated purpose-driven policies that are holistic in catering to employees’ concerns, to truly engage employees and develop a deep-rooted sense of belonging. By involving the employees in planning, employees will be more encouraged to have a proactive mindset and think about the future.

This will continue to pose a challenge, particularly as employees in the region continue to demonstrate a preference for hybrid working environments – such as in Singapore, which was recently dubbed the champion of hybrid work. With work becoming more individualized and teams spending less and less time in the office, there is an increased onus on businesses to relook at how they are creating exceptional employee experiences from the onset itself.

2. Flexibility Remains Key

Before the pandemic gave cause for remote work, there had been a long-standing perception that in-office employees are more productive than remote workers. However, in pandemic-induced conditions, employees have found that they can be equally efficient when working from home as well. With that, it is clear why employees have been reluctant to give up the flexibility, work-life balance, and expenses they save working remotely.

In this new work climate of flexible work models and local talent shortage, flexibility will play a critical role in enabling businesses to both retain their employees. At SAP, we’ve adopted a location-agnostic work style for decades, embracing a ‘’Pledge to Flex’’ initiative to ensure employees are supported and able to work anytime and from anywhere.

SAP’s Journey to Working Hybrid Around the World

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SAP’s Journey to Working Hybrid Around the World

Aside from hybrid work as a trend, we will also witness a rise in employees looking for contingent work arrangements. In the battle for talent, contingent workers — also known as freelancers and contract workers — are already filling the gaps with specific skills that companies need. Staying flexible and open to such non-traditional arrangements can go a long way in not only winning new talent, but also retaining talent.

3. DEI Strategies Move from Ticking Boxes to Being Embedded in Processes

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies rose into prominence in 2021, as organizations became more purpose-driven. While this year marked a narrowing of the global gender gap by more than 68 percent, it also revealed that it will take another 132 years before we achieve full gender parity. Clearly, strides must continue to be made.

For significant change to be enacted, DEI initiatives must take on an embedded nature in the lifecycle of every employee. Today, we are seeing more members of SAP’s ecosystem collaborate to create platforms of inclusion across our organization, as we recognize that diverse, inclusive talent makes a difference.

Embedded strategies look beyond representation to ensure that each and every individual is presented with an equal and fair workplace experience, creating a sense of belonging, such as through:

  • Fair, transparent, and consistent hiring process with a diverse panel for interviews
  • Making opportunities available to all
  • Ensuring a commitment to pay parity
  • Clear communication on anti-discrimination policies to ensure enforcement across the organization
  • Mentorship opportunities, alongside community groups, that support minority communities
  • Re-connecting events to create a sense of belonging and foster an organizational culture among all employees

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4. Talent Shortage (36% of HR Leaders Say Their Recruiting Strategies Fall Short)

Because employees are taking matters into their own hands, it is not surprising that job candidates are more deliberate and discerning throughout the interview process. Employees want to protect their time, benefits, and professional growth.

Most importantly creating a sustainable talent pipeline and making the talent pipeline circular: With a severe shortage in tech talent, the reality is that the experiences former employees have had will have an increasing bearing on new hire rates as well.

In 2023, there is no doubt that new challenges and opportunities will await businesses. Time and time again, one thing has proven true: people will remain a critical component in ensuring enterprises are equipped to navigate evolving market landscapes and seize the opportunities that are presented. It is only through recalibrating talent and employee engagement strategies that businesses will be able to ensure they have the right people and skills needed to unlock new frontiers for the future.

Akshita Shetty is chief human resources officer for SAP South East Asia.