Career Paths

3 Misconceptions about Upskilling in Hong Kong.

min read
Mikaela Thompson

According to an early 2021 survey by Hays Recruitment Agency, a good range of Hong Kong employees were found to be eager to upskill, spending weekly six to ten hours (9%), ten to 24 hours (4%) and over 24 hours (2%) outside of their job enhancing their professional skills. In 2020, 47% said that they had taken up soft skill development and 31% had begun improving their hard skill sets, both figures around the Asia average of 53 and 30%, the recruitment agency noted.


However, another trend has also been gaining traction where the number of Hong Kong employees spending no time upskilling is increasing e.g., from 23% last year to 28% in 2021. In response, Hays suggests such employees should keep in mind that in these fast-changing times, it is essential to keep up with industry trends e.g., Hong Kong employees should be aware of what skillsets employers value most to remain competitive in the job market. 

For those who’ve chosen to upskill their soft skills, this would’ve been a wise move in previous years. However, in 2021’s job market this has reversed with 52% of employers now wanting candidates to have outstanding hard skillsets.

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Let’s look at some hard facts about the future of employment to help you decide. Reporting based on the World Economic Forum by, predicts one billion jobs will be transformed by the next decade. That’s a third of all jobs globally! Added to this, 133 million new positions will be created to meet the demands and targets of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Millennials in particular, need to take note or ignore this forecast at their own peril! However, it’s not just in the hands of employees. Employers need to get on board pronto to offer upskilling/ reskilling opportunities to their workers. Without these chances, meeting the aforementioned future needs and targets will not be possible. Disconcertingly given this fact, 40% of APAC employees left jobs because their employers did not offer adequate learning and development (L&D) opportunities according to a 2019 LinkedIn poll. Sadly, even in 2021 a Randstad work monitoring survey found a mere 15% of respondents were offered sufficient reskilling opportunities during the pandemic. Surely, at a time with massive work disruptions, employers should have been considering what their employees need to adequately be equipped to work remotely and deal with deskless technologies etc? But then, many employers have traditional mindsets and implement ways of upskilling and reskilling workers that no longer best serve their needs. In fact, this process of altering such mindsets can take some time and miserable failures to make its redundancy clear and pave the way for much-needed new approaches to learning for work.

To aid a more positive process, let’s look at some misconceptions about how upskilling/reskilling employees should occur today. 

1) Effective learning needs to take place face-to-face.

Since this is not a possibility, or too risky, for many companies these days, employers need to look at new ways of offering this. For example, now is the time to embrace office wide webinars, video-conferencing solutions through zoom and google meets etc. Or even use the staff you already have from different departments to share virtual lunch and learn sessions. Other options include experimenting with virtual online software such as TalentLMS and 360Learning to automate training processes and improve the efficacy of post-training data analysis. Having a physical venue is not a prerequisite for successful upskilling. Give your workers the motivation and confidence to learn through your L&D team and online platforms to keep pace with pandemic business needs.

2) Formal courses are required for effective learning.

This is a fallacy perpetuated by outdated education systems. Although many employers are likely of an age where this was thought to be the case, times have changed, and learning has transformed out of necessity. This hasn’t produced inferior skills or knowledge bases of students. In fact, a very effective way to learn new skills is through self-exploratory e.g., of new digital technologies etc. Afterall, nobody told us how to use Facebook, Instagram etc. We found out by using these apps. Companies can play their part by providing the opportunities for employees to experiment, fail and grow through applying new skills and knowledge in relevant contexts. This gives employees the control over their own learning, a growth mindset, as well as improving collaboration between colleagues for the company. Modern businesses need to have this agility to survive and succeed. Gone are the days where workers might’ve been seen as empty vessels needing to be pre-programmed specifically by an academic institution or an employer to perform their roles productively.

3) Having a plethora of courses to choose from enhances upskilling opportunities.

It’s easy for employees to become totally overwhelmed and crippled by indecisiveness about the best courses to take on in an age of online information overload. More is not necessarily better. The reality is often that courses offered by outside vendors may not align with what a specific company needs in the way of employee skills or enhance the employee’s career prospects. Therefore, it’s important that companies offer or suggest courses and a development roadmap for their workers that are customized to their respective career progression needs as well as meeting the company’s development objectives. It’s up to the employer to set their employees on the right track of learning and development opportunities by guiding them towards suitable courses and making specific module recommendations etc. 

4) It’s only worth funding upskilling/reskilling opportunities for high value employees.

Such an approach is flawed in concept and ultimately undermines the potential of an entire company workforce, as well as possibly limiting future revenue chances for that business. If you don’t provide all your workers with the opportunity for learning, growth, and leadership, how will you know who has the potential to be a great leader in their field? Don’t put a false ceiling on your staff’s potential unless uninspired work performance and poor retention rates don’t matter to you. There’s no guarantee either that that high value, loyal employee will stay with your company and add value to it once you’ve invested in their upskilling process. But, it does make much more business sense to update and upskill all your employees, so they feel bonded to your cause, keen to add value to ‘their’ company and able to support your business’s agility in an ever changing, dynamic marketplace. Limiting learning and development funding to a select few is self-defeating. 

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Key take out.

When it comes to updating, upskilling, and reskilling your workers, there’s no one method or approach that fits all. Everyone learns differently. Dictating what they need is likely to build resentment or fall on deaf ears resulting in failure to achieve your goals as well as theirs. Rather, nurture your employees’ growth mindset, empower them to take charge of their own learning journey roadmap, guide and point them in the right direction for their career development while keeping your business objectives in alignment, and support everyone’s aspirations by providing learning opportunities both in-house and through the various online learning platforms. You’re all in it together!

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