Your HR Playbook to expanding throughout Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Home to several prominent emerging markets – the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand – and first-world economies like Singapore; the region’s dynamism and diversity in culture, language and social values are what makes it such a popular destination for businesses.

For the same reason, a business’ HR strategy in each country has to be flexible and cater to on-ground sensitivity.

Here are some recommendations for your HR plan that will equip your business to become ready for your regional step.

Recommendation #1: Gather labour market intelligence

Labour market information including labour cost, and workforce skillsets can present your business with insights about the economy in which you are about to operate in. Such information equips business leaders and hiring managers with the tools needed to build a strong company foundation and culture. For example, knowing a country’s basic labour cost can help you decide whether to open a labour-intensive factory in Cambodia or Myanmar, instead of Singapore where labour can be costlier.

That said, factors to consider highly depend on the nature of your company and what it is looking to capitalise on. Essentially, it is key to gather information based on “realities on the ground” as opposed to relying on intuition or guesswork.

Recommendation #2: Understand the regulations

Hiring laws differ from country to country and sometimes, from state to state. For instance, in Singapore, the legal age to work is 13, while in the Philippines, the legal age to work is 15. In Malaysia, there are certain occupations that are not open to expatriates. Examples of these include Architectural Site Supervisor and Tower Crane Operators.

The key learning point here is that while laws and regulations can be intimidating for businesses as they are often extensive and elaborate, enterprises must understand the host country’s laws to avoid legal complications. Organisations are also advised to be up-to-date with changes in policy and employment laws.

Recommendation #3: Hiring the right people to drive market entry

Engaging the right talent drives business success, and to do so, the correct hiring platform must be deployed.

For example, in Malaysia, mobile penetration has hit 70 percent in Q3 last year. As such, mobile recruitment channels are the ideal platform to reach the audience. This can be evidently seen with FastJobs – a mobile-first digital recruitment platform – which boasts more than 370,000 downloads in Malaysia since July 2017.

There is a plethora of recruitment platforms available today and they span across social media channels, desktop job portals, and mobile applications. As citizens of each nation possess differing levels of literacy and technology-savviness, and the needs of the organisation varies, each enterprise should adopt different hiring strategies and platforms to attract the target audience.

Key takeaways

The first step towards achieving business success in Southeast Asian markets is to always hire locals who have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. This way, a company’s products and services can be successfully marketed to local consumers.

In this aspect, enterprises should make sure they understand the country’s labour market, manpower regulations, as well as jobseeker habits, in order to secure the right individuals.

Joelle Pang | Director | Regional Business Development | FastJobs

Joelle has a decade of experience in the technology start-up scene. In her role as a Director of Regional Business Development at FastJobs, she is responsible for launching innovative solutions and building teams to scale the business across Southeast Asia, starting with Malaysia and Philippines. She is driven by the aspiration to provide everyone with equal access to job opportunities. FastJobs isSingapore's leading mobile recruitment platform that connects employers to the largest community of non-executive and skilled blue-collar workers.