As a HR professional, who has been in the industry for more than 25 years, it’s been interesting to witness the transformation of HR through the decades.  When I joined the industry, HR was a process-focused discipline and day-to-day duties centered around administrative and personnel tasks and ensuring policies and procedures were in place.

Later, the HR function evolved to put employees and their wellbeing at the heart of an organisation.  Focus went to establishing training courses to improve performance and efficiency, salary and benefits, creating a positive working environment, enhancing living conditions for associates and social activities after work.  In essence, we addressed our employees’ physiological, safety and social needs.

When the pandemic hit a few years ago, the hospitality and travel sectors experienced significant challenges due to border closures, lockdowns and curfews.  As a result, employees were furloughed or other cost saving measures such as unpaid leave and reduced hours were implemented.  Concurrently, global social movements championing diversity and inclusion left the confines of social media and found their way into the workplace.

Almost overnight, business models, policies and mindsets were disrupted and we were all compelled to re-evaluate recruitment policies and priorities.  At work, we changed procedures to support contingency plans, flexible working hours, working from home or working from anywhere.  The ripple effects of the pandemic inherently made prospective candidates rethink the relationship they wanted with an organisation and if they would even consider a career in travel and hospitality, especially because it was gravely affected by Covid.  

One particular challenge we are facing in Hong Kong is an exodus of locals and expatriates due to socio economic factors and tight travel restrictions.  According to an article published on 22 April this year on, “In February and March, Hong Kong experienced a net outflow of 65,295 and 66,334 residents respectively.”  The destinations people are heading to include Australia, the U.K., Canada and Singapore due to these countries’ aggressive immigration policies to court talent.

Labour and talent shortage are definitely not specific to Hong Kong’s hospitality trade, and HR practitioners are quickly adapting to ‘new’ expectations.  On the plus side, it’s a huge opportunity to reset and revisit HR playbooks to address lifestyle changes and trends, as well as amp up employee value proposition. 

“In these unprecedented times and from a HR standpoint, we need to be agile and adapt to the new norms and expectations driven by employees and a diverse set of challenges”

HR has a Purpose

HR is not just a function, it also has a purpose of making a positive difference to the lives of those we interact with every day and we want employees to find that while at work.  We know that being happy in your job is no longer enough to drive loyalty.  Employees, especially millennials, need to feel that they can make an impact, that they can contribute to something that is much larger than themselves, and that they can be heard and appreciated.  We also know millennials consider the following as influential factors when looking for a job:

• Flexibility takes precedence over career opportunities i.e. work hours, work-life balance

• Transparency and equality in an organisation, and a seat at the table

• The opportunity to multi-task and pursue different projects at the same time to nurture growth and self-development


Historically, employee surveys may not have been able to capture a defined snapshot of our employees’ wellbeing.  Restructuring assessments and questions is certainly something we can consider to address the way forward, as well as devote much more time to engaging employees on a personal level so they feel inspired and connected to an organisation.

Hybrid Work

With the implications of Covid, it has become clear the future of work arrangements will consider a hybrid work model.  We’ve experienced that the flexibility of working from home has allowed us to achieve a better work-life balance, cut down on commute times, and still manage to work productively off-site or from anywhere.  Striking a balance between face-to-face interactions in the office and meeting online has become an emerging best practice. 

Staffing and Technology

Competitive salary and benefits – while essential, are no longer suffice to entice recruits.  We also need to enhance multi-tasking, learning and development, career planning, and recruitment practices – such as visiting educational organisations – to support our labour intensive industry and group’s focus areas.  Like many industries, our dependence on technology has grown to streamline or automate repetitive tasks, or support guest-facing capabilities.  Therefore, candidates with proficient digital skills will be highly favoured.

In these unprecedented times and from a HR standpoint, we need to be agile and adapt to the new norms and expectations driven by employees and a diverse set of challenges.  Understanding trends to make Wharf Hotels an attractive employer and taking active steps on the above will help recruitment issues, while minimising workforce issues.