The only way is tech: Why digital skills are still in high demand in APAC
September 24, 2021
Digital and technology skills continue to be in high demand across Asia Pacific (APAC). The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the need for tech talent in the wider APAC region, as it forced many organisations to prioritise digital transformation.
Bringing forward digital capabilities was business-critical for many companies. The overnight shift to remote working played a major part, while others had to revert to online sales models to keep up with consumer demand. Not only that, 70% of the population is now online and 94% of new digital service consumers intend to continue with the service post-pandemic, research from e-Conomy SEA revealed.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, the region, often dubbed the Silicon Valley of Asia, is a fertile ground for start-ups and tech investments thanks to its data-friendly policies (strict governance and compliance) and free trade agreements. The government also plays an active role in attracting funds, driving investments and incentivising start-ups. In fact, Singapore has more than 150 venture capital funds, incubators and accelerators, according to the Singapore Economic Development Board.
And it’s not just the prioritisation of digital transformation programs. The timescales for completion have also been condensed, in some cases by several years. This means digital and technology skills are arguably more highly sought after than ever before, with the most in-demand positions including both technical and commercial roles.
Globally, tech talent has always been in short supply and APAC is no different. Our lives are becoming ever more digitized which means tech talent is even more critical. From software engineers to cybersecurity experts, all are in demand.
To continue to build a successful tech ecosystem throughout Asia, more investments in education and resources are required, along with infrastructure, governance and the right talent pool.
The work-from-home technology surge in APAC
Although many businesses have returned to the office, some regions in APAC have adopted a more flexible approach to working. Australia, for example, is very much open to retaining many of the flexible working elements it introduced during the height of the pandemic. However, in China, it’s business as usual, and many organisations returned to the office last year. Singapore and Hong Kong have welcomed a more flexible approach and it seems like this will be the case in the future, our researchsuggests. Both regions have reinstated working virtually, albeit temporary, over the past few months to help control surges in COVID-19.
With remote working showing no signs of stopping, organisations across the globe must keep pace with the technological needs of this new standard of work. Whether it’s increasing cybersecurity efforts, transitioning to the cloud, or producing new collaborative tech tools, the competition for skilled digital and technology professionals will remain high for the foreseeable future.
IT Operations: People working in roles within IT Operations are, simply put, the unsung heroes of the pandemic. The critical need to work from home during the pandemic meant demand for these roles (infrastructure, application and cybersecurity) soared. A good IT leader plays the role of a “stitcher”, in other words, they have the ability to integrate the various processes seamlessly based on the business needs. So, he or she is a strong project leader.
Engineering: Software, mobile and data engineering skills have been in high demand because of the robust growth within the internet economy. Companies, both within the traditional economy and start-ups, are racing ahead to develop the next blockbuster product/platform within the online ecosystem. Beyond the technicalities of the function, a good engineering leader is also someone with sound business acumen. Companies seek to marry those two traits when hiring for such talent, which is why they are in such high demand.
UX/UI:Due to the pandemic and soaring consumer demand, the shift in digital operations is as high as it has ever been in recent years. With this shift comes a heightened emphasis on ensuring the customer’s digital journey is flawless. Candidates with these skillsets have always been in high demand, and there has been a notable increase in recent months.
What types of companies are hiring?
There are four main categories:
Large multinational companies in traditional economies going through digital transformation
Organisations in the internet economy
Start-ups (Series A and beyond)
The public sector - GovTech in Singapore is leading the charge in this area
It’s fair to say that there has always been a severe shortage of digital and tech skills; however, this has become increasingly more apparent. Today, most companies can be classed as tech businesses due to the amount of technology relied upon in their day-to-day processes.
To keep pace with technological change, the number of workers applying digital skills in certain APAC regions (Singapore, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea) will rise five-fold from 149 million workers today to 819 million workers in 2025, research from Amazon Web Services (AWS) revealed. The report suggests that the average worker across these regions will need to gain seven new digital skills by 2025, and 5.7 billion digital skill trainings will be required.
With the soaring demand for digital and technology skills, employers in the APAC region are all courting the same pool of candidates.
Top tips on how to access digital talent
A robust employee value proposition (EVP) that aligns with the employment brand is key to position as an employer of choice. It is also worth remembering that people with digital and technology skillsets are driven by the opportunity to learn. Money isn’t their main driver - they want to be able to make a real difference.
Other tips to attract this pool of talent include:
Attracting new talent with ongoing learning and development programs. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, so candidates want the opportunity to learn and develop. Showcasing learning and development programmes and certifications via employment brand can help attract this segment of talent.
Develop comprehensive graduate talent and early career programmes to benefit from emerging talent. Partner with educational institutes to create a pipeline of talent.
Develop talent communities and keep engagement levels high with relevant content that’s personalised. This allows organisations to showcase their employment brands.
Transition consultants and contractors into full-time roles. This isn’t always easy. Companies should cater their employment brands to showcase the innovative projects and company missions that might convert freelancers. Remember, pay and benefits may be appealing, but meaningful opportunity is a requirement for a lot of consultants.
Cross-training existing IT employees to have the skills to pivot into other roles.
Karen is a director in our sales & marketing and technology practices in Singapore. She specialises in mid to senior-level mandates with a focus on the consumer lifestyle, technology and professional services sectors for global multinationals and locally-based conglomerates across Asia. Karen has 12 years of executive search experience. Before joining the recruitment industry, Karen worked in business development for a UK professional services firm in Shanghai, China.