Asians share the same basic attributes of all people with regard
to leaving their employers. But while the main reasons key
employees depart may seem familiar, the circumstances can be a
lot different from people in other regions.
One problem confronting managers (and especially those who are
new to Asia) is that it is hard to get straight answers about
people s feelings and beliefs. First of all, many Asians believe
it is inappropriate to make public displays of their emotions so
it is difficult to tell if they are unhappy. Secondly, people
will often deny they are upset about something even when taking
drastic action like quitting suddenly because they don t want to
create conflict or make other lose face.
What seems confusing to foreigners is usually easy for Asians to figure
out and non-Asians should learn from their deep knowledge. Managers with experience in Asia state the following main
reasons key people leave their employers.
For Leaving 1:
Problems with The Boss
It is true in virtually all societies that people more often
quit the boss than quit the company or the position. This is
especially the case in Asia where managers are given a somewhat
exalted status and can even be seen as secondary father (or
mother) figures to the people who report to them. As well,
employees are generally younger in the emerging countries of
Asia and need more hand-holding and micromanagement from the
people they report to. In such an environment, employees
relationships with their bosses will naturally be central for
their level of engagement at work.
People who resign because they are unhappy with their managers
generally give reasons that fit neatly in the
They did not feel informed,
recognized or rewarded.
Let us describe each of these categories critical for successful
A. Didn t feel informed
Top performers are logically career-oriented
people and crave to know in detail how they are doing, how their
work will be measured, what they need to do to be deemed
successful and what their career path could be. Managers need to
set time aside to talk over performance and career related
issues so key people know clearly what they need to do and that
their boss is behind them. Positives should be emphasized
whereas criticisms should be stated gently or risk harm to
B. Didn t feel recognized
Managers who are successful in Asia report that
they spend a lot more time interacting with their key people
than in other regions. Team building events and formal
recognition ceremonies where top performers are recognized in
front of others need to be done regularly. Informal activities
such as food breaks together, after-hours invitations and just
dropping by to say thank you go a long way to make people feel
recognized. A boss is a high-status person in people's lives and
any time together to share ideas and experiences is important.
C. Didn t feel rewarded
Being considered likeable and nice is a great
start but managers also need to reward key staff based on
contribution. Above average compensation is an easy way to keep
people in their jobs in Asia where people are at least as
financially motivated as others and maybe a bit more. As long as
rewards are tied in clear and understandable measures of results,
the outcome in retention can be tremendous. Small gifts and
minor promotions regularly given are another manner to build
highly engaged people. That said, rewards not directly tied to performance
are naturally destructive to the organization since unrealistic
expectations will soon take hold. Many managers who are new to
emerging countries have created all manner of problems for
themselves by giving away unearned raises and bonuses because
it seems cheap compared to their home countries.
For Leaving 2:
Compensation Too Low
High performance people often have high performance ideas about
the value of their contribution. Their expectations about
compensation can be difficult to manage. The problem is
compounded in Asia for many reasons. First, Asia has been the
fastest growing region in the world over the past decade and
talented people have gotten used to double digit annual
increases in base salary and large performance bonuses.
Second, in disruptive emerging countries, compensation
structures are all over the map. Similarly sized competitors
might have pay-scales that are 50% different. Local companies
often pay half what international companies pay. It is easy,
therefore, for employees to get misleading information and
become very distressed when they hear about other companies
supposedly paying much higher compensation. Third, people in
Asia often have responsibilities to support aged parents or
younger siblings and are financially motivated as a result.
The combination of high expectations, chaotic salary structures
and financial needs makes for a challenging environment to
ensure stability but it is made much easier if managers discuss
compensation issues regularly with staff.
Some managers have
reported great success in attracting and retaining talented
people by paying above industry levels.
For Leaving 3:
High performing employees become restless and uneasy unless they
are continually challenging themselves and expanding their
experience and knowledge. Keeping them busy with projects that
are crucial for the organization is an important objective for
senior managers. During periodic slowdowns in operations, key
people should be sent on training programs to keep them as
active as possible. If they feel their skills are languishing
and their work not important, you can be sure they will be in
contact with other organizations ready to make better use of
For Leaving 4:
It is common sense that managers want to keep their top
performing people close to them and working in areas where they
have proven abilities. However, it can happen that employees
feel stifled if they spend too long in one position or under the
wing of one manager. Even if people are well rewarded and
appreciated, they will eventually leave unless there is an
opportunity to expand skills upward or outward. Large companies
with well-established management career track programs allow
(actually force) them to work in different departments to gain
rich understanding of the entire organization. Smaller companies
struggle to provide this opportunity since they have less
flexibility but accommodations need to be made.
If not, managers will need to accept that career-minded people
will probably leave -- unless of course they are willing to give
up their own positions so others can be promoted. Senior managers need to
maintain relationships with talented people and hope they can be
hired back in the future when appropriate roles become open for
For Leaving 5:
Set up to Fail
There are times when talented managers fail at important duties
or projects. Sometimes the problem has to do with the
personality required to do the job. For instance, a hard-driving
sales person might be bogged down with as assignment requiring a
lot of detail. However, it is overly common in Asia that
people are given responsibility to oversee tasks but not the
authority, tools or training to accomplish them.
Most visitors to Asia notice this when dealing with customer
service issues in many emerging countries. They can see immediately
that staff members and even junior managers are well-intentioned and
hard-working but they have no support systems to provide carry
out what is necessary. The obvious result is high turnover
rates among managers and staff.
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CEO Forum presented by PLDT ALPHA Enterprise is the largest
regular business event in Philippines and considered one of the
most important in the Southeast Asia region. The forum serves as a
hub for the spreading of ideas that help executive managers
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Attendees are both expatriate and Asian management personnel
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CEO Forum is operated as a CSR (Corporate Social
Responsibility) activity of Chalre Associates, one of Southeast
Asia's most prominent senior management executive search firms, to
promote Philippines as a premier business destination in the Asia
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CEO Awards presented by Aseana City represents the
grandest alliance of local and international business people ever
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largest events of its kind in the Asia Pacific region, it is
considered a must-attend occasion for business leaders active in
The star-studded Board of Judges of Asia CEO Awards give
away 10 awards to many of the most accomplished leadership teams
and individuals currently operating in Philippines and the region.
The awards recognize extraordinary leaders who have demonstrated
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As one of the fastest growing nations on the planet, the world's
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throughout the world call upon the Principals of Chalre Associates for thought leadership.
Below are some examples of published material written by our
consultants or international journalists who refer to them. For a complete list of published work,
Getting Ready For The
Deluge: Outsourcing in Philippines
Chalre Associates senior staff
Economist Intelligence Unit of the Economist magazine
asked Chalre Associates' Chairman, Richard Mills,
to write a chapter about the Philippine outsourcing sector
in its annual Business Guide Book. The material
provides a Executive Briefing on the progress and major
issues facing this industry that is certainly one of most
significant growth stories in the world.
Asia Pacific Mining
Conference 2007 - Report
Chalre Associates senior staff
The 7th Asia Pacific Mining Conference put on by the Asean
Federation of Mining Associations was perhaps the largest
such event in the region. Richard Mills, Chairman of Chalre Associates
gave this report on what was said by the prominent mining
people who presented.
State of BPO in Philippines: Dan Reyes Speaks
Chalre Associates senior staff
Mills, Chairman of Chalre Associates,
interviewed Dan Reyes of Sitel for ComputerWorld (US) recently to get
his views on the state of the BPO industry in Philippines. Dan
presented US readers with compelling information to support his view
that Philippines is currently seen as the "Number 1" option by global
companies sending BPO work to offshore destinations.
Dan Reyes is easily one of most experienced Business Process
Outsourcing (BPO) managers in the Asia Pacific region and the world. He
is head of the extremely successful Philippine operations of Sitel, the
world's largest call center organization. Among other things, he is a
founder and former president of the Business Processing Association of
the Philippines. more