Talent retention has become increasingly difficult as new mindsets and worldwide constraints have transformed the way we work. We interview three business leaders to understand how best to find and keep top staff in your workplace.

As Vietnam emerges as a formidable player in the global economy, its talent landscape is witnessing unprecedented changes. From bustling hubs like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to the industrial zones dotting its coastline, businesses are in a relentless pursuit of top-tier talent. But as opportunities grow, so do challenges.

In the past decade, Vietnam’s transition to a technology-focused economy has meant that “skillset requirements are also increasingly advanced,” observes Colin Blackwell, Founder of Enablecode. He adds, “The advent of AI within a more complex business setting removes many of the low-skilled transactional roles and requires more ‘thinking’ or ‘human’ competencies.”

Supporting this perspective, Mai Tran, Country Manager for Vietnam at CXC Global, notes, “Previously in Vietnam, recruitment once emphasized hard skills. Now, while experience still matters, recruiters value sòt skills liketeamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and communication.”

Annie Nguyen, Founder of Happy Corner and Marketing Executive at VinCSS, emphasizes the transformation, saying that the rise of “Blockchain, Crypto, [and] Gamefi” has expanded opportunities for developers and brought forth novel job roles. In this evolving landscape, being “tech-savvy, flexible, and always ready to learn new things” are essential traits for professionals.

“Though there is also a big challenge and concern about technology replacing some labor, it still gives us especially the young—plenty of chances,” Annie said. 

Cultural Challenges

The evolving landscape poses challenges to businesses as well as employees. While Vietnamese culture is ripe with attributes like flexibility and innovation that often make recruiting easier compared to other nations, it also presents unique challenges. According to the Vietnam Digital Readiness Report by PwC, 82% of respondents believe that working from home will become more prevalent.

Additionally, central to Vietnamese culture is the concept of “affection,” which plays a significant role in the employment sector. Annie illustrates its depth, explaining that salaries, promotions, and long-term retention can often hinge on the “affection and engagement” an employee feels with their employer.

Mai Tran remarks, “An important sentiment is, ‘A talented man without virtue is useless, while a virtuous man without talent struggles to succeed.’ In recruitment, beyond evaluating hard and soft skills, there’s a preference for candidates who are honest, ethical, and resilient.”

While multinational enterprises in Vietnam are adopting more standardized international recruitment processes, the age-old values of affection and relationships remain influential. However, businesses need to be well aware of the obstacles in retaining their top talent once they’ve found it.

Turnover Triggers

During the first half of 2022, the employee turnover rate was 11.9% for local companies, while multinational corporations experienced a slightly lower 8%, according to a survey by Talentnet.

Colin Blackwell,
Founder of Enablecode, at a Business Executive Network event.

“A significant 70% of employees leave due to issues with their direct leaders, reinforcing the notion that people leave managers, not jobs.”
Mai Tran, Country Manager for Vietnam at CXC Global

Factors such as salary, company culture, and leadership may appear as primary reasons for employee turnover. However, a deeper examination reveals a complex web of personal motivations. Annie stresses the importance of understanding one’s working purpose, categorizing it into three main types:

  • 1. As a means to earn
  • 2. As a stepping stone in one’s career 
  • 3. Or as a calling.

“Being confused about why you are working for this company…will lead to wrong expectations, ultimately resulting in resignation,” Annie says.

Blackwell emphasizes that environment and opportunities for growth are paramount, often even more than salary. He suggests a proactive approach to retention, saying, “If the workforce is modern and flexible, employers have to be the same, or they will not be good enough for their own staff.” A significant recommendation in this realm is the adaptation to flexible work arrangements such as gig or remote working opportunities.

Predicting a fiercely competitive recruitment and retention landscape over the next decade, Blackwell has a pressing piece of advice for future- proofing businesses: “They should be flexibly looking for candidates that can actually do the job, rather than using unimaginative old-fashioned qualification based checklists.” He warns that an outdated HR approach, which might be causing mere inconveniences now, could potentially devastate companies in the future.

Echoing this sentiment, Mai Tran predicts, “The recruitment and retention landscape in Vietnam over the next 5–10 years is expected to lean towards young talent being appointed to key organizational positions. Everyone will need to rapidly adapt and self-improve, emphasizing a ‘change or leave’ mindset.”

Annie believes that some key factors could contribute to the success of foreign businesses looking to set up shop. Firstly, understanding Vietnamese Labor Law ensures businesses remain compliant while optimizing their workforce strategies. Secondly, gaining a familiarity with Vietnamese culture. And lastly, establishing robust internal communications and investing in corporate culture.

As Vietnam continues to grow, understanding the unique blend of technology, culture, and individual purpose will be paramount for businesses aiming to recruit and retain the best talent.

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Tim Burrill
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