Key retention drivers for Southeast Asian employees, ASW Consulting

Key Retention Drivers for Southeast Asian Employees

Employee retention is a major concern for many companies, and it’s an even bigger concern for CEOs, according to various studies and surveys – Deloitte, The Predictive Index, Gallup – across Southeast Asia. They point to the lack of growth opportunity as the number one reason why employees leave. In our experience as a talent acquisition and consulting firm in Vietnam, we’ve seen the negative impacts that poor employee retention can have on a company. We always advocate for the creation of a relevant employee value proposition (EVP) for clients to help secure their talented professionals long term.

But first: the consequences of poor employee retention

When employees choose to leave, this puts your company in a precarious position because then you have to restart the hiring process and begin training replacements. These things are significant costs for your company – much of your time will also be spent onboarding new staff which will effectively lower your productivity as well.

Your staff also notice if there is high turnover, and this may affect their morale and motivation. They might lose trust and confidence in your brand and company strategy, and might feel disadvantaged in the event that they might have to take on additional work to support the team.

Here are some key drivers for retaining Southeast Asian employees that might help your business.

Be culturally aware

There are certain aspects of staff’s collective culture that you may, as an employer, have to adjust to. For example, the office dress code may be more relaxed than you would expect in a Western office. Vietnamese professionals tend to be more casually dressed because of the weather. They may also take regular breaks or even nap in the office at lunchtime, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not efficient and productive professionals. In fact, we see that it makes them even more productive as it gives them time to regroup and prepare for work.

Another difference could be that your local team may not be used to your Western style of decision making. In Vietnamese culture employees don’t often speak out about higher management decision-making, even if they are requested to do so. In contrast, Western culture and individual’s thoughts and opinions are more encouraged in such situations.

Invest in your talent

The best way to retain your employees is by developing them and giving them opportunities for career growth. This is one thing our candidates always ask our recruiters about. You should look at this not just as a program for learning and expanding their individual horizons, but as a chance to build a culture that benefits everyone in the team. Start by having open conversations with your staff about development. Let them talk about their thoughts, aspirations in their careers, and what they envision the team dynamic to be. Giving your employees a voice in the workplace gives them confidence, ensures they know that you care, and makes them loyal to your company, knowing that they have a good support system around them.

Next, engineer a development plan for them in the coming months and years to achieve the next step in their careers. Allow them to take classes outside of working time (or even during set hours within work time), or invest time in directly training them so they may be equipped with the right skillsets and attitude to excel in their future roles. This will require a lot of time and planning, but it ensures their education and training is tailored to company goals. Having a development plan like this will help them self-actualise, and in the long run, turn them into great professionals and leaders who are committed to the growth of the company.

Work-life balance

Many countries across Southeast Asia and the world are still working from home. In many countries your staff have transformed their living spaces into working spaces for you, and their home lives are now intertwined with their work lives, which can be physically and mentally exhausting and stressful. Ensure effective work-life balance for your staff by avoiding micromanagement, giving some flexibility to hours worked, and allowing them time to manage their home lives even in small ways. Encourage breaks, and schedule in some fun, non-work-related online team building sessions or games. Make sure both you and your employees learn to switch off after work – do some exercise, light a candle, put on some music, or take a bath – learn to transition from the work-to-home life by creating new rituals. When the line between work and home life is more apparent, your staff are more likely to perform better, have improved mental health, and be productive during work hours.

Salary and benefits

Are you paying your employees at a fair industry-standard rate? Are your benefits aligned to best-practice and driving the right behaviours? These are things you should ask yourself as an employer. Realistically speaking, money is a huge motivator in a person’s career, and they may choose to look for other opportunities with better pay if you aren’t offering market standard remuneration and other retention strategies. Many people across Asia also tend to live with their parents or grandparents until they get married, and often have to contribute to other family members education or general day-to-day living.

If your company is not in a position to currently offer a salary adjustment, review your current benefits package and consider giving benefits that may not cost you much, but allow your employees to experience greater work-life balance and engagement with your brand. These could be providing additional vacation leaves, a rostered-day-off or ‘volunteer’ day, a more comprehensive medical insurance, or a monthly lunch out with colleagues. Employees get demotivated if there’s nothing to look forward to apart from just work. By giving them more than the basics, you’re giving them a richer work experience that they’ll appreciate.

Employee retention in Southeast Asia

Employees may come and go faster than you would hope at times. But prioritising their development, compensating and rewarding their great performance, being culturally respectful, and creating a balanced work culture – these are things that will certainly help you secure and retain talent, and ultimately make them happy and fulfilled. As a talent acquisition and consulting firm in Vietnam, we know that this will differentiate you in your industry and create valuable working experiences for your employees.

Talk to ASW Consulting to hear how you can benefit from receiving professional recruitment and HR advice today. For a confidential discussion, please email