Manufacturing enterprises in Vietnam are pursuing their own strategies to attract middle- and high-level candidates from a pool of talent.
More foreign companies continue to arrive in Vietnam, attracted by the comparatively low costs associated with setting up operations in the country, particularly in the manufacturing sector. As others seek a viable outsourcing alternative to China, the country is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for those looking to secure a foothold in Southeast Asia. “The country attracting new companies, particularly in manufacturing, has resulted in greater competition for candidates in an already limited talent pool,” said Mr. Jon Whitehead, Country Manager of Robert Walters Vietnam.
A remarkable change seen in the first quarter of this year was the surge in demand for engineers in the smartphone manufacturing sector, according to latest Navigos Search report, with the industry accounting for 14 per cent of all requests for employees. In the first quarter, 80 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI) capital in Vietnam went to the manufacturing and processing industry. Mobile phones have become Vietnam’s main export item thanks to investment from Samsung, contributing 14 per cent to total export value. Following Samsung, LG Electronics Inc. will soon shift its TV production from Thailand to Vietnam for logistical ease and efficiency.
During 2014 demand for mid- and high-level positions via Navigos Search also ranked top, accounting for 22 per cent in Q1, 17 per cent in Q2 and Q3, and 27 per cent in Q4. The shortage of skilled engineers was predicted years ago when more and more students chose to study business administration or banking rather than technology, according to Ms. Nguyen Thi Van Anh, Managing Director of Navigos Search. “The vocational school system has been under-developed, which led to a shortage of highly-skilled technicians,” she said.
Vietnamese engineers are more familiar with household appliance manufacturing and will face difficulties when working in new field like smartphone manufacturing. Candidates with the ability to learn quickly will therefore be highly sought after. “Very often we see huge recruitment demand in electrical, electronics, textiles, chemical, mechanical, heavy industry, and automobile manufacturing,” Ms. Anh added. Besides middle- and high-level positions in textiles and electronics like engineers, factory managers, and plant managers, technical trading is also in dire need of good candidates.
Workforce development cannot keep up with business growth in terms of both quantity and quality, according to Ms. Thanh Nguyen, CEO of Anphabe JSC. Job requirements in the manufacturing sector are quite specialized. “Talent in the sector is less dynamic compared to others and they tend to be more loyal to their current company,” she said. “They do not like to hop between jobs.” Because of such characteristics, even though there are plentiful job opportunities in the market they are not aware of them. This aggravates the existing scarcity of talent in the sector.
According to industry insiders the reasons their clients may reject candidates include poor command of foreign languages (mainly English), and substandard skills in communications, problem solving, initiative, and creativity. “Foreign enterprises in Vietnam still have to retrain newly-recruited employees,” said Ms. Anh. For example, smartphone engineers are sent abroad to be trained because this is a new industry in Vietnam. For this reason they prefer fast learners with a good command of foreign languages.
In order to attract top-tier professionals, recruitment managers must consider holistic employment packages that include clear internal career development plans and attractive benefits. “Another viable option to widening the candidate pool is to attract overseas Vietnamese back home,” said Mr. Whitehead. “Their international exposure, diverse skills sets, and bilingual abilities can create a dynamic workforce for Vietnam.”
Among others, building the employer brand is believed to be one of the most important strategies to help enterprises attract talent. According to Ms. Thanh, the employer brand is a crucial factor that helps an enterprise become more attractive in the view of prospective talent, through four critical steps: Raising Awareness, Interest, Desire and Application. Through these four steps enterprises can shape the perception of talent towards their employer brand.
The more attractive an employer brand is the greater chance the enterprise can attract talent effectively, making them more motivated to apply for vacancies (such as them finding out the company’s culture fits their personality, or the growth opportunities the company offers match their expectations instead of solely focusing on Total Rewards). “Enterprises should better create an active talent pool for themselves, interact more often with talent, build and tighten relationships with them, and then accelerate recruitment efficiency when needed,” she said.
More and more major manufacturers investing in Vietnam have decided to localize their workforce, especially in middle- and high-level positions, as an alternative to foreign professionals. At Samsung Electronics Vietnam, for example, of the more than 100,000 employees recruited for its factories in Bac Ninh and Thai Nguyen there are only 100 South Korean dispatchers from its headquarters, or a ratio of 1:1000. “Samsung’s long-term strategy in Vietnam is to become a company that is run by Vietnamese people,” said Mr. Ha Chan Ho, Strategic Advisor to Samsung Electronics in Vietnam. Samsung is fulfilling its commitment to transfer leadership roles to talented Vietnamese employees and for highly skilled tasks it is training Vietnamese workers at its own training facilities to create a skilled workforce.
In order to recruit more talent, Samsung use both professional human resources (HR) consultancies and its own recruitment team. “We have established our own recruitment database by purchasing information from other sources,” Mr. Ho said. “The results of these policies to date have strengthened our firm belief and our confidence in our recruitment team’s ability.”