Marketing in Vietnam’s Digital Age

By: Keely Burkey and Paul Espinas

A lot of what you do focuses on the digital sphere. Are there still opportunities to market successfully on non-digital platforms?

For me, marketing is marketing. Online and offline are just means or platforms for me. At the end of the day, a brand is all about a promise and performance. And marketing's job is to make that promise so appealing that customers engage with the brand. With regards to whether using solely online or offline or a hybrid of the two, again it's about the product, the market and, of course, the resources the marketing team has. Many marketers, I guess, will relate to the fact that we don't have unlimited resources. So one of the key skills for a senior marketer is to be able to identify which channels or platforms will best serve their brand goals. I believe that businesses who are following a B2B model lean towards more offline marketing investment like events and activations where they can directly have a person-to-person touchpoint with the audience. But then again, as I said, it really depends on the product, market and budget, among many other things.

digital marketingImage source: scontent.fsgn8-1.fna.fbcdn.net

Are there any digital technologies currently being developed that you're excited to market with? How do you think digital marketing will change in the next year or two?

Digital technologies on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is what I'm really excited about. I think it's a completely different league, although challenges on the hardware side might limit mass access of a full-on VR experience. Big players like Apple are investing on mixed reality (MR) and AR, so I believe the next trend of marketing campaigns will be in this field. Here in Vietnam, however, there are still a lot of opportunities untapped in terms of the possibilities on video ads and the mobile ecosystem.

How do you communicate effectively with a millennial audience? What do they want to hear, and what pushes them away?

Communicating to millennials for me is all about a conversational approach. This I believe is the impact of more personal screens like our mobile phones and laptops, which this generation is accustomed to. Hence, we call them the digital natives. We say in marketing that the type of content we publish will also depend on the type of screen it will be placed on. Less personal skills like billboards or digital out-of-home (OOH) placements, which use more "announcement" type of content, while personal screens like our mobile phones use a more conversational approach. Millennials have a "Me, Me, Me" approach to the way they behave in the online ecosystem. Hence the birth of selfie and all those other apps and product features showcasing none other than "ME". This I believe translates to an approach in content writing where the reader, millennials in this case, can immediately relate to the subject. They have short attention spans and it gets shorter every year. So what they see, hear and experience in the first five seconds is crucial.

digital marketingImage source: pprww.com

The news is now talking about Generation Z, the younger generation after millennials. How does this younger generation differ from millennials in terms of optimal marketing strategies?

Generation Z is a target market for me, that will materialise a 100 percent digital-only funnel. This generation is so used to using and engaging through gadgets that the need for a phone call or a meeting with a sales rep won't be needed as much as with previous generations. This, however, poses a great challenge not only to marketers but product owners on how to make their websites or apps at their optimal level of UX/UI [user interface/user experience]. This also implies that marketers need to be, more than ever, digital savvy.

Engagement is a big issue in digital marketing. What incentives (emotional or physical) are necessary to drive up engagement, and how does this potentially translate to ROI?

So in my previous answers, I tapped product, placement, price... I guess this question falls under promotion. So we completed the basic 4Ps. Not the pizza! Promotion is part of the framing strategy in marketing. A campaign may or may not have it; it depends on how it will, as you said, engage users. Now there are different levels of engagement. One of the most basic and frequently used interpretation of this is Social Media Engagement, because Facebook labelled it as such and it is easily trackable. Engagement can also be a simple ad click by your audience or it can be an actual conversation you had with the audience on the forum discussion panel. So it varies. What's important is a positive touchpoint between the audience and the brand. And again, with or without incentives or promotions. Big brands like LV, Ferrari and all these top tier brands never use discounts as a promotion strategy, for example, because it goes against their brand positioning. Group buying sites, for example, like NhomMua or HotDeal use it on a regular basis because they use low prices to initiate sales. As to how engagement converts into an actual ROI, I suggest that brands should build a proper Funnel. From awareness to revenue and to repeat purchases. And this is not only a marketing job—sales and other senior leaders should be involved in this process.

digital marketingImage source: fangdigital.com

Your biggest advice for anyone trying to get into the digital marketing game?

For those folks wanting a career in digital marketing: don't rely on what's taught at school. This industry is very exciting but whatever we do today can be completely irrelevant tomorrow as technology and user behaviour change so quickly. Having said that, the possibilities of discovering and pioneering new things in this field are massive. Don't try to do what's already done. The rapid changes in the industry also mean opportunities for new bloods and the old to create and innovate new ways of communicating brand promise to your audience, be it digital or on another platform.

Banner Image source: culturetech.co


Building Workplace Performance Through Trust

By: Victor Burrill

What can you do to build trust in the workplace?

Trust increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses.

Building Trust with The Emotional Bank Account

‘You cannot prevent a major catastrophe but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, that knows how to behave and that trusts itself. One where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers because without trust, they won’t fight.’  - Peter Drucker

One way you may consider building performance in your team is through building trust.

Teams and organizations that operate with high trust significantly outperform those who do not cultivate trust at the core of their culture. A Watson Wyatt study showed that high-trust companies outperformed low-trust companies in total return to shareholders — by 286%!

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: business2community.com

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni says that the first of the five dysfunctions is the absence of trust among team members. Essentially, he says, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.

What can you do to build trust in the workplace?

“Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.’’ - Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO

It is firmly believed by many that trust isn’t a quality you either have or you don’t, it’s a learnable skill that is developed with practice.

Stephen M. R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything explains the first step towards building trust is self-trust (trusting yourself) or credibility. As the writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Self trust is the essence of heroism.”

Credibility is about developing the integrity, intent, capabilities, and results that make you believable, both to yourself and to others. Essentially, it boils down to two simple questions... 

Question 1. “Do I trust myself?"
Question 2. “Am I someone others can trust?”

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: miro.com

Research shows that many of us don’t follow through with the goals we set and don’t keep the promises and commitments we make to ourselves. For example, almost half of the western world set New Year’s resolutions, research shows that only 8 percent actually keep them. By doing this time after time the result will be repeated failure to make and keep commitments to ourselves which erodes our self-confidence and we lose trust in our ability to make and keep commitments. Thus, we fail to project the personal strength of character that inspires trust. We may try to borrow strength from position or association. But it’s not real. It’s not ours… and people know it. And whether we realize or not, that impacts the bottom line.

Although we all know it intuitively, research validates that a person’s self-confidence will affect his or her performance. This is one reason why Jack Welch of GE claimed that “building self-confidence in others is a huge part of leadership.”

The lack of Self Trust also undermines our ability to trust others. In the words of Cardinal de Retz, “A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.”

The good news in all of this is that when we do make and keep a commitment to ourselves or set and achieve a meaningful goal, we build credibility and self-confidence within ourselves. The more we do it, the more confidence we have that we can achieve our goals, and are more likely to set new ones. The more we accomplish our goals, the more we trust ourselves.

Consider which ones of the following High Trust Behaviours would you like to change the most and why?

1. Straight Talking

8. Confront Reality

2. Demonstrate Respect

9. Clarify Expectations

3. Communicate with Transparency

10. Practice Accountability

4. Right Wrongs

11. Listen First

5. Show Loyalty

12. Keep Commitments

6. Deliver on Promises and Achieve Results

13. Extend Trust

7. Get Better

 

Trust increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses

The result from the 41 Country Study of Paul Zak and Stephen Knack also shows “In all cases, the countries with the highest trust levels have the highest per capita incomes and GDPs. Because trust reduces the cost of transactions, high-trust societies exhibit better economic performance than low-trust societies.”

High trust also increases speed and thus lowers costs in businesses and organisations too. A lot of people around the world trust in FedEx to deliver them goods overnight. But have you considered that your trust in them is a major part of why they’re so fast at delivering in the first place? Since many people trust in FedEx to deliver the next day, they must move hundreds of thousands of packages and orders each day – as people buy, and they buy fast. The speed with which FedEx receives incoming orders at scale is what endows it with the flow of financial capital it needs to not only pay for overnight drivers or book special air freight services, but also create systems that will lower the average cost and time per delivery.

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: news.com.au

Since 9/11 the average airport security checks take 90 minutes, as opposed to approximately 30 minutes before. The trust in airplane passengers has gone, making the whole process of checking each passenger slower, and leads to an increased cost for personnel and machinery.

Building Trust with The Emotional Bank Account

An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor describing the amount of trust that has been built up in any relationship. It represents how safe you feel with or around another person.

Much like the idea of having a savings accounts flood with cash or real estate investments with large equity balances – which are all great things – there is another type of account that probably affects your life much more significantly. This account is measured by your trust. It is an emotional bank account and we are regularly making deposits into it and take withdrawals when we need to. A deposit represents someone doing a caring act for us or making us feel safe and accepted. A withdrawal will be somebody showing us malice, bad intent or aggression and represents us losing trust in that person.

We make similar kinds of deposits and withdrawals in our relationships at work into our Emotional Bank Accounts. When the balance is high, so is the resulting level of trust, and so is your ability to achieve the results that you are measured by. When the balance is low, trust is low, the quality of your work will decrease and suffer, and ultimately your work relationships can suffer also.

Building Workplace PerformanceImage source: i.ytimg.com

To build a strong, healthy balance with the people with whom you work, follow these important points:

1. Never deposit to withdraw - While there are similarities between a traditional bank account and an Emotional Bank Account, you should never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make planned withdrawals later. I know a colleague who kept a box of thank you notes in his office because he had developed an unhealthy habit of using them to build a reservoir of goodwill before dumping a big project on someone. This approach is exactly how not to utilize the Emotional Bank Account as your attempts to show good intent will be seen through quickly and will not be well received.

2. Know the other person’s currency - Like trying to deposit British Pounds into a Chinese bank account, you are sure to raise eyebrows and cause confusion. Understand how to change your tones and words to communicate with certain people and make an effort to ‘speak their language’. If done correctly this will instantly gain you their trust. Take time to learn what the important people in your workplace (aka your boss, your cubicle mate, your best clients) consider a deposit.

3. Communicate your own currency - You cannot expect people to read your mind. In the fast-paced world of work, it can cost you plenty if you do. Clarify and communicate your expectations before, during, and after every project. Doing so sets everyone up for success as showing trust in them builds rapport and understanding.

4. Small and consistent deposits over time are more powerful than occasional, large deposits - Relationships grow in security and trust when they are built with frequent, meaningful contributions rather than an occasional grand gesture. This stockpile can be invaluable when the unintentional but inevitable “you-know-what” hits the fan, and you need to draw from the deep well of deposits to turn a sticky situation around.

5. Right wrongs - A piece of Eastern wisdom says, “if you’re going to bow, bow low”. In other words, when you mess up, make a sincere apology. There is nothing more meaningful than admitting a mistake without making excuses for it. This shows humility and vulnerability, and will build strong trust.

Good luck with your journey in building performance in your workplace!

Banner Image source: betterthansuccess.com


Creating a Company in Vietnam

By: Keely Burkey and Jonas van Binsberg

What brought you to Vietnam?

I consider myself a product of the time and the places I grew up in. Born and raised in the Netherlands, graduated and started visiting Southeast Asia just before the financial crisis, in 2006. When the investment bank I was working for in the Netherlands started to run into difficulties at the end of 2007 and in 2008, I had heard of this large Vietnamese company that received support and relationships from international banks such as HSBC and Deutsche Bank. The owner and founder became known to me through the parents of my ex-girlfriend who was living in Australia at the time. We got introduced to each other, and he offered me a job. After that, I joined the export team of a multinational Dutch company responsible for the sales and trade of raw materials and ingredients of several countries in Southeast Asia. About 10 months into the job, this company also started to reorganise. I decided to stay in Vietnam because I was just engaged to my fiancee and strongly felt my time in Vietnam was not finished yet.

What is important when doing business in Vietnam? How does it differ from your experiences in Europe?

First of all, to pay attention to the people, to the relationships. In Germany, in Switzerland we would give a powerpoint presentation with four or five reasons why they should buy our product. Here, it’s all about who you are, where you are from, your family background, and then after that maybe the business things. Here the relationship comes before the transaction.

entrepreneurshipImage source: dbav.org.vn

Do you feel that foreign businesspeople are at a disadvantage here because they don’t share the same culture?

Well, language is one thing. The system is another thing. So, you have a slight disadvantage if you don’t know the language, but you can bring in good local people to work with you. You can have translators, you can have assistants. If you’re looking at the system, I think it’s getting a lot better. Where you might think people would be disadvantaged as a foreigner, Vietnam has already done all the reforms.

In the past few years a number of large international chains have entered Vietnam’s marketplace. Do you think these will hinder local growth, or create unreasonable competition for local companies?

I think local businesses still have a unique chance. They can get local support and they can also develop well because they are local. The local consumer is also buying local, I think. You see that more and more. You see a lot of people are very open to trying new things. You see a new restaurant to try. But I think in the long term, people will be more conscious about buying local products, and the government has already campaigned for a while now about Vietnamese people building local brands and things like that.

What are some of the biggest challenges you've encountered since doing business in Vietnam? What advice would you give people to avoid these obstacles?

In terms of life and investment advice, I would say: know your priorities and know your limits. Time is probably our most valuable asset. How we spend our time can say a lot about us. In the past, I often thought in terms of sacrifice. Sacrifice time for business, sacrifice money and give priority to the happiness of the family or the wife. But this is not right thinking. Right living is a life which is in balance. We intentionally choose to spend time with our loved ones; and we cultivate relationships, healthy habits, healthy living. Our priorities become visible through our daily choices. And what we can do should be within our limits. Unrealistic expectations or behaviour and risk which is beyond limits is dangerous and not a sustainable way of living and working.

What is Saigon Startups? Why did you create this company? 

I have noticed from my own experience, and from my friends here that we, start-up companies, small and medium-sized companies, all need the same things: product development, design, sales and marketing, bookkeeping and other services. The idea of Saigon Startups is sharing of resources, knowledge, experiences between entrepreneurs and companies. The idea is that, things that I have overcome already, or that I know already, can help you to grow your business faster. Saigon Startups is going to be a network of small and medium-sized companies, some invested by myself, some invested through friends or through fund investors. Together sharing information and targeting the same things: sustainable growth, good business, stability, health, wealth, happiness and profit in Vietnam.

entrepreneurshipImage source: media.baodautu.vn

Right now HCMC is seeing a surge in start-ups. Do you think these companies will create competition that will ultimately hinder expansion? Or is there enough room in the market for everyone?

It is a normal part of market growth, company growth and country development. Competition enhances performance and productivity. One thing that I would like to share is that each person and each business is unique. We do not have to copy or emulate one another. We have to find the one thing that ‘only I can do’, the one ‘calling’ that life has for us, our ‘passion’. Once we find that, there is no competition. There is only ‘doing what you love’ and other people sharing the same mission.

What sorts of start-ups are you seeing being developed at the moment? Which start-ups tend to be successful in Vietnam's business environment?

A lot of people are focused on technology start-ups. My personal interest is still mostly old-fashioned business such as manufacturing of agricultural products, healthcare products, things like that, but then combining it with and/or applying the modern tools available such as online marketing, online shopping or mobile phone apps. I think a lot of different types of start-ups can be successful in Vietnam. The key issues which I think are important are: long-term commitment of the team, financial pressure, great innovation... In my opinion, often things go wrong here when people change. No money or borrowed money, try for three to six months but then give up. An entrepreneur needs to have to ability to create, to have a dream, to create a vision, to create a product. If finance, commitment and creation skills are lacking, it’s going to be much harder for a start-up business to be successful.

entrepreneurshipImage source: wellesley.edu

Banner Image source: knowstartup.com


Guide to Living and Working in Paris as an Expat

By: City Pass Guide

Let’s admit it; Paris is one of the world’s most exciting places to live. You will never run out of things to do in this beautiful city, from exploring its fantastic culture and fashion to enjoying its many scenic places. It can be even better if you work here, given that it’s home to pretty much every big multinational company you can imagine.

Working in Paris

However, as a foreigner, your experience could be different if you do not know the ins and outs of living here. In this post, we highlight some of the critical areas you need to familiarize yourself with for a smoother transition when relocating to Paris for work.

Visa and work permit

Anyone who plans to stay for more than three months needs a French residence permit. It would help if you also got a job before you move, as this makes it easier to obtain a work permit. But that’s not all; you have to register with the government within three months of moving to Paris.

Working in Paris

The new micro-enterprise regime makes things a little easier for those who do not want to be employed. In that case, you can register a small business and be allowed to stay on that basis. A caveat though is that you will need to take a business administration course if you choose to use this route.

Housing

As an expat, you can live in any form of housing, although most people prefer furnished rentals upon arrival. Whichever option you choose, be sure to gather all the necessary details on renting houses and the requirements you must meet.

Nearly all Parisians landlords will ask for proof of income before they allow you to occupy their apartments. Usually, they want to be sure that your income is at least three times the rent amount. Apart from that, most of them will ask for guarantors who are supposed to pay your rent in case you default.

Healthcare

Although France has one of the best healthcare systems globally, expats need to acquire international healthcare insurance to access it. Most people get covered under the State Health Insurance Program, but you need to register with CPAM, the body entrusted with administering national health insurance in the country, to be eligible.

Working in Paris

If you’re like most expats, you will want to look for other alternatives, given that the state health insurance program is generally insufficient. However, should you opt for this route, try to familiarize yourself with the best hospitals in Paris before registering for these plans.

Banking

An expat in Paris can open a bank account as long as their visa and work permits are in order. You need this account in order to be paid by your employers or make business transactions if you are self-employed. You can use it for saving, too, because you need a good financial cushion to live comfortably in this city.

The few crucial documents required to set up a French bank account include your passport, residence permit, and proof of residency. Opening a bank account is a simple process, but you will have to wait for about ten days to get a card and a checkbook.

Language and culture

Since you are moving to a country that does not speak your native language, you must learn French to be able to interact with the locals here. Sure, there are millions of English-speaking people in Paris and other parts of France. But it certainly will prove difficult for you to work, because French is the dominant language in most workplaces, including multinational companies.

Working in Paris

Luckily, French isn’t the most difficult language to learn. Once you are properly settled in Paris, consider looking for a language school and enroll to speed up the process. The best part is that most of these schools allow for flexible schedules, meaning you can learn at your own time and pace. There are plenty of online classes too.

Exploring Paris

Your life as an expat in Paris should not be limited to your workplace and apartment alone. Create time to explore your new environment and see what it has to offer. For example, you can use your weekends and other free time to visit suburbs on the city's outskirts to learn about what life is like there. Also, there are hundreds of attractions in this city, it would take you months to exhaust all of them!

Working in Paris

Conclusion

Living in Paris as an expat can be enjoyable if you know how to go about it. Treat this as an opportunity to enjoy a new culture and interact with different people. There is no limit to what you can do in the City of Love.


The Power of Effective Feedback

By: Victor Burrill

The best leaders are those who ask for feedback and initiate employee engagement.

The need to learn and grow should be put forward.

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill.

Effective Feedback within the workplace results in closer relationships, better collaboration and increased effectiveness in performance. Business performance trainer and executive coach, Victor Burill, shares some valuable insight.

The Importance of Feedback in High-Performing Teams

According to a recent Forbes article, one of the essential characteristics of a high-performing team is one where the team members cultivate and practice an open feedback culture. These teams should provide and receive feedback regularly, regardless of position and tenure, in a productive way that should also deepen their relationships. Leaders can set the example by asking for feedback from team members, and responding positively versus defensively, effectively integrating the feedback into work behaviors.

Building an Open Feedback Culture starts with the Leader

Stephen R. Covey, the world renowned author and keynote speaker says...

“Leaders beware! The higher you go in an organisation, the less likely people are to give you straight feedback. Feedback is your life-support system. Without it, you will eventually fail. Do everything you can to create a culture where it is safe to give you feedback.”​

This should be taken as a motivational warning for any leader into creating an open feedback culture in the workplace.

The best leaders ask for more feedback, according to a study done by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. In their research of over 50,000 executives they found that "Leaders who ranked at the top 10% in asking for feedback were rated much higher, on average, in overall leadership effectiveness."

Feedback is also linked to employee engagement. In another recent study of over 22,000 leaders, Zenger and Folkman found that there was a correlation between low ratings from direct reports about the leader's ability to give honest feedback and low engagement scores. Conversely, if a leader was rated in the top 10% at giving honest feedback, their reports ranked their engagement in the top 23%.

Business PerformanceImage source: dianegottsman.com

Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer says inviting feedback often, especially from those you trust will help any leader see challenges ahead of time, and you’ll gain experience in responding positively to feedback. She suggests beginning with open-ended questions for those who know you well and can speak with confidence about your work. Here are some great example questions:

- If you had to make two suggestions for improving my work, what would they be?

- How could I handle my projects more effectively?

- What could I do to make your job easier?

- How could I do a better job of following through on commitments?

- If you were in my position, what would you do to show people more appreciation?

- When do I need to involve other people in my decisions?

- How could I do a better job of prioritising my activities?

Overcoming the Fear of Giving and Receiving Feedback

One of the roadblocks of an open feedback culture is fear. When team members are fearful of what type of reaction they might receive if they say what they see, they are less likely to share openly – especially with their superiors.

Business PerformanceImage source: applicantstack.com

Imagine if you have just been asked if you would be open to some feedback. What would your reaction be? Does your stomach tighten? Do you feel fear or anger? Do you anticipate that this feedback will be critical? Are you already feeling defensive and believe that you need to explain, rationalise and justify your actions? These feelings are similar to those felt by many leaders.

Many managers I know think they are open to feedback. They often tell employees that I had an open-door policy for everyone. Then they get frustrated when they hear backdoor gossip. If they tell employees that they can speak with them, why weren’t they all coming to them directly? The answer is often because of how they are expected to react when others hold opposing views.

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone in a 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review say... 

“The [feedback] process strikes at the tension between two core human needs — the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are."

Providing Feedback isn’t Solely the Team Leader’s Responsibility

According to Mary Shapiro, who teaches organizational behavior at Simmons College and is the author of the HBR Guide to Leading Teams, leaders can’t be the only one holding everyone accountable because they can’t possibly observe everything that’s going on. If the boss is the only one praising or critiquing, group dynamics suffer. “You want to give everyone the opportunity to say their piece,” she says. “Your job as a manager is to ensure that team members are “providing regular constructive feedback,” says Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist and the author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams. “There needs to be an expectation within the team that this is a shared leadership responsibility,” he says.

How to Give and Receive Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill and most people are not naturally good at it, says Shapiro. “One of your goals is to develop your team’s capacity to give feedback and help people get used to articulating how they feel the team is doing.” Take baby steps. At the second or third check-in, ask the group general questions such as, “On a scale of one to five, how well is the team sharing the workload? What needs to change?”

Business PerformanceImage source: lutz.us

Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer suggests the 7 Criteria for Effective Feedback are:

- The feedback provider is credible in the eyes of the feedback recipient

- The feedback provider is trusted by the feedback recipient

- The feedback is conveyed with good intentions

- The timing and the circumstances of giving the feedback are appropriate

- The feedback is given in an interactive manner

- The feedback message is clear

- The feedback is helpful to recipient

Final Tips of Giving & Receiving Feedback

Do:

- Make sure your team understands that feedback is a shared leadership responsibility

- Schedule routine check-in meetings where you encourage feedback

- Keep the tone positive by encouraging team members to say what they appreciate about others’ contributions

- Ask questions to get feedback on your feedback

Business PerformanceImage source: kuzabiashara.co.ke

Don’t:

- Start meetings with your own feedback for the team — allow everyone else to first express how they think they’re doing

- Shy away from performance issues — address them openly with the group

- Get in the middle of personality conflicts — help facilitate difficult conversations

- Don’t assume you’re always right

Good luck in your journey in building a safe, feedback rich environment with your teams! - Victor Burrill

Banner Image source: familysupportwales.co.uk


Dream Jobs in Vietnam

By: Frank B. Edwards

Southeast Asia: The Land of Employee Turnover

Paul Espinas sells dreams – dreams of better jobs – and he’s very good at it.

The 28-year-old marketing director of VietnamWorks oversees the employment company’s campaigns to find experienced workers to fill the empty desks of Hanoi’s and HCMC’s office towers with administrators, managers, technicians, sales teams and a variety of specialists.

Every day the VietnamWorks website – known in the recruiting business as a job portal – introduces hundreds of employers to tens of thousands of workers wanting a better job and more money.

Like most Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam has an annual 20 plus percent employee turnover, a frustrating reality for employers who must continually recruit new workers. (The largest job-search surge occurs right after the Tet employee-bonus season.) That reality has spelled success for a wave of job sites in Vietnam including Jobstreet, Careerbuilder, HR Vietnam, Careerlink and VIPsearch.

Turnover

At its busiest, the VietnamWorks website receives up to six million visits a month – and adds several dozen new job postings each day. In mid-January, the job portal listed 6,000 jobs, half of them in HCMC, with salaries ranging from $500 to $4,000 per month. The site requires job seekers to have a minimum of two years’ work experience. Currently, the company has a database of three million jobseekers.

Paul explains that Vietnam’s hot economy is just one reason for the frenzied employment scene. While employment companies certainly profit from high employee turnover in the short term (they charge employers a fee to post their job listings), he cautions that the Vietnamese workplace needs to improve its accommodation of young millennials (born after 1980) who make up the largest workforce demographic.

“Employers have to keep their employees engaged,” Paul says. “Management styles have to adapt because often the expectations of young workers aren’t being met.”

Money is usually a key consideration, but is not always the most important.

Ways to Grow

Several blocks away from the VietnamWorks headquarters, Jon Whitehead sits in a high-rise tower matching managers and executives with corporate employers. Having worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Vietnam, the newly appointed managing director of RGF Executive Search (formerly of HR giant Robert Walker) is familiar with hot job markets and has seen managers jump ship for increases as little as $100 per month.

While well-qualified workers can win increases of 20 to 25 percent, he advises his job candidates to be careful about quitting jobs too often.

“People here… will move for money. So you have to educate them that too much movement doesn’t show growth and doesn’t show consistency.”

He notes that the supply of Vietnamese managers has grown significantly in recent years but still can’t keep up with the demand. When new manufacturing and IT companies come here, “they want a staff right away but it takes a while to produce one”.

“Vietnam is a young country, it’s a young population here,” he observes. “They do want to learn. They are hard-working, but it comes down to education. Too often, they don’t know what is required of them. [Working for foreign corporations,] the demands are higher and expectations are higher.”

Viet Keu

Often, he says, applicants prefer to report to an expat manager in the belief that they can learn from and develop marketable skills more quickly with a mentor who has international work experience. The smart ones look for jobs with scope to grow so that they can move within a corporation without having to quit and find new employment to advance their careers.

An increasingly important source of Vietnamese management talent is coming from abroad – both from the Viet Kieu population of overseas Vietnamese who left the country after 1975 and recent university graduates who studied internationally and chose not to return to Vietnam immediately.

Jon has seen more of those graduates – many with advanced degrees – returning to the country after they’ve gained some Western work experience. “They come back with a different mindset,” he says, pointing to their experience with domestic consumer

traits and exposure to multinational corporate culture. But he cautions employers that they are not willing to work for “Vietnamese wages”:

“They want to be paid at the same level as expats.”

Meanwhile, Viet Kieu millennials are also finding their way home, often against the will of their parents who have established comfortable lives and successful family businesses.

One such recent arrival is a young digital marketer who grew up in Ottawa, Canada, studied international commerce and then headed east, finally arriving in HCMC last autumn after several years working in Singapore.

At a recent social event, he moved easily through the crowd of young Vietnamese advertising executives (and hopefuls), speaking English effortlessly and offering energetic insights into the world of corporate communications. While he’s determined to be at the forefront of the new IT economy here, he admits that his parents are worried. “This is not the Vietnam they knew,” he says.

While recent university graduates and overseas arrivals are adding to the employee base, the biggest source of talent right now remains within the existing workforce, and that’s where the big HR companies are searching.

RGF Executive Search deals with positions paying $1,500 a month up to the stratospheric salaries of CEOs rising beyond $25,000 a month. (RGF charges employers a finder’s fee that is up to 25 percent of an annual salary.) These days most of the jobs at the lower end of that scale go to Vietnamese; the mid-scale positions are split between expats and Vietnamese while upper executive jobs still favour expats with international experience.

Ready for a Globalised Market Economy?

As employee recruitment continues to get more competitive, companies are becoming more creative. At VietnamWorks, Paul has organised job fairs to bring employers and job seekers together. His Boulevard For Success job fairs bring out thousands of Hanoi and Saigon workers interested in talking to HR personnel from a range of companies. He has a technology job fair and a mobile app in the planning stages.

A shortage of IT professionals is particularly worrying for Paul, whose research suggests that Vietnam will need 400,000 new IT workers by 2020. Even now, he says there is a problem because current IT professionals lack the communication and soft skills (like creativity, problem solving and collaboration) that are important components of the international workplace.

It sector Vietnam

Over the past three years, VietnamWorks has seen the biggest job growth in finance, IT and advertising – the latter two have doubled and tripled the number of jobs on offer. Ironically, 40 percent of its job seekers are pursuing careers in other fields. Accounting, administrative office jobs and manufacturing/production are the most sought-after career fields right now.

In a 2014 report called Skilling up Vietnam, the World Bank noted that the country’s 95 percent literacy rate was just the first step to preparing workers for a modern market economy. It claimed that 80 percent of technical and professional job applicants lacked the skills necessary to fulfil the jobs they were applying for – and that white collar workers lacked both technical expertise as well as leadership, creative, problem-solving and communication skills.

Jon Whitehouse, a Brit, and Paul Espinas, a Filipino, remain optimistic about the road ahead. Both arrived in Vietnam by circuitous career routes and both have declared their intention to stay.

Jon explains that for expat executives, Vietnam is a career stepping stone and the typical stay here is three years. But some fall in love with the place and have trouble leaving. He’s been here for five years and Paul has seven years under his belt; they have no intention of leaving any time soon.

 


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