A global talent shortage is limiting the take-up of new technology for more than a third of businesses in Hong Kong, according to a recent survey conducted by CPA Australia

A regional survey of business technology adoption by CPA Australia found 73% of respondents in Hong Kong said their company had a digital transformation strategy but 35% were struggling to find staff with the necessary talents.

Despite these challenges, more than 90% of respondents expect their organisation will take steps to improve technology adoption in the next 12 months. Increasing investment or upgrading technology is the most common action respondents expect their business to undertake (33%).

The survey of 820 accounting and finance professionals in seven Asia-Pacific markets with 199 respondents from Hong Kong reveals major barriers to businesses’ ability to adapt to the digital era and the strategies being used to overcome these difficulties.

Video conferencing and group collaborations, cloud computing, and data analytics and visualisation are the most popular technologies currently used by businesses in Hong Kong. Companies expect their use of these tools to increase over the next year and are embracing digitalisation, Dr Albert Wong, member of CPA Australia’s Greater Bay Area (GBA) Committee said: “I’m delighted that companies in Hong Kong have put digital transformation on the front burner. Many have intentions to increase their investment or upgrade the technology they’re using,” he says.

“Over the past two years, travel restrictions have been a driving force for digitalisation. Many are motivated to undertake more technology upgrades and to transform newly created data into valuable business insights.

“Data-driven technologies, such as data analytics and visualisation (44%) have become the tools to use more for businesses in Hong Kong.”

“Maintaining a steady supply of innovation and technology (I&T) talent is crucial.”

Hong Kong companies have the ambition to transform digitally and prepare themselves for the future, but the skills shortage is a significant inhibitor to technology adoption.

Wong continues: “First of all, the Hong Kong SAR Government should clearly understand the types of talent required for the city’s future, then establish a forward-looking talent policy to expand the talent pool. This could include policies and programs to attract, retain and nurture innovative and tech-savvy talent with relevant skills. For example, strengthening technology collaboration with other cities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and nurturing our next generation in STEM.

“The Government may also consider formulating an industry policy that helps to create a sustainable I&T ecosystem that specifically takes into account the development plan of the Northern Metropolis. Collaboration between government, academia, research institutions and enterprises is vital to expedite the development and adoption of technological achievements in the local business environment, as well as fostering more homegrown start-ups and talent.”

Respondents who identified a shortage of talent as the biggest concern for their business also said their workplace was taking action with 85 per cent already attempting to bridge this gap.

Employers are working hard to meet the skills challenge, Dr Paul Sin, member of CPA Australia’s GBA Committee says.

The strategies being used by businesses to tackle the lack of skills including upskilling or reskilling existing employees (39%), outsourcing work to a third-party provider (34%) and hiring contractors (24%).

“Despite adverse market conditions, larger enterprises are stepping up their investment in technology and upskilling their staff. This allows corporates to turn threats into opportunities.” Sin says.

“However, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are suffering from lack of resources and high shortage of talents, leading to increased need for outsourcing partners.

“While COVID last year has been driving virtual collaboration, the rising cost of finance this year has further exerted pressure on operational efficiency, which in turn further drives adoption of technology such as cloud computing.”

“Companies should be mindful of compliance obligations with data protection regulations in the GBA when investing in data-driven technologies. SMEs who may not have sufficient data, should focus on improving data accessibility and quality before making any technology investments.”

Sin encouraged the government to introduce targeted measures to hasten the development of I&T, particularly among SMEs.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises need help to digitalise. The government should increase resources to help them find digital partners to provide support, such as IT consultation services or outsourcing digital solutions. Collaborating with third-party vendors, especially those in the neighbouring GBA cities, is one part of the solution.

“For larger companies, a feasible initiative would be new tax incentives for digital transformation expenditure. Companies themselves should regularly review their policies to strengthen the protection of their human capital, intellectual property and other assets.