Asian Employees Seek Development Opportunities

News Updates

Opportunities for professional growth and development are lacking for many Asian Pacific American (APA) employees, according to a study released June 11, 2012, by the Asia Society, a global educational organization headquartered in New York.
Nearly 2,000 APA employees working at all professional levels for Fortune 500 and similar organizations responded to the latest edition of a study first conducted in 2010. Corporate diversity officers and HR executives provided information on programs, policies and activities that support such employees.

The study explored six key workplace and career dimensions that impact APA employees working in the United States:

  • Diversity, including the workplace culture, organizational commitment to diversity and demographic representation.
  • Professional growth and development, including the availability of mentors and role models.
  • Commitment to the APA community internally and externally, including employee resource groups and involvement with outside organizations.
  • Leadership and company image, such as efforts made to understand the APA and Asian markets, especially by drawing upon employees for insights into such markets.
  • The job itself, such as whether the employee feels fulfilled and valued for their strengths and skills.
  • Satisfaction, commitment and feelings of belonging as a part of an organization.

Fewer than half of respondents agreed with certain statements used in the survey, including:

  • This company has an ample representation of individuals with APA backgrounds in key positions (48 percent agreed, 28 percent disagreed, the rest were neutral).
  • This company has strong ties with the APA community (41 percent agreed, 24 percent disagreed).
  • This company draws on its APA employees to engage customers from Asia (42 percent agreed, 15 percent disagreed).
  • I feel a real sense of belonging as an APA employee of this company (49 percent agreed, 17 percent disagreed).

When asked various questions about their job, such as whether they can employ all skills and are recognized for individual strengths rather than stereotypes, the vast majority of respondents responded favorably. However, just 54 percent agreed that they are able to reach their full potential at their company.

A series of questions on professional growth and development provides some insights into this key area of frustration. Although the majority of respondents said they feel good about their opportunities for career growth and development with their organization (57 percent) and have support to participate in activities that help develop leadership skills (68 percent), the responses to a number of other questions are far less favorable:

  • Just 42 percent of respondents said their company offers mentoring and/or sponsorship programs tailored for APA employees.
  • Even fewer (39 percent) said they have a mentor or sponsor at their organization.
  • Forty-two percent said they have APA role models at their company that they look up to.
  • Thirty-nine percent said APA employees have a clear presence in the senior leadership ranks.
  • Thirty-seven percent said their company encourages employees to pursue international assignments and opportunities in Asia.

“It is less important to understand whether APA employees are Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese or Filipino and more important to have programs that can address an array of individual circumstances” such as mentoring opportunities and sponsorships, according to the report. It is also important for APA employees across all levels to seek out and serve as role models, the report noted.

Employers can read further details about the practices used by a number of well-known organizations in the report. However, to recap, these are the action steps suggested by the Asian Society report for employers:

  • Offer career growth and development opportunities to APA employees.
  • Support APAs’ participation in leadership skill-building activities.
  • Create a clear presence of APA employees in senior leadership positions.
  • Establish and maintain strong ties with the APA community.
  • Support APA employee resource groups.
  • Offer business-relevant activities with the APA community—beyond holiday and festival celebrations.
  • Build a positive image in the APA community.
  • Ensure that company leaders understand the APA market as well as the Asian markets.

“By breaking down these top-line steps into ever more granular actions, companies can determine their unique path to addressing engagement and satisfaction of their APA employees,” the report suggested.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. To read the original article, please click here.