What do Singapore workers expect from their employers?

by HRD23 Mar 2017
As technology and socio-demographic shifts disrupt business models and the competition for talent rises, a large majority (75%) of Singapore firms are planning to redesign their structure in the next two year, according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Study.

However, only a quarter (25%) of executives in the city-state described their organization as “change agile.” The figure is still significantly higher than the 4% global average.

“Organizations need to prioritize a culture of agility to stay ahead of rapidly changing market trends,” said Kate Bravery, global leader for Mercer’s Career business. “Those employers that empower their workforce – by helping them plan for the unknown, mitigate risk, and thrive at work – will be more successful in building a responsive and successful organization.”

The study drew from over 7,500 individuals across 15 countries, including 445 from Singapore. It sought to compare the views of senior business executives, HR leaders, and employees.

“Most notably, despite organizations’ plans to transform, HR leaders do not have organization or job redesign on their list of priorities for 2017,” said Mercer.

HR leaders’ top priorities were:
  • developing leaders for succession
  • building skills across the workforce
  • identifying high potentials
  • attracting top talent externally
Although these reflect the priority of evolving employee capabilities, they may not align with executive’s goals for more substantial workplace change, according to Mercer.

More than half (68%) of HR leaders were confident in their talent management processes – but 44% of employees said they plan to leave their job in the next 12 months, even though they are currently satisfied. Those who planned on staying said they are less “energized” in terms of bringing their authentic selves to work.

“In an age where digitization, robotics, and AI are wreaking havoc with traditional business models, it is easy for executives to focus on superior technology as the solution to ensuring the competitiveness of their organizations and to overlook the human element,” said Ilya Bonic, president of Mercer’s Career business.

“Growth rests on engaging and empowering today’s workforce in ways that we are just beginning to uncover. It takes employees armed with the right skills and opportunities to develop innovative solutions to advance the business and themselves.”

Mercer emphasized five misalignments and “perhaps missed opportunities” to leverage what workers report as important:

“Health over Wealth”: More than half (62%) of Singapore employees rank health as more important than wealth or career, but only 37%  expect their workplace to become more focused on employee health in the next few years. HR leaders ranked “health and wellbeing” as second to the last in their list of top talent management priorities this year.

“Wealth over Career”: Almost all employees (95%) want to be recognized and rewarded for contributions beyond the organization’s financial results and activity metrics, but only 45% believe their company does this well. They ranked “fair and competitive” compensation at the top when asked what would make a positive impact on their work situation. However, rewards placed outside HR leaders’ top five priorities.

“Gig Is Big”: More than half of employees said their direct managers (55%) and company leaders (51%) are supportive of flexible work arrangements. But 50% of employees believe working remotely or part-time can adversely impact promotional opportunities. Some 80% of full0time employees would consider working on a contingent or contract basis.

However, C-suite and HR leaders agree that they do not expect the “gig economy” to have a significant impact on their business in the next two years. “It’s a risk for any organization to ignore opportunities for people to work more independently,” said Bravery. “Those companies that find ways to leverage a more fluid workforce will harness growth and outpace the competition.”

“A Relevant Experience”: Four in ten employees said their company understands their unique interests and skills – but 53% want their company to increase this understanding and help them invest in themselves. “Employees are increasingly bringing a consumer expectation to the workplace since it is how they engage in almost every aspect of their lives,” said Bravery. “It creates an authentic environment in which employees can excel. When done right, it does not feel like personalization – it just feels like a great experience.”

“Digital Divide”: Three-fourths believe technology at work, is likely to have the most impact on their organizations in the next two years. These include automation, robotics, machine learning, and wearables. But only 56% of HR professionals agree. Just 18% of organisations said they do not provide any digital experience for interacting with HR.

“In an established financial hub such as Singapore, it is imperative to fully understand patterns in talent flow and drivers of change,” said Puneet Swani, partner and growth markets career business leader at Mercer.

“It is encouraging to see that compared to the global average, 25% of companies in the Red Dot city consider their organizations as ‘change agile’, but this only puts a spotlight on the 75% of companies highlighting their need to rethink their talent infrastructure and day to day practices helping them to become more prepared and stay ahead in this competitive landscape.”


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