Updating Singapore companies’ HR policies to keep up with times: Is it mission impossible?

sunset of the Singapore skyline with many executive search firms

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In 2015, our small city-state Singapore achieved a major milestone and turned 50 years young. Affectionately referred to as the ‘little red dot’, Singapore has certainly gone through her fair share of trials and tribulations; and defied odds to emerge as the ‘Gateway to Asia’ with a thriving and competitive economy that rivals its neighbours and other developed countries. She ranks as the second most competitive nation in the world, to Switzerland’s first place and productivity level has improved by 0.7% year-to-year in 2016. This only means that much more needs to be done. Despite having enjoyed low unemployment rates in the past decade, rapid globalisation and a greying population have posed threats to her already fragile state of employment. This has given rise to the much-contested population white paper the Singapore Government published in 2013 mapping out how our ‘little red dot’ is poised to take in about 3 million immigrants – a little less than half of her projected total population by 2030. What’s more, Singapore’s first cohort of Baby Boomers reached its retirement age in 2012, giving way to the next generation of workers. With such a diverse workforce, the current Ministry of Manpower’s Human Resources (HR) guidelines may not be sufficient to compete internationally to attract and sustain the right talents. So how can Singapore’s workplace adapt and achieve a more balanced work-play lifestyle whilst still maintaining its competitiveness? Here are 3 easy ways how your company can blaze the trail and ensure that your HR policies are law-abiding, economically sustainable and attractive to the right talents.

1. A happy workplace means a productive employee

The Swedes call it fika and the Danes call it hygge living. Roughly translated as drinking coffee, savouring sweet treats and light conversation, it’s a custom that is as much part of the working day of a Scandinavian as replying to emails and attending meetings. If you think that taking a full hour to enjoy lunch or taking frequent coffee breaks will decrease productivity, think again. In fact, 4 of the top 10 most productive countries in the world are those with the shortest average working hours – including Sweden and Denmark. Discourage the ‘worker martyr’ or workaholic mentality and support employees to take regular coffee breaks and disconnect from work after office hours. Go further and implement mandatory leave. This way, not only will employees achieve quality work-life balance, they will be less stressed, more energised and even come to appreciate the company’s efforts. On the flip side, your company will decrease turnover rates and boost productivity with creative, happy, loyal and motivated employees. Studies have shown that companies with highly engaged employees outperform those with dissatisfied staffers by 202%.

2. Prioritise emotional intelligence

Hiring someone who’s top of their class with sterling academic achievements are all well but surely an archaic practice. As the saying goes, people don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers. Combat this by identifying and promoting talented employees who are effective communicators and inspire their fellow colleagues through their dedication and determination. You may also want to start including personality tests during interviews to better understand a potential candidate. Bolster this with a comprehensive onboarding programme so that managers can evaluate new hires beyond just work competency but also on problem-solving abilities, cohesiveness with colleagues and other soft skills. In this way, you’d have start cultivating a work-friendly, engaging workplace and improve retention rates whilst lowering manpower costs.

3. Talent incubation and succession programmes

A lack of training and career advancement opportunities have been cited multiple times as the top factors for unhappy Singapore workers. This has not gone unnoticed by the Singapore Government who recognises its significance such that they have created a special funding programme for it – SkillsFuture. In addition to taking advantage of this, provide in-house training programmes and customise career succession planning according to the employee’s capabilities. Build a 2-way channel that allow employees to provide feedback on how best they can progress within the company because a one-size fits all solution is no longer relevant in today’s knowledge economy. An employee who is clear on his standing with his employer is one who is more confident and assured, thereby more determined and motivated to grow with the company. With such innovative yet simple HR solutions, your company is ready to attract not only the crème de la crème of talents but also sustain creative, productive, dedicated and engaged employees. It’s not mission impossible at all.


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Amos Tay

Amos Tay

I have over 10 years’ experience in the Logistics and Transportation industry working both as an in-house HR professional as well as an external recruiter. I have a Gallup CliftonStrength certified coach. Connect with me for your next Logistics & Supply Chain hiring role.

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