As the world of work undergoes a digital transformation, employers in Singapore and Asia Pacific are grappling with challenges in attracting and retaining top talent, according to two major surveys conducted by Willis Towers Watson, a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.
The Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, a study of more than 2,000 companies globally, including 695 from the Asia Pacific, shows that more than 65 percent of Singapore employers are struggling to attract talent and 28 percent have had issues retaining their own talent with critical skills.
Despite this, labour market activity increases with nearly half of organisations in Asia Pacific reporting that hiring has increased over the last year. This could be surprising in a year, when many businesses are remaining cautious and taking a wait-and-see approach regarding recent economic and political developments.
During the same period, rapid technology developments are deconstructing and dispersing work across a virtual workspace, and causing organisations to shift their focus to be more flexible and open to digital change.
“Many of today’s most sought-after specialities, such as cloud computing and mobile app design, did not exist a decade ago,” said Maggy Fang, Managing Director, Talent and Rewards — Asia Pacific, Willis Towers Watson. “This disruption is causing a skilled worker deficit in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields and a surplus of low-skilled workers in others, such as administration and manufacturing.”
As a result, employers in both mature and emerging economies in Asia Pacific are continuing to experience talent attraction and retention challenges. The challenge is also felt in Singapore, where employers are experiencing difficulty in attracting critical-skill employees (66 percent), top performers (74 percent) and high-potential employees (69 percent).
52 percent employers also reported facing difficulties in retaining high potential talent, as well as holding on to top performing talent (56 percent) and critical skill talent (28 percent).
Disconnect in Employer and Employee Views
Willis Towers Watson’s 2016 Global Workforce Study, a survey of 31,000 employees worldwide, including 12,868 from Asia Pacific, revealed some disconnect between employer and employee views.
In Singapore, employees consider fair pay (61 percent), opportunities to learn new skills (42 percent) and job security (41 percent) as their most important reason to join a company. While companies generally understand these priorities, their views diverge from those of employees in a few key areas.
For instance, employees in Singapore rate other factors such as the physical work environment, healthcare and wellness benefits as important factors when they evaluate a potential employer, while the employers themselves do not place priority on these.
The importance of physical work environment for retention likely reflects the growing diversification of office arrangements in many organisations, more collaborative work spaces and supporting technologies. Understanding how to optimise employee work environments to provide a compelling experience is an emerging trend in the ongoing challenge to retain talent.
Both employers and employees in Singapore share the perspective that the most important retention drivers are base pay, career advancement opportunities and relationships with managers. However, while employees here also consider job security as a factor, employers do not view this as an important retention driver.
Room for Improvement in Employee Engagement in Singapore
The 2016 Global Workforce Study findings show that just one-quarter (25 percent) of employees in Singapore are highly engaged. The survey identified senior leadership as the top driver of sustainable engagement, followed by supervision, company image and integrity. The fourth and fifth most important drivers are workload, flexibility and communication, respectively.
A mere 44 percent employees in Singapore also reported having trust and confidence in the job being done by senior leadership, while just 39 percent feel that the company’s leaders have a sincere interest in employees’ wellbeing. This is worrying, as the survey also found that trust and confidence in senior leadership rank in the top five most important reasons for why an employee in Singapore might consider leaving their organisation (26 percent).
Despite the fact that supervision is one of the top engagement factors in Singapore, only 65 percent employees said their immediate manager or supervisor treats them with respect, and even fewer said, that they help employees with career planning and decisions (38 percent) or coach them to improve their performance (44 percent).
The survey also found that only half of employees in Singapore feel their managers are effective at developing talent and leading change.
“In addition to attracting and retaining talented employees, employers need to focus on engaging employees in order to achieve better business results. Leadership, including the role played by supervisors, managers and senior executives, plays a critical role in driving engagement among their employees,” added Fang.
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