ECONOMY, HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Chris Reed

Motivating talent in Singapore: Are we doing it right?


Since as early as 2006, Singapore has topped worldwide Ease of Doing Business rankings, with businesses from all over the world in various industries looking to set up shop here.

But there has been an inkling of change of sentiment lately: two out of five of entrepreneurs that I speak with seem to be actively considering building a virtual team elsewhere. This is not hard to resonate with: labour and rental costs are rising; your competitors are eyeing up the same talent pool as you are; employee retention is a challenge; and recruitment, even harder.

In the recent Singapore Management Agenda published by the Roffey Park Institute, lower cost of operations was revealed as the top driver for 64 percent of organisations to move some if not all of its business from Singapore to other countries.

But is that the right way to go? To shove your problems under the carpet, start afresh elsewhere, and pray for success?

Top talent in Singapore is expensive for various reasons: The education system here is unparalleled, most if not all professionals are effectively bilingual and well-traveled with a regional or even internationalist mindset.

Most importantly, the cost of living here is phenomenal: If you want someone to be happy to work for you, you have to make sure you are paying them enough to afford a house, lifestyle, car, and education for their kids.

I'm talking here about both locals and expats. There is a reason many Singaporeans live at home with their parents till mid-thirties and it's not all about culture and custom, much is to do with the sheer cost of finding a place of their own as the sharing culture doesn't really exist here in the way it does in places like Sydney, London, and New York.

In the same report by Roffey Park, it was revealed that 63 percent of organisations are finding difficulty in recruiting suitable employees due to the inability to match candidate compensation and benefits expectations.

I shared in my recent article on employer branding with reference to global top employer Google that salary is becoming more and more of a hygiene factor and it does not take a lot of money to do what Google has done to attract and motivate talent (albeit from a high position of being one of the most aspirational brands in the world that even your mum and dad have heard of).

Yet, while 60 percent of organisations claim to 'almost always' or 'often' experience difficulties in recruiting suitable employees, it is shocking to note that a talent programme is not even present in 21 percent of such organisations.

Just under 60 percent of organisations rated their talent programme as 'neither successful nor unsuccessful', implying the lack of metrics put in place to measure talent management success. This uncertainty spirals from top-down, with the bulk of HR Managers not knowing how to evaluate the success of line managers when it comes to managing talent.

To seek talent beyond local borders may be the shortcut to a temporary solution, but will it tackle the root of the problem? What will be your next course of action when costs begin to rise in developing countries? Effective talent management calls for a 360-degree shift in organisational mindset and ought to come from within.

Is your HR Manager still spending time on maintaining office supplies, calculating payroll, and managing leave? How about letting technology take over these administrative tasks so HR can focus on what's important: The people that you count on to move your organisation onwards and upwards?

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.

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