, Singapore

Addressing the challenges of Globalisation 2.0 in Singapore

By Able Cheong

Globalisation is changing its shape and form, with the balance of power shifting to Asia and rapid changes in the modern workforce. Hay Group, in partnership with futurist group Z_Punkt, recently published the research study Leadership 2030, in which they identified the megatrends that will shape business leaders of tomorrow.

Megatrends are essentially long-term, global transformation processes, characterised by their broad scope and dramatic impact. They can be observed over decades and be projected with a high degree of probability at least 15 years into the future.

They affect all regions and stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and individuals. Megatrends hold the potential to fundamentally transform economies, societies, and policies.

Some megatrends that business leaders and organisations in Singapore need to understand to prepare for the future are:

  • Demographic change: Aging populations reshape the workforce and intensify the war for talent as skill shortages emerge and grow
  • Individualism and value pluralism: Freedom of choice erodes employee loyalty and transforms workplace motivation.

In Singapore, there are unique challenges in managing demographic changes with its unique integration issues of a multi-generational workforce. There is also a growing trend of individualism at the workplace, with individuals exerting more of their personal preferences and values.

Integrating a multi-generational workforce
The young, restless, and demanding Generation Y (spanning in their early 20s to early 30s) employees of today are the leaders of tomorrow. However, they work differently and have very different expectations from their employers.

The incredibly talented pool of fresh graduates from Singapore’s top universities craves to identify their role within the big picture, have more autonomy, and a more collaborative work environment. They expect to have constant and instantaneous feedback, and want to progress rapidly in their careers.

If the pace of progression and growth does not meet their expectations, they have no hesitation in searching for better opportunities elsewhere, instead of waiting or trying to work through the issues.

This can be at huge odds with the paradigms of a multi-generational experienced workforce, where structure and hierarchy is observed, work experience is esteemed, and rewards are given only when abilities are proven.
We have observed that organisations are finding it difficult to balance their expectations and maintain internal equity, based on their current structures and systems.

According to Hay Group’s Effectiveness Survey, Singapore employees are more frustrated than their global counterparts, at 25% compared with the global norm of 18%. Younger, talented employees experience increasing frustration as they are unable to perform to the best of their abilities due to a lack of trust, authority, and empowerment.

Leaders in organisations admit that it’s necessary to work differently so as to harness the potential and strengths of the multi-generation workforce for business sustainability.

Growing individualisation
Individualism and value pluralism is altering people’s attitude to work, leading them to expect freedom and self-expression in their job as much as in other aspects of life. At the same time, loyalty to employers is on the decline.

With a widening range of choices, individuals are exerting acceptance and freedom to be themselves, in their choice of clothing, working style, and work hours. The emphasis is shifting beyond basic needs to concepts such as belonging, autonomy, and self-expression driven by an individual sense of personal ethics and priorities.

Organisations that impose their values system without deep engagement on their staff will risk having a disjointed work culture and their staff will only adopt these values superficially, without internalisation of any manner. Often retaining such talent is a huge challenge, especially if the organisation does not give them the space to express themselves appropriately.

The future roadmap for Singapore business leaders
With the emergence of these new challenges, demands, and expectations, we have found that business leaders need to lead their organisations differently. The time of the egocentric leader – dominant, reliant on formal authority to get results – is over.

To handle challenges in organisations today, we need to move toward an altrocentric model of leadership. Altrocentric leaders have a more intuitive understanding of leadership – one which is better suited to the complexities of these trends.

They display high degrees of empathy, maturity, integrity, openness, and self-awareness. They strive for the highest ethical standards. They are skilled strategic thinkers that know how to create meaning for their teams.

Altrocentric leaders get tremendous satisfaction from their team members’ accomplishments — a valuable trait in the rapidly evolving business climate in Singapore.

The ABC of being an altrocentric leader
To stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s best companies in leadership, local business leaders need to tackle the challenges of creating the right organisational climate with a simple ABC approach.

Accept new ideas and the different perspectives that come from it. With an increasingly diverse workforce that is eager to contribute, accepting and encouraging diversity is the only way to harness the variety of new ideas and viewpoints that will help unlock the full potential of your workforce.

Balance your approach toward the old and the new. The right balance between being the rock-star CEO for younger employees and moving the whole team toward a shared vision is imperative. More flexible, less centralised, and flatter structures will be needed to understand and respond to the different employee needs.

Focus on the long-term professional development of your employees, guiding the younger entrants by stimulating them to increase organisational commitment and discretionary effort. For those employees who are looking for clear instructions and need traditional forms of validation, provide them with new challenging jobs and the right organisational support to accomplish them.

Communicate clearly with the organisation. The traditional ways of communication (town-hall sessions, monthly meetings, company newsletters, etc.) used by companies have become less effective in developing an emotional relationship with employees.

Seek more direct means of reaching out, with a clear message on personal values/beliefs and how they fit into the larger culture of your organisation. It’s also best to identify and firmly communicate ‘no fly’ zones, such as gender or life choices, while retaining a supportiveness for individuality.

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