, Singapore

Singapore's disengaged workforce and the millennials

By Mark Stuart

According to a Gallup Survey, 76% of staff in Singapore are disengaged with their work. This is one of the highest rates of disengagement in the world, and has forced many Singaporean firms to urgently address the issue of employee engagement.

Some solutions include increased feedback mechanisms, and flexible work arrangements. Or, could the solution be as simple as placing the right person in the right role?

One solution designed to help the process is using behaviour assessment tools, such as DISC, to understand employees and place them in the right jobs, thereby optimising their strengths and working styles.

According to a June 2014 Randstad survey, almost half of Singaporean employees are unhappy with their job, with three-quarters viewing their job only as a way to make a living and nothing more.

With 80% not hesitating to move jobs if more money comes along, Singaporean firms need to find a better way to engage their employees and understand their motivations and behaviour patterns.

Millennial attitudes
Although Singapore has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world, in South East Asia, youth are five times more likely to be unemployed than adults. The International Labour Organization has warned that regional youth unemployment rates will rise from 13.3% to above 14% by 2017.

In a recent study of millennial attitudes, conducted by PwC with the University of Southern California and the London Business School in 2013, researchers stressed the necessity of workplace evolution to cater to the generation. Millennials “place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasises teamwork and a sense of community.”

How can companies create a sense of community? Quite simply, they need to evolve so they can cater to existing staff challenges, as well as new ones -- for example, knowing how to manage the next generation of employees.

These include knowing how to motivate and manage employees, as well as managers adopting skills that will help where teams are not working in harmony, where staff are not being placed in the right jobs, and where staff are unproductive.

While DISC is not a new solution, its effectiveness is one that has been proven over the years, and could be explored to help overcome challenges understanding workplace behaviour.

This behavioural assessment tool has been used by over 50 million people around the world, and over 70% of Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and fast-growing companies so that they can better understand the personalities of their employees better.

What is DISC?
Based on the works of psychologist William Marston, the DISC assessment is a series of questions administered over a test, usually online. The results and report are generated based on the answers to those questions.

Marston explained his theory that people illustrate their emotions through behaviour using the four behaviour types called Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Compliance (C).

Some benefits of the DISC assessment include:
- Higher accuracy in placing the right people in roles suited to their personality
- Better teamwork and productivity
- Improved staff retention

How is DISC used by companies?

Leadership Potential
DISC can be of great benefit to current or future leaders to identify whether a person is confident making decisions, can influence others, or whether they can follow rules and procedures critical to the business.

It can also help determine behavioural traits in their communication with their employees and how they act under pressure.

Communication Styles
Profiling can help employees to read people and understand when and how to change their communication approach. For example, if you know someone is a ‘D’ (Dominant) then they are not interested in small talk, so you need to summarise more and just give them the key information they need.

However, if you were talking to an ‘I’ (Influencer), then this person likes to talk and values interpersonal relationships, so they will need a different approach.

Team Harmony
In the study on Inclusive and Harmonious Workplaces conducted by the Ministry of Manpower in 2010, 87% of companies surveyed said that workplace harmony was important to business outcomes. DISC is useful for newly created teams, project teams, or even existing teams with internal conflict.

It can help to identify reasons behind the conflict and how people can better work together. DISC also highlights communication style differences, power struggles, or passive employees, all of which can be used to create stronger, more effective teams.

DISC is used by many HR departments to supplement the recruitment process. With the 2014 Ortus survey highlighting that attracting and retaining talent were the two major concerns of HR leaders in Singapore, a behavioural assessment such as DISC can help provide additional insight into prospective employees and help the recruiter target areas to focus on during the final round interview process.

It can also help with decisions regarding promotion or internal transition, together with coaching and career development.

Personality profiling has an important part to play in any corporation to help them understand differences in their employees’ working style and daily behaviour. With engagement levels running so low in Singapore, isn’t it time that you considered it to improve teamwork, communication, and the effectiveness of your leaders?

After all, a crucial step in employee engagement could simply be to understand them first.

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