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Talent war: Can companies dodge the great resignation?

Qualtrics reported that 58% of Singaporeans plan to switch jobs in 2022.

Before Singapore’s job market can even heal from its talent crunch problem, it has received yet another blow—the great resignation. This phenomenon is set to hit companies in 2022 as 58% of employees plan to shift careers, according to a Qualtrics report.

HR coaches, however, are saying that there are ways to dodge this problem.

In an interview with Singapore Business Review, Randstad Singapore’s Managing Director Jaya Dass said companies should embrace and adapt quickly to the change in employees' expectations around work and work-life balance to retain employees.

Dass said Randstad’s 2021 Employer Brand Research report found that work-life balance has become the most important employee value proposition amongst Singaporean professionals (74%), tied with salary and benefits.

Qualtrics also had a similar finding, with 60% of their respondents citing work-life balance as the top reason for staying in their current companies.

Despite this, Dass said work-life balance—which is driven by employees’ desire to work remotely or in a hybrid environment—remains the most unmet candidate expectation amongst Singaporean workers. This is backed by Monster.com’s study, showing that one in three Singaporeans were dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

“In order to retain prized talent, employers will need to prioritise what is important to candidates and accommodate their desire for greater autonomy over where and when they work,” Dass said.

“Having a comprehensive hybrid and remote work policy, supported by a targeted employer brand positioning and effective marketing communication strategy, will help organisations attract and retain quality talent much more easily,” the Randstad official added.

Future of work

A Qualtrics report found that 60% of employees would stay in their current employers if they provide them with a work-life balance, whilst those looking for new jobs want to enter companies that offer more flexible time off (50%) and hybrid work options (42%).

Angela Yang, a partner at Page Executive, told Singapore Business Review that hybrid working will be the “default mode” in the future and flexible hours will be a trend amongst companies, but both will still depend on the nature of the work.

About 84% of CEOs surveyed by KPMG in 2020 expressed the same sentiment, saying that the remote working trend is “irreversible.”

Based on a 2021 Ipsos survey, about 38% of Singaporeans are already working from home more often than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some roles, especially those in sales, marketing, and customer service will need to operate within a set of hours to optimise their exposure with clients,” Yang said.

“Whilst a large-scale shift away from the traditional 9-6 model of work will be challenging, having a hybrid working schedule will help companies foster a happier, healthier workforce, lead to lower attrition rates, and nurture greater innovation through the use of digital tools during remote work,” Dass said.

An April 2021 study by Mathew Mathews et. al also showed that 80% of those working from home enjoys the setup and 73% of them were productive working from home.

Productivity ​​was also seen amongst seven in 10 Singaporeans who were under a flexible working arrangement, according to the ​​Ipsos survey.

As companies shift into hybrid work, companies must also fundamentally change the way they view productivity, shifting their focus from quantity of work to quality.

“When employers focus less on being process-based and more on being outcome-driven, they can better foster a workplace where it’s genuinely safe and acceptable for them to work remotely. In this regard, work is what you do and not where you do it,” Dass said.

Other ways to retain talent

The analysts said companies can also retain talent by addressing the reasons why employees quit their jobs in the first place.

According to Qualtrics, the first reason why employees leave their companies is to seek more growth opportunities (51%), which Yang said can be answered by knowing “what growth and progress mean to their employees."

“Go beyond the usual development plan and tie that back to how the pandemic has changed their mental state, family situation, and [finances],” Yang said.

The analyst also underscored that companies must have honest and pragmatic discussions on what opportunities they can offer their employees and that they should be clear on how and when this can be achieved.

For employees wanting a higher salary (40%), Yang said companies can convince them to stay by “balancing perks and flexibility for the employees depending on what they need.”

For example, Yang said companies can offer a retention bonus for high-performing, high-trust employees.

Dass, for her part, said HR leaders could consider new benefits such as stipends for employees under a work-from-home set-up, better insurance coverage, mental or physical healthcare, or caregiver benefits.

About 29% of employees also quit if they find their job too stressful, according to Qualtrics.

To minimise job stress, companies “need to reduce churn in administrative reports,” according to Yang.

“Quick turnaround times need to be tied with the most urgent priorities. If every piece of work is urgent, then nothing is urgent. Prioritisation comes at a cost, and it needs to start from the top, understanding trade-offs and making the decision to alleviate job stress,” the analyst said.

Yang said companies should look at the proportion of an employee’s workload to their level or scope.

Dass, meanwhile, suggested that companies take on a “human-forward” approach to work.

“Through implementing frequent feedback loops, employers can better understand employee sentiment and take the necessary steps to address the gap between worker satisfaction and productivity, and implement new policies to create kinder work environments,” she added.

The Randstad managing director said employers can also arrange company-wide social activities such as trivia quiz afternoons and team games, and implement more employee-centric policies such as mandating “no-meeting Fridays” or “Wellness Day."

Being a step ahead

Yang said the first step in turning tables in the job market is by understanding what skills, capabilities, and competencies they would need from their employees.

“The new normal warrants very different skill sets and we have seen industries completely disrupted by innovation, technology, and new ways of working. Understanding that first, tying it to the business goals will be the first step,” the Page Executive partner said.

Communicating these expectations to candidate employees (41%) will likewise help clinch more talents, Qualtrics said.

The second step, meanwhile, is having a right, honest conversation with employees.

“Ultimately, we have to respect some of the employees' desire to change the environment so that they get re-energised, motivated, or even re-challenged. Being realistic about retention and new talent injection will be the strategic question on what companies can do,” she added.

Yang said companies that can reinvent themselves the fastest will be “one step ahead in the talent war.”

“Accelerating the culture and mindset change will be a powerful competitive advantage,” she said.

Innovative and accommodating solutions such as “reevaluating and redesigning the workspace to better cater for employees to collaborate, communicate and network; developing robust training programs that will help equip their people with in-demand and future-ready skills; as well as establishing work protocols built on autonomy and trust,” will also help in talent retention, according to Dass.

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