How to woo Singaporean talent

Singapore Business Review
Published: 19 Oct 14
By Ronald Lee, Managing Director, PrimeStaff Management Services

It is no secret that it’s currently an employee’s market and Singaporean job candidates are in the power seat, enjoying their pick of the job crop.

This has been the case for a while now, and the fight for local talent will only intensify due to tighter foreign labour policies (assuming Singapore’s economy remains status quo).

Businesses have no choice but to reduce their reliance on foreigners to fill positions because of the foreign worker quotas. And it seems there aren’t enough Singaporean and Permanent Resident workers to go around.

With the natural laws of demand and supply in motion, businesses are reeling from the effects of the labour crunch. So how can you compete for Singaporean and PR workers?

1) Higher Salaries

This is obvious and I’ll state a caveat upfront: it does not always work especially when an employee is already high on the pay scale.

But the fact is that we are living in Singapore and it is now officially the world’s most expensive city, according to the 2014 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Singaporeans are grappling with the rising cost of living and it always seems to be the case of “money no enough”.

As a prospective employer, you can be certain that while they do want an environment they can thrive in, money – and therefore financial security – is always topmost on their minds.

Confirming this is a 2013 survey by JobsCentral, which saw Singaporean respondents across all ages agree that salary is their most highly prized factor when it comes to job opportunities.

They also rated this aspect as being the one they are most dissatisfied with – and this is where you can swoop in and gain an edge by offering them a better package than your competitors.

But if your organisation does not have the financial muscle to compete for talent based on salary, read on for other tips.

2) Career Advancement Opportunities

The same JobsCentral survey noted that while salary was first on the Singaporean employee’s mind, career advancement opportunities were a close second.

Most people desire progress. Make it part of your organisational culture to seek ways to help workers advance in their careers.

Managers should take the time and effort to get personally involved in their workers’ career goals. Understanding their aspirations and offering them opportunities for career advancement wherever possible will go a long way towards making them feel that their company cares for them and their future.

Your company will soon gain a reputation of having a nurturing environment in which employees are supported to advance in their career and this will help attract the right people to you – while decreasing the likelihood of your good talents jumping ship for the promise of a higher title.

3) Learning & Development Opportunities

You can’t have a dynamic, forward-looking organisation staffed with employees who are stagnant and don’t want to expand their knowledge and improve their skills.

High performing employees will be keen to learn and grow professionally, so be sure to offer them opportunities for training and development to gain higher professional qualifications and upgrade their skills – or risk losing them to your competitors.

Employees who benefit from training are better equipped to contribute to your organisation. They are also likely to be more motivated and more productive.

When they perform well, they receive greater recognition and rewards such as monetary incentives and promotion opportunities, which lead them to stay on longer in the organisation.

Again, this helps to boost your employer branding in the marketplace and make your company more of an “employer of choice”.

4) Engage your People

Similarly, an engaged workforce looks very attractive to outsiders. Companies that project an image of offering a great work environment are likely to attract good quality candidates.

The idea of happiness in the workplace is not a myth. Neither is it just a fluffy concept. Many studies show that happy workers output higher levels of productivity.

Happy and engaged employees also reflect well on the company and its practices because it shows that the organisation is definitely doing something right. Not to mention the positive word of mouth they will help you spread in the industry.

To be sure, it is much easier said than done. Seek to implement HR best practices and invest in employee engagement programmes because the payoff of happy workers will be great.

5) Flexi-work Arrangements

Many organisations are very wary about this trend that is slowly but surely creeping into workplaces across Singapore. And with good reason, for there are certainly some drawbacks that come with the benefits.

But if carefully planned, providing more options for flexi-work may be more of a boon than a bane.

Flexi-work arrangements allow you to tap on a larger pool of talent. According to the Ministry of Manpower, there were more than 418,000 economically inactive locals last year, many of whom had left the workforce due to family commitments.

Of these, almost 40% had indicated that they intended to find work in the next two years. Consider filling manpower gaps in your organisation with such individuals and offer them flexible hours or the opportunity to work from home twice a week, perhaps.

What’s more, you can even draw on government funding under the $170 million WorkPro scheme that encourages this group of economically inactive locals, including women and mature residents, to return to work. The support is there; it is up to you to explore how it can work for your organisation.

It is no mean feat being able to balance both the perceived needs of the Singaporean job candidate and the limited resources of the company. And there is no perfect solution to this growing labour crunch resulting from Singapore’s prolonged economic restructuring.

But with a targeted recruitment strategy in place, you’ll be better equipped to channel Singaporean talent your way.

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