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3 Things Singapore Employers Can Do to Help Their Employees Be More Engaged

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Joanne Poh

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You don’t need a survey to tell you that too many Singaporeans hate their jobs, but what the heck—a recent poll found Singaporean employees to be Asia’s least engaged. In fact, Singapore’s employee engagement score fell by 4% in 2016, which suggests that people are becoming even less satisfied at work.

For employers, this is a big headache. The cream of the crop tend to quickly get poached by big MNCs, leaving SMEs to fight for the 5 decent employees remaining. But employers shouldn’t be too quick to invoke the “strawberry generation” rebuke or dismiss their employees as useless wastrels.

Because, truth be told, Singapore’s work culture can be quite toxic, and many employers have no idea how to manage and motivate people. This is a big reason employees are so disengaged. Here are three simple steps Singapore employers can take to wipe that sian look off their employees’ faces.

 

Make an effort to show gratitude

The typical workplace in Singapore is extremely hierarchical, which is a nice way to say that bosses can get away with treating their workers like dirt. Acting like your employees should be grovelling at your feet might spur them to spend long hours toiling at work, but it won’t make them more engaged or more motivated.

This strict hierarchy often means that bosses do not feel like they need to express their gratitude to their employees, sort of like how some families treat their maids like sub-human creatures. In fact, some bosses act as if it should be the employees who should thank them for giving them a job.

Turns out feeling appreciated makes a huge difference to how employees feel about their jobs. No wonder so many Singapore workers struggle to find meaning and job hop without a second thought. Why be loyal to an employer who treats you like just another cog in the wheel?

Other than always behaving respectfully around their employees, local bosses would do well to learn basic manners, such as thanking their employees for a job well done, recognising the achievements of staff and celebrating milestones.

Sounds a heck of a lot more troublesome than simply ignoring your employees until you need something from them, but that’s the price you pay if you want them to give a damn about your company.

 

Take an interest in their career progression

Singaporeans stress out a lot about where their careers are going. With the cost of living rising each year and inflation eating into your savings, there’s the ever-present pressure to ensure that you’ve got the potential to earn more.

A survey conducted in 2015 found lack of career growth to be a major reason Singapore employees planned to leave their jobs, a problem plaguing 40% of those hoping to find new jobs.

Employees’ career growth is often the furthest thing from employers’ minds. In fact, many SME employers would rather keep their existing employees in the same roles at at the same pay forever. But by doing that, they end up having to replace their teams year after year as their employees quit in search of better career opportunities.

Employers need to take an interest in their employees’ careers if they wish to engage and retain them.

It’s a good idea to have a one-on-one talk with employees about their career prospects at least annually, and to work on their career paths together. Some employees might have to be sent for training to help them pick up new skills, while others might want to explore different roles or change or expand their job scopes.

 

Give employees the autonomy and flexibility they need to stay engaged while doing their jobs

Local bosses have the very nasty habit of insisting on face time, getting vindictive when their employees dare to leave before they do, and being very inflexible about their employees’ schedules.

Even the government has been trying to nudge local businesses into offering flexible work arrangements with the Work-Life Grant, but it seems that most employees still aren’t benefitting.

A recent poll showed that 2 in 5 millennials are worried that not showing their faces at the office will result in their being perceived negatively.

Employers need to make a great effort to give their employees autonomy and flexibility to manage their own work and when they do it—and they need to do so sincerely, rather than put in place flexible work arrangements for the sake of it, while implicitly discouraging their employees from taking advantage of them.

What changes at your own workplace would make you more engaged at work? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.