Singaporean companies have trouble retaining their employees. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. Job hopping is accepted practice here, and famously unhappy employees are quick to jump ship the moment something better comes along. This has left many employers wringing their hands in despair.
While so many employers are clueless about why their workers start running for the exit seconds after they sign the employment contract, if you’ve ever been a worker here the reasons are obvious. Here are some of the biggest reasons employees “throw letter”.
Anal-retentive attendance and face-time rules
Most Singaporean employees work copious amounts of overtime. In fact, the number of people who regularly OT has been estimated at a shocking 90%. In addition, ask a foreigner what they know about Singapore and nowadays you won’t hear that much about chewing gum—instead, they’ll tell you that we work a lot, having read reports that Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world.
Given all of the above, employers who are anal-retentive about attendance and face-time piss employees off and are less likely to instill loyalty in their staff. Try telling an employee who’s been pulling 12 hour days in the office that he was 15 minutes late that morning and he’ll be making a voodoo doll out of your likeness. I once worked for an office that would circulate an email each morning containing the names of everyone who came in late. That proved to be terrible for morale and within a year 90% of the employees on my team had left.
Not all Singaporean bosses are like this—in fact, I’ve worked with one or two bosses who were all-round nice guys. But let’s be upfront about it—there are Singaporean bosses who treat their staff so badly they could be jailed for such behaviour in another country. For instance, ask any young lawyer in private practice and at least half will know a friend or colleague who’s had a file flung across the room at them by an irate partner.
Shouting, screaming, making offensive personal remarks and demanding unpaid overtime are common occurrences at some offices. The Singaporean workplace is often toxic to the point where workers are suffering from depression and burnout. It’s a well-known saying that employees don’t leave their companies, they leave their bosses. And from the looks of it, unless workplace culture here changes, employees will continue fleeing in droves.
Low salary and increments
On the face of it, middle class Singaporeans earn an equitable salary. After all, the median income is fairly high, right? However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find workers who are paid too little to survive on and middle class employees whose take home pay, minus CPF deductions and the expenses of their homes and daily lives, doesn’t leave much room for savings. Add to that the fact that annual increments tend to be on the low side in many industries and at times can’t keep pace with inflation, and you’ve got a recipe for job hopping.
In fact, most recruitment agents don’t recommend staying in a job for more than 3 years because low annual increments might cause an employee’s purchasing power to fall with time.
Poor career growth prospects
Career growth is a constant preoccupation in Singapore. People need upward mobility in order to survive rising costs, so even those who are happy in their current positions are constantly looking for an upgrade. And many SMEs aren’t in a position to offer the kind of career prospects employees crave.
For instance, many family-owned firms tend to promote slowly and sparingly as posts in senior management are reserved for family members. 40% of employees in a recent survey cited lack of career growth as a key reason they were planning to quit their jobs. Employers who pay well but aren’t helping their employees advance in their careers might want to take note of that.
Poor work-life balance
Long hours at the office are the norm in Singapore, but don’t think for a moment that Singaporeans don’t care about that. An increasing number of people are quitting their jobs due to poor work-life balance, signalling a sea change in local attitudes towards careers. According to one survey, 57% of Singaporeans said they would pick work-life balance over higher pay. And Singaporeans are getting unhappier and unhappier with work-life balance here.
Employers might try to squeeze as much work out of their employees as they can on the salaries they pay them. But they have to be aware that overworking their employees comes at a cost when these workers move on rapidly, leaving their hapless bosses in an endless cycle of rehiring and retraining.
What are some reasons you left previous jobs? Tell us in the comments!