Every day in the newspapers, a journalist quotes some minister or academic who fortells doom and gloom if Singapore does not manage to raise its productivity in the coming years. But with employees here working some of the longest hours in the world, increasing their workload may literally send people to their graves. Now that they’ve milked the PIC scheme for all it’s worth, what else can firms do to boost productivity? Here are some measures SMEs can take short of re[placing all their workers with robots.
Implement a proper appraisal system
I can’t speak for all the SMEs in Singapore, but at least those that I’ve worked for did not have in place a structured appraisal system. Instead, people were assessed and promoted based on whether their bosses liked them, which often hinged on how convincingly they sucked up or how many hours they spent in the office each day. At one of my workplaces, employees were asked to rate their colleagues and subordinates based on how much they “liked” them.
All this leads to office politics, inefficient work due to the need to stay long hours just for the sake of it and overall wayang-ery. A company that is serious about raising productivity needs to define clear parameters for the assessment of one’s work performance, and then let that be the true barometer of how someone is assessed on the job, rather than that person’s attire or propensity to cancel all their plans for another late night surfing Facebook at the office.
Improve management style
Many Singaporean companies fail to understand the importance of good management, and a HR manager in many SMEs is often nothing more than a glorified administrative assistant. Business owners would do well to revise their HR policies and make a concerted effort to improve their management styles.
In order to retain employees and boost their performance, firms might want to look into finding out how to motivate their workers and foster employee loyalty. Often, the benefits a company offers aren’t really what their employees want. Offering workplace flexibility and prospects for career growth can go a longer way towards motivating employees than organising inane events like D&Ds.
Let employees leave when they’re done with their work
Singaporean employees tend to sit around in the office until late at night, doing their work as slowly as they can. Then they complain of lack of sleep and poor work-life balance. Unhappy employees are rarely motivated and never go the extra mile, and could also be the reason turnover rates in local companies are sky-high.
Some foreign firms let their employees leave if they’re done with their work for the day, and forward-thinking Singaporean employers might want to experiment with this approach. If employees are incentivised with being able to leave when they’re done with work, you can be sure they’ll be a lot more efficient and focused on the job. And an employee who actually concentrates will do better than one who is constantly toggling between his work, WhatsApp, Facebook and twelve browser tabs.
How should Singaporean firms raise productivity? Tell us in the comments!