2023 has been a year of global challenges and a pursuit of the new normal. Through the trials, our Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 embraced the ever-evolving workplace landscape as an opportunity to adapt, innovate and articulate what it really means to be a great workplace.
In this blog, we dive into how our Best Workplaces in Singapore have shaped their new normal, articulated their “why” to all levels of the organization, and nurtured For All™ leaders to create a great place to work for all their employees. Here are four key themes we found prevalent among these companies:
Theme #1: Embracing Flexibility
The post-pandemic landscape has seen employees’ expectations shift significantly. A 2023 study reported by The Straits Times, polling 1,223 employees and 607 employers, revealed 85% of employees in Singapore desire flexibility at work1, while a recent Institute of Policy Studies report revealed 52% felt flexible work arrangements should be the new norm2. Employees are seeking better work-life balance, with the ability to manage personal responsibilities alongside their professional roles. Moreover, the pandemic underscored the importance of supportive work environments that prioritize employees’ wellbeing.
When it comes to managing teams, leaders from Best Workplaces embrace flexibility in working styles. For instance, teams are allowed to decide when and how often to come back to the office based on what work needs to be done. Hewlett Packard Enterprise establishes “team norms”, allowing leaders and their teams to identify when to return to the office, how to be respectful of one another’s time, and how they can maintain cross-functional collaboration with other teams. This not only allows for better work-life balance and caters to different life stages and responsibilities of individuals, but also maintains collaboration and a sense of community amongst colleagues.
In line with an increasing focus on mental health and wellbeing, meeting-free periods are intentionally carved out to allow space to breathe. This could come in the form of dedicated wellness or learning days, or dedicated periods free of calls and meetings to allow uninterrupted time to complete tasks or develop areas of interest.
At Mastercard, meeting-free days are offered every quarter to allow employees to focus and think. By recognizing the importance of interruption-free periods to focus on their work, learn new skills or support their wellbeing, employees are able to take ownership of their own development while maintaining work-life balance. This also enables better support for employees with caregiving responsibilities as those with children or elderly family members can perform caregiving duties without the worry of last-minute meetings cropping up.
“Work from elsewhere” is also increasingly common amongst our Best Workplaces, whereby a mix of remote work options surfaced, from 100% remote work, to a specific number of days per year employees are allowed to work remotely. One statement in the Great Place To Work® Trust Index© Survey states “Management trusts people to do a good job without watching over their shoulders“. In Singapore Best Workplaces, 94% of survey participants responded positively to this statement, believing managers trust their staff to do their job without having to check in on them physically or micromanage them, compared to just 83% in other participating organizations in Singapore. This trust between employers and employees allows for adaptable workplace solutions that are beneficial both to employees and the organization.
Theme #2: Embedding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
Since 2006, the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP) have helped organizations in Singapore adopt fair and merit-based employment practices, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status, family responsibilities or disability.
Today, leading organizations not only adhere to these practices, but recognize that having a diverse range of experiences leads to cognitive diversity – different thinking styles, problem-solving approaches, and perspectives, ultimately leading to more innovative solutions, and an increased sense of belonging and engagement.
Singapore Best Workplaces take this one step further. DEI programs are not just the latest management fad, but seen as fundamental to driving high performance. Best Workplaces make sure DEI is considered at every stage of the employee life cycle. From having diversity slates ensuring underrepresented communities are interviewed for every position, to conducting regular salary benchmarking to ensure pay parity, there is a concerted effort to give women and other minority groups a seat and a voice at the table.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are also useful platforms to ensure the perspectives of minority groups are heard, especially when it comes to shaping the direction and strategy of the business. While in good workplaces, ERGs are formed to celebrate cultural diversity and promote a sense of belonging, great workplaces empower ERGs to lend a voice to decision making. Some best practices include getting ERGs to lead diversity and cultural awareness training, or providing mentorship opportunities specific to minority groups (e.g. women by women) to increase their visibility and chances for promotion. Thoughtworks actively listens to and values diverse perspectives, and they did just that when Matthew Johnston, born deaf, identified opportunities for the organization to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Today, Matthew acts as Thoughtworks’ Global Head of Disability Inclusion, improving ways in which the company can better support those differently abled.
Theme #3: Articulating Purpose
In a B2B Reviews poll by Forbes, 72% said they would leave a job if they felt under stimulated3. Meaningful work – the “why” behind the how and what, is significantly correlated to employee engagement and retention. Our Trust Index employee survey data shows that when employees are connected to their purpose, they give more effort, are more likely to endorse the company to friends and family, and are less likely to leave the company4. On the other hand, when employees don’t feel connected to the overall mission, they tend to feel undervalued, leading to decreased motivation, less job satisfaction, and burnout.
One way leading organizations drive employee engagement is by successfully articulating their “why” and cascading this to all levels of the business. Organizations that successfully articulate their purpose have a coherent underlying philosophy guiding their strategy and decision making, with leaders building trust by exhibiting the organization’s values. But that is not enough. To really get employees connected, they must align with, and be able to see how their work speaks to the overall mission. Hilton’s founding vision of filling the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality is what inspires their employees every day. Employees know that no matter their role in the organization, they are stewards of Hilton’s culture and strategy. With 440,000 employees around the world, ensuring everyone is connected to the vision is no mean feat. That is why a thoughtful and integrated approach to communications, trainings, and in-person touchpoints are made available. From a dedicated Pathways Program during onboarding, to engaging employees in dialogues on allyship, wellness and equality, Hilton knows that when their employees are informed, empowered, and confident about their ability to bring Hilton’s strategy to life, the business thrives.
Another way to build the desired culture is to recognize and celebrate employees who reflect the organization’s values. At our Best Workplaces, managers not only reward employees for performance, but also for exhibiting behaviors that are aligned with the organization’s priorities. This can be done through structured recognition like awards programs, or informal recognition such as verbal appreciation in front of the team. Boston Scientific’s Winning Spirit Awards recognizes employees who embody the core values and spirit of Boston Scientific. Aside from formal channels, time is regularly set aside to celebrate employee success and recognize their contributions during quarterly townhalls, team meetings or their Breakfast Connect where employees get together to socialize.
Enhanced communication, especially in a hybrid or remote work arrangement, also helps keep teams connected. Multiple avenues of communication (e.g. townhalls, coffee discussions, intranet, newsletters) can be used to share the organization’s mission, vision, targets and how the company is tracking towards its goals. When communication is done at regular intervals, employees know where they stand in accordance with their targets, and ensures there are no surprises come bonus time, or when there is a strategic change in direction. Communication also comes in the form of feedback. And the more regular the feedback, the better managers are able to understand their employees’ needs and concerns, ensuring the workplace evolves in line with employee expectations.
Theme #4: Developing For All™ Leaders
At Great Place To Work, we believe in creating consistently positive workplace experiences for all employees, no matter who they are and what they do. Our Best Workplaces know that culture is driven from the top, and developing For All leaders is vital to building a great workplace.
For All leaders build the desired culture by role modeling the values of the organization. They are equipped to have dialogues with their teams on how they can incorporate those values into their work ethic, and reflect them in the day-to-day tasks. From intentionally building language around corporate priorities, to the way goals are set and how people are recognized. There is an intentional effort to incorporate values into daily practice.
At our Best Workplaces, resources are put into developing For All leaders so that they can champion and cascade the desired culture. Unconscious bias training for managers to eliminate bias when assigning tasks or recommending employees for promotions is a common program we see in many Best Workplaces. Another, psychological safety training to raise awareness on how managers lead their teams and cultivate a culture enabling their team to speak up. DEI goals are built into managers’ KPIs to promote awareness around equity and hold them accountable to the organization’s overall DEI goals.
At Logicalis Singapore, e-learning modules and video-based training on unconscious bias, harassment, and DEI are provided to raise awareness and foster an environment where everyone can thrive. For All leaders aren’t developed by chance, and our Best Workplaces provide training that is intentionally thought out, with the goal of developing a uniform leadership skillset reflecting the competencies and people priorities important to the organization. Adobe’s Capabilities training is a mandatory module, designed to raise awareness, break biases, and create a shared vocabulary and framework to put inclusion into action. These behaviors are reinforced during team meetings, 1:1s, and daily interactions.
For All leaders seek and respond to feedback from employees. Providing an avenue for feedback and suggestions through surveys, coffee sessions or suggestion boards encourages collaboration and ownership. By having regular and frequent check-ins with their team, managers are also better able to identify their team members’ individual strengths and harness them to help them perform at their best. Regular goal setting and reviews towards progress also facilitates alignment in expectations, as well as encourages employees to own their own outcomes and development.
A Bright Future
2023 has been a year of economic uncertainty, political turmoil, and rising costs of living, to name a few. However, our Best Workplaces have shown that challenges are an opportunity to strengthen their people-first culture. To create a more empathetic, supportive, and flexible work environment, where employees feel valued and heard, and experience a sense of purpose. As the economy continues to fluctuate, their unwavering commitment to flexibility, leadership development, and people-centric values empowers employees to thrive during challenges, and soar when opportunities arise. This is how our Best Workplaces in Singapore stand out, showcasing the transformative power of a robust organizational culture.
Want to find out how your employees are experiencing their workplace culture? Visit us at https://greatplacetowork.com.sg/employee-surveys/ to find out more.
To learn more about the companies on this year’s Best Workplaces in Singapore List and how their leaders are creating great workplace experiences, check out It’s a Matter of Trust: Navigating Uncertainty Through the Power of Leadership.
1 https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/how-flexible-are-workplaces-in-singapore-employers-and-employees-differ-in-view The Straits Times, August 31, 2023
2 2022 Institute of Policy Studies Report
Evelyn is the Managing Director for Great Place to Work®️ in ASEAN and ANZ. Heading the expansion of Great Place to Work®️ offices in ASEAN, Evelyn is convinced that just as the region is growing exponentially on the economic front, the work of building great workplaces FOR ALL™ must go in tandem with economic growth.
A proud mother of 3, Evelyn takes parenting very seriously – she is strict yet giving, result-focused yet generous. Together with husband Roland, they relish exploring new cultures and beautiful places of the world, usually on leisurely self-drive holidays, before the days of Covid.
Mei-Shaan is a Consultant for Great Place To Work ASEAN & ANZ®. Believing that employee engagement drives company success, Mei-Shaan is dedicated to working with her clients to build a culture of trust in the workplace. Her mission at Great Place To Work is to help organizations maximize their strengths, creating an environment where employees are valued, supported, and inspired.
When she’s not busy advocating for great workplaces, she can be found having coffee with friends, or spending quality time with her dog.
Pamela is our Senior Consultant and Research Lead for Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ. She has over two decades of consulting and policy experience helping organizations in their journey to become fair and progressive employers. She believes that every organization has the potential to be a great workplace, and works with data to distil insights and develop resources to help them. When she’s not burrowing down the rabbit hole of numbers and words, she’s probably immersed in a new K-drama or catching up with friends over a virtual drinks session.