While Singapore’s resident employment rate rose above pre-pandemic levels in 20211, it seems likely that The Great Resignation or Great Reshuffle happening globally will be felt more keenly this year. A recent survey found that 24% of Singapore workers were planning to leave their current employer in the first half of the year, while 49% were unsure if they would stay in their jobs in the next six months2.
A confluence of different factors can impact an employee’s decision to stay or leave their company. And their sense of well-being at work, including the presence of meaningful connections, is an important factor that can influence this decision. In a research study conducted by Great Place to Work® in partnership with Johns Hopkins University on How to Promote Employee Well-being in the Workplace: Global Study, meaningful connections was identified as one of the key aspects of employee well-being, and refers to authentic and caring relationships between employees.
In today’s norm of remote/hybrid work arrangements, where a sense of isolation and lack of interaction can negatively impact employee morale and trigger or reinforce the idea of leaving in search of greener pastures, meaningful connections can be a powerful factor in retention. So what are companies doing to embed and enable meaningful connections and what can we learn from the 2021 Singapore Best Workplaces™ (“SG Best”)?
Compared with the average company in Singapore (“SG Average”)3 9 in 10 employees in SG Best companies say that people care about each other and feel that they can be themselves. These companies do not leave it to chance—they are driven by a strong people-first philosophy, a whole-person approach to recognizing that employees are individuals with personal lives outside of the workplace. These best companies’ people strategy is based on compassion, empathy and respect, and this is translated in the way leaders make decisions, manage their teams, and how co-workers interact with one another.
1. Care is demonstrated across all levels - organization, leadership and individual
People care about each other here.
- Senior leaders at Boston Scientific voluntarily took pay cuts as part of its APAC global cash conservation efforts, with the intent of preserving jobs and keeping its workforce intact. It also ensured that every employee had access to the benefits they needed, should they face financial constraints, and provided care packs regularly to all Singapore employees.
- Openspace Ventures believes that individuals are all people first, employees second. It recognizes that we do not always know what individuals are dealing with personally at any one moment—and especially with remote working and dispersed teams. It creates open forums and cultivates a close-knit, supportive atmosphere to encourage employees to be open with their needs and challenges, with the understanding that it will give them the support, time or flexibility they need, whenever they ask for it.
It also cares for employees’ growth and development by supporting ‘drifts’ in job roles, such as when one staff started in the technology team and developed new skills to join the investment team, and its office manager who acquired the skills to move to accounts payable/receivable.
- Signify demonstrates care for employees by creating an environment that would support employees in managing their work responsibilities alongside their personal needs. For example, it implemented policies to free up time for staff who might otherwise attend unnecessary meetings, discourages meetings during lunch time to enable staff to spend time with family and have a good mid-day break, and allows protected time on Friday afternoons to finish individual tasks before the weekend.
Its culture of care is also prevalent among co-workers, for example, when staff across different offices in ASEAN voluntarily went the extra mile to obtain and convey much-needed medical equipment to some employees whose family members had contracted Covid.
- Driven by its culture of care, colleagues at Teleperformance voluntarily provided transportation for one another to protect each other from the risks of using public transport. Some sewed masks for their teams, while others were worked through the night to set up work stations at agents’ homes so they could work the next morning.
2. Employees are encouraged and supported to be their authentic selves at work
I can be myself around here.
AbbVie fosters a safe and inclusive workplace where every employee is treated fairly and with respect. It raises awareness about workplace issues such as bullying and harassment, and finds ways to celebrate equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. It proactively creates opportunities to deepen understanding through culture-led activities, launched a ‘Break the Bias’ campaign to help employees confront their unconscious biases, and conducted mandatory Inclusive Leadership training for managers.
Micron Technology creates an environment in which all team members can bring their authentic selves to work and contribute to its success. Globally, it announced six diversity, equality and inclusion commitments in 2021 and designated senior management staff to sponsor one commitment each. It encourages team members to join any Employee Resource Group (ERG), whether they are a member of that community or not, so they can be advocates for people who are different from themselves. In Singapore, the Micron PRIDE + Allies ERG was launched in 2021 based on the theme ‘Be Yourself: Authentic, Inclusive, Motivated’.
Thoughtworks values transparency and believes that setting the right foundation for its culture is crucial, especially in the context of culture norms in Asia where people are less outspoken and might not be comfortable openly sharing their thoughts and feelings. To cultivate a strong feedback culture, it provides training for all new hires, continuously reinforces its feedback culture in day-to-day work, and creates channels such as monthly townhalls and regular check-ins with management to allow employees to share their concerns, opinions and provide honest feedback.
Servier recognizes that that well-being and fulfillment at work are essential for a high-performance company, and creates an environment where employees know that they can openly share their needs and issues of concerns with senior management or HR. It frequently organizes 1:1 meetings in order to encourage exchanges and to respond quickly to employees’ needs and expectations.
A McKinsey study found that there are different drivers across industries that impact why employees are leaving – a sense of not being supported, lack of professional growth or unmanageable workload4. What we found in Singapore (among the SG Best companies which span across different industries) is that even with The Great Resignation or Great Reshuffle on the horizon, a whopping 9 in 10 employees say they want stay for a long time and would recommend their company to friends and family members, as compared to employees in SG Average companies. In today’s environment where attracting and retaining talent is a challenge, the business case for building a strong workplace culture and being recognized for it is clear.
% of employees intending to stay with their company
% of employees willing to recommend their company
1 Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release 2021, Manpower Research & Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower, 1 December 2021.
2 Nearly a quarter of S’pore workers intend to quit their jobs in first half of 2022: Survey, Today, 20 December 2021.
3 “SG Average” refers to responses of the average employee in Singapore who participated in a commissioned research study.
4 The Great Attrition: Same turnover, but the “why” differs by industry, McKinsey & Company, 8 November 2021.
This article is the fourth in a series on Employee Well-Being. Read the other articles in this series
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.