Stability and job security as important as salary for talent retention

Photo by CoWomen

The impact of the pandemic, the uncertain economic environment, and the burnout experienced by over half of Singaporean knowledge workers in the last year, have irrevocably changed what employees want from their leaders, according to Slack research.

The study, Leadership and the war for talent, based on a survey of over 1,000 Singaporean knowledge workers, found that Singaporeans now value stability and job security (53%) more than salary (40%) when it comes to choosing the company they work for; while having a good manager (31%) was almost as much of a consideration as salary.

Survey respondents also identified teamwork and collaboration, transparent and trustworthy leadership, flexible work, and employee wellbeing as the four biggest factors in driving organisational success – all valued more highly than financial achievement. When it comes to flexible working, over two-thirds of Singaporeans want to be trusted to do their job regardless of location or the hours worked.

With nearly one in two Singaporean knowledge workers considering moving jobs in the next year, and 16% admitting to ‘quiet quitting’ – fulfilling the requirements of their job but not going above and beyond – it’s critical for leaders to act to ensure their own leadership style isn’t having a negative impact on the engagement and motivation of their employees. 

This means focusing more on soft or ‘power’ skills – human-centred, interpersonal skills related to areas such as collaboration, social and emotional intelligence; analysing the time employees are spending on unproductive tasks; exploring ways to elevate productivity with collaborative technology; and figuring out how to meet the varying expectations of employees from different generations, who prefer to work in different ways.

Shweta Verma, Country Manager, Singapore, Slack said, “The reality is that many Singaporean professionals are burnt out. Leaders have an obligation to address this – not least for the wellbeing of their employees, but also to drive the productivity of their organisations.

“As we continue to go through one of the biggest workplace experiments of the century – moving from physical offices to digital headquarters – it’s critical that employers demonstrate sound, positive leadership.

“By harnessing collaborative technology at scale, and engaging employees in ways that best suit them, leaders can help drive productivity and a happier, more engaged workforce.”

1. Poor leadership leads to burnout, quiet quitting

Slack’s research draws a clear link between poor leadership and a dip in employee morale and productivity. Only half of Singaporean professionals say they feel inspired by their leaders, and the same number find their leaders “stuck in their ways of working.”

‘Quiet quitting’ is strongly linked to poor leadership as well – over half (51%) of those who ‘quiet quit’ reported having poor leaders. 

According to the study, employees with poor or average leaders feel they have much less of a voice, and less control and autonomy over their work. Additionally, they reported more of a disconnect between leaders and employees, and reported culture feeling more forced.

2.  Collaborative technology as potential ‘power tools’ for boosting leadership

The Slack study showed a strong correlation between those respondents that hold their leaders in high regard and those whose leaders embrace the use of collaborative technology. Interestingly, these respondents were also identified as feeling highly connected to their organisations. Contrastingly, those who deemed their leaders as technology laggards in this area say they are more likely to quit their job.

Nearly two-thirds of Singaporean knowledge workers saw collaboration tools as enabling them to be productive, among other benefits. These include being able to free up time by automating work, getting information to the right people quickly, speeding up the implementation of projects, improving communication with leadership, prioritising tasks, and achieving faster feedback loops.

3. The real reason Singaporean knowledge workers don’t have enough hours in the day

Looking at the amount of non-productive time that Singaporean knowledge workers say they are spending on routine and often mundane tasks, the potential value of collaboration tools on organisational success becomes more pronounced.

For example, nearly a third of respondents feel that it takes them too long to find information internally, and that internal processes take up too much of their day.

A similar number find that communicating across the company, within big teams and across time zones is slow due to delayed responses. Where this is the case, around a quarter of this group say they are spending over an hour a day on these activities. 

4. Mind the generation gap

The survey shows significant generational differences in employees in Singapore in terms of what they expect from their leaders, making it clear that people management is not a one-size-fits-all. 

●     Gen Z are the most concerned with wellbeing, having a highly social culture and desiring empathetic leaders. While they are more likely to be inspired by leadership, they are the most likely to switch jobs.

●     Millennials also want a focus on wellbeing, transparent and trustworthy leadership, and a great employee experience. They are the most likely to feel a disconnect between leaders and employees, and have the highest levels of job dissatisfaction. This group leans in most to the use of collaboration tools.

●     Gen X places the greatest importance on flexibility, transparent and trustworthy leadership,   and are the least concerned with wellbeing. They want their employers to have a consistent purpose, supported by robust processes. They are the least interested in technology and innovation.

●     Baby Boomers are middle of the road on most things, but are particularly favourable towards having robust processes, clear KPIs and accountability frameworks, and to have a clear level of autonomy in work.

5. Cooling down the burnout

The research also showed some clear differentiation between what Singaporean knowledge workers across different industries are feeling and looking for:

●     IT & Tech: Respondents from the Tech sector gave the highest scores to their managers for being competent and communicating well. Although not inspirational, IT leaders are seen to lead by example. Perhaps, as a result, IT workers are less likely to feel burned out.

●     Financial Services: Notably much less focused on teamwork, collaboration and wellbeing as being the keys to success, respondents from the banking sector were the most likely to want more meaning in their job. They also reported some of the highest rates of burnout, dissatisfaction and quiet quitting. 

●     Retail: Singapore’s retail knowledge workers seem to be more positive than their peers in other industries right now. Half (51%) say they feel strongly about doing the right thing by their employer and are happy to go “above and beyond”. At 42%, retail also has the lowest proportion of workers who say they’ve felt burned out during the past 12 months.

●     Government: There seems to be a significant opportunity in Singapore’s government sector to tap into the benefits of collaborative technology. More than half (56%) of government employees say that email is still their primary method of communication with customers and partners – a proportion significantly higher than other industries in the survey. Government workers are also more likely to be working from a mix of home and office environments, with around two-thirds (67%) saying they are working this way.

6. A new perspective on the office

While employees are increasingly working from home, the office environment is still valued, the Slack study found. When asked what they felt the office was best suited for, Singaporean knowledge workers cited team building, social connection, collaboration and brainstorming, and one-on-one/development meetings. Activities like progress updates, company town halls, learning programmes and knowledge sharing sessions were perceived as less critical to be held in an office. This suggests that a lot of time can be potentially saved by conducting these activities virtually using collaborative technology.

Research methodology

Slack’s new research, conducted by Honeycomb Strategy, was based on responses from 1,000+ Singaporean knowledge workers within organisations of 100+ employees.

This is the second iteration of this Slack research in Singapore, with The Reinvention of Work study carried out in October 2021. A similar piece of Slack research, the Slack State of Work report, a global survey including 1,000 Singaporean knowledge workers, was carried out by GlobalWebIndex in March 2020, prior to the pandemic.