Culture / Current Issues / Ethics/Rights / People

The lack of loyalty among Singaporean employees

On August 24, 2012, Angela Teng in the Business Times wrote an article with an attention-grabbing headline:

S’porean employees show less loyalty to employers: survey”

The article is based on a 2012 study conducted by Towers Watson, a firm that helps organisations improve their performance through effective people, risk and financial management. After interviewing 1,000 people in Singapore, they published their findings online with comparisons to their earlier findings in the 2012 Global Workforce Study, where they interviewed over 32,000 people worldwide.

Findings from the study showed that:

  • Middle managers have the lowest levels of engagement, advocacy and willingness to stay
  • Retention issue is prevalent, with 34% of Singapore employees wanting to leave current employers within the next 2 years, higher than global average of 28%
  • Perception of pay equity is lower in Singapore – only 32% (vs global average of 46%) surveyed believe they are paid fairly compared to peers in other companies

[Source: Towers Watson, 2012]

Bureaucracy, uncaring employers, poor welfare benefits, overworked and underpaid employees translate to an uninspiring breed of people looking at their work as jobs they partake in just for the sake of money. These disengaged employees, demotivated and unmotivated, tend to give out lackadaisical and unprofessional work, creating a vicious cycle of finger-pointing that feeds into the culture of blame in Singapore. We often hear, “Yeesh, why can’t people here do work as good as the Europeans?”

I know disengaged employees is an issue to be tackled in organisations worldwide, and I recognise that there are good employers in Singapore. This study is probably unfair to these employers seeing that it only interviewed 1,000 employees in Singapore (out of probably 3 million working inhabitants), and 32,000 employees globally.

Yet, I observe a high rate of employee disengagement around me; be it in an educational institution, a hospital, a research think-tank or a private organisation. There’s a kind of dull, even frustrated, undertone when I talked to fellow employees about work. They often say to me, “I just work. For money. For stability. It’s just a job, you know. There’s no need for me to enjoy work.”

I admire the serenity I sense in their ideology. Yet, that doesn’t stop me from being the person who loves the idea of loving work. And, if that love makes life a little complicated, well so be it.

“If you work for a man, in heaven’s name work for him! If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him – speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915);
Philosopher, Author, Publisher

The Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study that investigates what makes employees want to continue working in 29 countries is free to download in the website.


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