In recent months, many economies have seen a high staff turnover due to a large number of resignations [Image source: Freepik, Yanalya]

2021 has ended. Finally. Well, as usual, many cities welcomed the New Year with fireworks display.

However, there were not many reasons for celebration. Thanks to the “newest kid” on the block – the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. US and UK are seeing record increase in COVID-19 infections. The situation has derailed the plan for a speedy recovery in its respective economies.

For the common folks, travel plans over the year-end festivals were largely delayed or cancelled.

While on the economic front, the Omicron situation continues to create headwinds and disruptions throughout the supply chain. One notable one is the sharp rise of infections in Xian, China which led to a lockdown. This would likely leads to an impact on the global DRAM supply in the coming months.

The Great Resignation Wave

Closer to home, one recent headline that caught employers’ attention was “The Great Resignation Wave”. This trend is not unique to Singapore. US had already reported peak resignations starting from April 2021 to September 2021, resulting in a record 10.9 million job openings at the end of the period.

A possible cause for the high number of resignations in SIngapore could be fuelled by pent-up frustrations over the 2 years long COVID-19 situation. Employees felt unmotivated and were kept under prolonged anxiety.

On the other hand, employers had to struggle with managing cost and profit, while trying to keep jobs intact.

Improving Employee Welfare

That said, many employers did made efforts to improve employee welfare and showed more concern about their mental health. An Oracle study showed 77 per cent of Singapore respondents said their employers were more concerned about their mental health now compared to two years ago.

One example from AstraZeneca Singapore is their initiatives such as “fuel up” days, recovery time, and AxerciseZ to free employees from meetings and encourage physical exercise. They also set up platforms to identify signs of mental health issues and created an employee assistance programme to help workers take better care of their mental well-being.

Beyond such applaudable efforts, how else can employers retain their staff and keep them motivated?

Research has shown that low level of engagement if left unchecked, leads to burnout and high turnover rates.

More Engagements with the Leadership

One challenge for employers is how to make employees stay engage despite the uncertainties in the economy and with WFH arrangement which minimised face-to-face interactions.

In times like this, it is even more important for leaders to step forward and keep communication channels open with the team. Leaders should also set clear boundaries and articulate expectations clearly. Leaders should walk the talk and learn how to build trust by displaying authenticity.

Managing Expectations and Putting Focus on Professional Development

Singapore workers can expect to see a 3.5 per cent salary increase according to ECA International’s Salary Trends report. However, solely adjusting the salary may not be enough to improve staff retention.

The pandemic has seen many professionals re-evaluate their priorities and career goals. An Oracle global study showed 92 per cent of respondents had redefined success, giving more priority to work-life balance, flexibility and mental health.

The same study revealed that most employees are ready to make a career move and considered professional development as their top concerns. Rather than just focusing on adjusting pay, employers should also look at training and development, and professional development plans for employees.

Future-Proofing Businesses and Employees’ Careers

Boosting the upskilling or reskilling of the workforce is a national focus in Singapore.

The end goal is to future-proof businesses by maintaining a workforce with relevant skills that are in demand.
Adequate training and support must be provided in the bid to increase productivity, and even when employees are able to take on a wider range of tasks with their newfound skills, employers should take caution that they aren’t being overburdened.

In person training should be supported by On-the-job training under supervision. New hires or reskilled workers should have ample access to mentors for guidance and support.

Riding out the Wave

The post-pandemic environment would see different set of norms and expectations. Employers need greater agility to transform or build a culture of trust and collaborations. Future-proofing the business with an engaged and well skilled workforce through hiring or reskilling remains key.

Employees are demanding a better quality of work-life balance, a company with strong support and engaging culture. Employees are seeking purpose-driven careers that offer flexibility and balance.

And when both needs are met, organisations would see a driven and engaged workforce that would be able to drive long-term growth.