Around the world, millions of people are rethinking how they work and live—and how to better balance the two.
In 2021, large numbers of workers in the US started leaving their jobs, giving rise to the term ‘The Great Resignation’. However the phenomenon was not confined to the US. Around the world, employee turnover spiked. Some gave up on roles due to a misalignment with new priorities and interests, many left to follow long held passions ignited during global lockdowns, and others due to dissatisfaction with the way they were treated by employers during the Covid pandemic.
In Singapore the average monthly resignation rate for PMETs rose in the first three quarters of 2021, from 1.1% in the first quarter to 1.3% in the second and 1.5% in the third. It was the first time since 2014 that the rate rose above 1.4%.
Alongside resignations, many foreign workers left the country all together, citing the stresses of the pandemic and Singapore restrictions amongst the reasons. Employment Pass holders dropped 14% from December 2019 to June 2021, and was even higher for lower wage foreign workers.
A 2021 report by Michael Page on talent trends found that more than half (56%) of professionals in Singapore had plans to jump on new opportunities, and another one-third (36%) of employees said they were passively open to new jobs.
62% of Singapore SMEs (in a survey by SAP SE) say more staff are resigning now compared to a year ago. This is having a real impact on businesses:
- 65% said they're finding it difficult to hire or find replacements compared to a year ago
- 52% see few or no qualified applicants when they try to hire
- 49% aren’t finding it easy to deal with the Great Resignation
What are the reasons for Employee Turnover?
While some workers may be leaving for similar reasons as pre-pandemic (higher compensation, higher positions, career growth…), the pandemic has increased the prevalence of people leaving their roles in search of better work-life balance, to find careers more aligned with their values or passions, or even for a better culture fit, as this period forced many to re-evaluate their priorities.
1 in 10 HR leaders blame employee burnout for causing more than 50% of employee turnover each year. Burnout can present itself in a number of ways:
The ‘Workaholic’, struggling to find balance, or employees overworking and expending all of their energy on work projects. They struggle to fit other activities into their lives, including with friends and family, and may experience poor sleep and mental exhaustion.
The People Pleaser, feeling a lack of support or neglect, feeling like the work environment is unfair as they have much higher work loads than others. They struggle to say no to projects but feel resentment while executing.
Employees who are ‘present but not productive’, and who are feeling negative and cynical. They may have reduced efficiency due to feeling under-challenged in their roles, or like their work has no purpose.
Employer treatment during the pandemic
The Covid pandemic has had big implications for the relationship between employees and employers. Many employers displayed a mistrust of employees during initial periods of work from home. With micro-management showing they didn’t trust workers ability to get their work done outside on an office environment, employees are now choosing to move on, and find employment in companies who value autonomy and results rather than face-time.
Other companies were quick to lay off staff, or reduce hours. Now, they’re facing backlash with remaining employees looking elsewhere to companies who showed more compassion and worked with staff to find solutions during tougher periods.
Lack of career development
People want to feel that they’re making a contribution to their organisation. When they stagnate in their role or are no longer challenged, they may start to look elsewhere. This includes employees not having a clear path for promotion or growth within their organisation. Workers may be left feeling that their job title does not align with their current responsibilities, or are seeking to grow their level of responsibility and level within a business.
Lack of friendships/relationships at work
People spend more waking hours at work than at home, and it’s only natural to want to build connections with team members. Employees want work to feel worthwhile and having trusted confidants and supporters helps foster that feeling.
Research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job.
With remote work on the rise, maintaining workplace friendships can be more challenging, or difficult to form. Without trusted friends at a workplace, work can seem lonely and isolating. When existing friends at work resign, some of the joy of the job is gone, and has others considering resignation too.
How Can You Prevent Resignations?
While the uptake and roll-out of digital tools started as a necessity to enable business to continue operating outside of workplace environments, there has been a growing acceptance and appreciation for the benefits of remote and flexible work arrangements. 80% of people enjoy working from home, with 41% saying that they are more productive than they had been before.
Flexibility is now the top consideration of Singapore workers when looking to join a new company. According to our recent survey of employee benefits in Singapore, companies who provide added flexibility and who encourage work-life balance are most appealing to Singapore workers. Offering flexible hours is probably the single biggest opportunity when it comes to offering perks that actually make a difference to employees. It also comes at little to no cost to the company, even potentially saving cost without the need for large office spaces etc.
Flexibility leads to a greater quality of life. Employees don’t feel like they need to sacrifice their career in order to focus on their family or hobbies and vice versa. In fact, 45% of employees would prefer flexible scheduling over pay increases.
Previously, many struggled with work-life balance, spending too much time in office environments and loosing time with family and friends. The past couple of years have often flipped this issue, with employees working remotely struggling to ‘leave’ work when work and home becomes so intricately entwined.
When employers put boundaries in place that allow workers to ‘clock-off’, and implement a culture that prioritises worker wellbeing, including promoting and celebrating life outside of work, workers are more prepared to put in more effort during work time for the business. Some companies have spoken or unspoken rules to not send emails or reply to messages outside of working hours, in order to allow employees the break they need.
21.5% of employees that don’t feel recognised when they do great work have interviewed for a job in the last three months — compared to just 12.4% that do feel recognised.
Feedback and recognition in the workplace is an important tool to motivate, mould, and monitor employee performance.
Providing encouraging feedback can also improve retention rates amongst staff. When employees feel that their work is recognised, and that they are learning and developing professionally, they are more engaged in the workplace. 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognised.
People spend more waking hours at work than at home, and it’s only natural to want to build connections with team members. Encourage teams to get together for lunches, or evenings outside of work. Within the office, celebrate company and team achievements, festive holidays, and important milestones for your employees (achievements outside of work, birthdays, marriages, babies etc.). This will mobilise employees, encouraging them to get to know each other on a deeper level than they would in everyday work tasks.
Benefits have become important considerations for employees when assessing an employment package. As companies increasingly look for new ways to attract the best talent to remain competitive, providing comprehensive employee benefits may be just the ticket. Employee benefits cover a wide range of items or conveniences that are offered to employees beyond their standard salary or wages.
You don’t have to be a big company to offer great benefits. While some benefits are financial in nature, many that are most valued by employees of all ages are ones that have an impact on work-life balance, and overall wellness. While the statutory annual leave entitlement for Singapore workers starts at 7 days per year , increasing with service, most companies offer above the standard requirement.
Swingvy’s State of Employment Benefits survey in 2020 found that twenty days was the most common number of paid annual leave days given by Singapore based companies at 25.3% of all responses, followed closely by twenty-one days at 21.1%.
Providing opportunities for career development is a great way to grow and retain staff. There are countless benefits to up-skilling employees including a more engaged and productive workforce.
Career development can also be addressed internally through performance coaching. Career development programs often focus on matching employees’ skills to the needs or tasks of the organisation. Instead, pushing employees outside of their comfort zones to be given opportunities to take on more responsibility and grow their skill sets is a far better way to improve employee retention and encourage company loyalty.