Mercer reports ongoing decline in Singapore employee engagement

15 December 2017 5 min. read

Employee satisfaction levels in Singapore have continued their recent decline according to a survey by HR consultancy Mercer, with employee disenchantment toward their company’s workplace and product innovation, efficiency, and customer culture impinging on overall engagement.

Mercer’s global Employee Engagement Index survey seeks to measure the levels of pride, motivation and commitment employees hold in respect to their organisations, as manifested in the energy they feel in their workplaces and the passion for what their companies represent.

Taking in the views of more than 40,000 workers from Singapore’s local and global multinationals, with nearly a third of the respondents comprised of those employed in the tech and financial service sectors, the local edition of the survey reports an ongoing consistent decline in overall employee engagement, from 77% in 2015 down through to 73% last year.

Engagement trends over the last three years

This downward impetus is in bold contrast to trends seen elsewhere across the world, including within the APAC region, where the accumulative Employee Engagement figure has risen globally from 80% to 82% during the same period, and is as high as 85% and 83% in Thailand and Vietnam respectively. Meanwhile, the traditionally stronger economic nations of Singapore, South Korea (both 73%), and Japan (at just 72%) linger at the bottom of the APAC index.

Such contrasts, when parsed alongside a breakdown of the local survey’s findings per category, suggest an increasing employee sense of workplace stagnation in Singapore, both internally as to structural innovation and externally in terms of the development of products and services offered, as well as reported feelings of frustration over career pathways and objectives being stifled by a lack of clear direction.

Most notably, while 85% of employees expressed pride in the current products and services of their companies, just 70% felt that these same companies were continually innovating and improving their offerings. Further, one third of respondents did not believe that their company supported the development of new ideas, with the same number pointing to discomfort over sharing their views or ideas for fear of a negative response.

Engagement in APAC

In addition to concerns over a perceived lack of innovation, a large number of Singaporean employees compared on average to their global counterparts felt that they did not receive the necessary information or resources to be effective in their roles, with almost fifty percent adding that their company’s organisational structure further delimits effectiveness. These complaints in turn inform a far more critical view of their organisation’s customer focus than data gathered elsewhere; barely one half of those surveyed in Singapore believe that internal processes allow them to effectively meet their customers’ requirements, and just 69% say that they can respond quickly to those needs.

Here, the authors of the report, titled ‘The Singapore Employee Engagement Index: Insights to Enhance Workforce Productivity’, look to historical factors as a means of explanation; “as global multinationals expanded their footprints into emerging markets, most resorted to organisational structures that required local teams to report to their home offices. Though this may have been necessary in the beginning, the resulting matrix structures often require multiple approvals for decisions at the local level, leading to a perception of excessive bureaucracy among local employees.”

Of perhaps greatest alarm, when taken together, these negative perceptions have resulted in just 68% of Singaporean employees being willing to endorse their companies as a good place to work (as compared to the much greater combined figure of 76% reported by employees across Singapore’s APEC neighbours), despite the survey returning positive results in the areas of leadership, involvement in the decision-making process, and confidence in reward for merit.

What empowers employees

Positive signs ahead

But the good news for frustrated Singaporean employees, and ultimately their employers, is that, according to the consulting firm, “Ninety-three percent of senior executives worldwide report they are planning to redesign their organizational structures in the next two years to adjust to the rapid pace of change in the business. Organizations now recognize the need to further empower their local management teams and to be able to respond to changes faster by decentralising and simplifying structures.”

This evolving approach is set to have an impact as consulting firms and multinational organisations continue to pour into APAC, as seen in this past week with advertising gurus R/GA setting up their consultancy arm in the region through a Singapore office, and accounting network Kreston announcing their entry into Cambodia with Cam Accounting and Tax Services.