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What 1,000 workers in Singapore think about work today

PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 – Singapore highlights

Employee expectations are changing drastically across the globe - and this is just as real in Singapore as anywhere else.

We surveyed 1,043 local workers in Singapore as part of this year’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, one of the largest ever surveys of the global workforce with 52,000 participants worldwide.

In line with the global average, one in five Singapore workers say they are likely to switch to a new employer in the next 12 months (including almost one in three from the Gen Z segment of 18-25 year old workers) and nearly a third of them plan to ask for a raise. Skilled employees are at elevated risk of quitting.

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Why are employees unsettled?

Our analysis broke out the cohort of employees who said they’re extremely or very likely to look for another job. This is a critical group for managers to understand, and their responses point to clear warning signs to monitor. Termed as the ‘resignation equation’, these 5 factors are the biggest drivers for determining whether your people are at risk of leaving.

Based on the survey results, the 5 factors are for workers to:

  • find their job fulfilling;
  • feel they can be their true self at work;
  • feel fairly rewarded financially;
  • feel their team cares about them; and
  • feel that their manager listens to them.

Concerning statistics for Singapore indicate that only 11% of employees (compared to 27% globally) strongly agree that they can bring their true self to work. Only 12% (compared to 25% globally) strongly agree that their jobs are fulfilling.

We also see workers indicating a high preference for hybrid work model over the next 12 months (73% of Singapore employees compared to 63% globally) and are seeking more transparency from their employers.

So what can companies do to retain and recruit top talent?

Companies will need to rethink how to combine reward, opportunity, flexibility and purpose to create an optimal working environment and employee experience. Companies need to pay close attention to skilled workers who are at elevated risk of quitting, support workers who seek personal fulfilment and meaning at work, find opportunities to demonstrate transparency and rethink workplace design (people, technology and place) to include balanced hybrid models, bearing in mind the 30% of workforce who cannot work remotely.

What should the C-suite focus on?

What should the C-suite focus on?

As companies take on more ambitious business and societal goals, leaders must remember that employees can be a force multiplier or a detractor. Our research indicates that the workforce is the number one risk to growth - however can also be the key means to growth strategies. Understanding workplace power in all its aspects can help leaders energise their workforce, tap into the power of their people and accomplish bolder goals.

We also recognise that leaders must contend with a wide range of disruptions including inflation, the pandemic, and fast-moving geopolitical and social crises—all of which have profound consequences on their workers and their workforce strategy. Senior managers need a systematic way to think about these disruptions in order to plan for them in the short and long term.

To shape up business leaders’ thinking, PwC developed a framework for understanding the main disruptions that have affected workforces throughout history, and that are—as our Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 results show—highly relevant today: specialisation, scarcity, rivalry and humanity. Read more about the four forces.

Empowerment, skills and the impact of technology

Empowerment, skills and the impact of technology

Key underlying trends in what Singapore workers are saying

Specialisation and scarce skills lead to worker empowerment

38%

of workers in Singapore say their job requires some level of specialist training - a number lower than the global average of 49%.

Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey

What makes a worker feel empowered? Specialised training is one element.

A second aspect of worker empowerment is having scarce skills - although, only 22% respondents believe that Singapore still lacks people with the skills needed to perform their job (lower than 29% globally), indicating a high level of confidence in our current workforce. The industries with the highest share of respondents who feel their skills are scarce are healthcare (including pharmaceutical firms), technology, media and telecommunication, potentially making these employees more empowered in the workforce and marketplace.

A clear theme from our global findings, is that workers with who believed their skills are scarce, when compared with those who don’t believe their skills are scarce, indicated that they are more likely to ask for a pay rise or promotion in the coming year.

Workers are concerned about their upskilling in technical and digital skills

39% of respondents from the Singapore workforce say they’re concerned about their role being replaced by technology in the next three years. This was higher in younger generations, with nearly half (49%) of Gen Z expressing this concern (Exhibit 1).

Of more concern, however, is the lack of opportunity to learn: 50% of employees indicated being concerned about not getting sufficient training in digital and technology skills from their employers (the proportion being even higher among Millennials respondents). The majority (51%) of them said they are concerned about the lack of opportunity to work with or learn from colleagues with advanced technical or digital skills.

This potentially indicates, the workforce is ready to embrace technology rather than see it as a threat. The challenge for employers is now to provide the right level and type of upskilling and provide the resources to the workforce to be able to harness the power of technology, remain relevant and continue to add value.

Exhibit 1

Employee’s top three technology related concerns for the coming three years

  • Singapore
  • Global
My lack of opportunities to work with or learn from colleagues with advanced technical or digital skills
51%
40%
My employer not teaching me relevant technical or digital skills needed for my career
50%
39%
My employer not investing in innovative technology
42%
37%
My limited capacity to learn new technical or digital skills needed for my career
49%
37%
My role being replaced by technology
39%
30%

Companies are seen to be using internal and external measures to address shortages in skills/labour

Initiatives to upskill and futureproof the workforce across the board have been a known priority for government and companies alike for some time already. Yet, under half of Singapore workers said their companies are taking steps to upskill their workforce - demonstrating considerable room for improvement in either investing in upskilling, or better communicating initiatives to employees.

Compared to global statistics, Singapore workers felt more strongly that employers were automating and/or enhancing work via technology and widening recruitment to include more diverse workers (Exhibit 2).

Exhibit 2

What employees in Singapore think their employers are doing to address skills gaps

Internal changes

Upskilling workers
46%
Increasing pay
39%
Supporting workers with physical and mental well-being
33%
Automating and/or enhancing work via technology
31%

Recruitment changes

Widening recruitment to include more diverse workers (e.g. offering returnships, hiring previously incarcerated people)
33%
Recruiting workers with lower qualifications or less experience
26%
Outsourcing work to third parties (e.g., consultancies, suppliers)
28%
Hiring qualified workers from overseas
30%

Key takeaways

  • Understand the key systemic disruptions that are shaping workforce strategies.
  • Be clear on what kind of workforce and what types of skills will be needed in the future e.g specialised skills, technical and digital skills - and have clear plans for re-skilling and up-skilling.
  • Have balanced internal and external measures in place for addressing skills shortages.
  • Be ready to address the needs of empowered workers - with a high proportion indicating that they will be asking for promotions and pay rises especially in some sectors such as technology.
Fair reward

Fair reward

Paying more won’t fix everything, but how you reward requires attention

It’s clear that today’s employees expect more than just money from work, but being fairly rewarded is still the top factor when deciding whether to change work environments. Getting pay right then, does still matter.

61%

of respondents in Singapore felt the importance of financial rewards.

Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey

31%

of respondents in Singapore agreeing that that they are currently fairly financially rewarded in their role.

Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey
Respondents who selected "Strongly agree" and "Moderately agree"

So, what is the risk for organisations in Singapore? The above is clearly an issue to address. But what is “fair”? Fairness can be subjective and hinges on context, process and policy, as well as communication and perception.

Transparency surrounding pay is not something we have historically enjoyed high levels of - but how then can we demonstrate fairness and equity to employees?

Women were also less likely than men to say they’re fairly rewarded financially, and were three percentage points less likely to say they planned to ask for a raise. Both of these findings appear to reflect we have further to go in empowering both genders equally in the workplace.

Beyond the pay-theme, workers are also prioritising their well-being being looked after

Beyond the pay-theme, workers are also prioritising their well-being being looked after

The same holds true for supporting workers’ physical and mental well-being—a critical issue given the mental-health crisis now affecting so many workers around the world.

Only 33% of respondents said they received support on this issue from their company. Given the scope of the mental-health challenges that workers face, this finding suggests that companies could be doing much more to support worker well-being.

Yet money isn’t enough by itself to retain workers, who were almost as likely to cite intangible factors related to meaning.

Job fulfilment and to have their viewpoints considered by their manager upon decision making were ranked second and third among employees considering a job change. And being themselves at work and career advancement also play a part.

Exhibit 3

Most important factors when considering a change in work environment, % of respondents1

  • Compensation
  • Meaning
  • Confidence/competence
  • Autonomy
I am fairly rewarded financially
61%
I find my job fulfilling
59%
I can truly be myself
55%
My team cares about my well-being
55%
I can be creative/innovative in my job
50%
I can exceed what is expected of me in my job role
48%
I can choose when I work
46%
I can choose where I work
45%

Key takeaways

  • Take stock of and review the total reward packages that you are offering - creative and more radical measures are needed in designing packages that appeal to the needs and changing preferences of employees, as well as optimise your return on reward spend.
  • Think beyond cash - also investing into less tangible parts of the employee value proposition and remember that different employee value different things across their careers.
  • It’s easy to focus on only those who are retention risks, but don’t forget to reward those who stay.
  • Fair reward is a system, not just a bigger paycheck. To address this, consider not only what you offer, but how you make decisions, and how you talk about pay. Don’t be shy to lift the veil a little.
  • Take note that women are less likely to feel satisfied with pay, less likely to ask for more and less likely to feel listened to by their managers - and set in place some measures to address this for example transparency in gender pay equity.
Increased transparency

Increased transparency

Employees want transparency from their employers

Safety and social issues outweigh climate change - but we still have a way to go to meet employee expectations.

Employees are demanding that companies look beyond financial performance to broader ESG considerations. They are clear that they want employers to report on ESG metrics - but they don’t always see that it is happening. And they don’t feel supported in making their working day greener. There is a ‘say/do’ gap when it comes to ESG and transparency.

Approximately half of workers in Singapore indicated that employer transparency is extremely or very important to them.

The importance of transparency by employers on matters was ranked in this order: health and safety (highest at 56% of employees ranking this as important), impact on economy, record on addressing diversity and inclusion in the workplace and lastly the impact on natural environment (lowest at 46%).

Workers’ confidence in their employers current transparency on the matters lags behind their rated importance

26%

of respondents in Singapore felt that their company helps them minimise the environmental impact of their work.

Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey

Discussions about political and social issues are an everyday feature in the workplace

Discussions about political and social issues are an everyday feature in the workplace

57%

of workers in Singapore (not far from 65% globally) indicated frequently or sometimes having conversations about topics spanning civil rights, racial injustice, gender equality, or political issues.

Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey

Exhibit 4

In company disclosures, safety and social issues outweigh climate change

  • % of respondents saying that transparency is extremely or very important in this area
  • % of respondents who are extremely or very confident their employer is transparent in this area
The organisation's record on protecting worker health and safety
56%
45%
The organisation’s impact on the economy (e.g., jobs, taxes, wages)
53%
43%
The organisation’s record on addressing diversity and inclusion in the workplace
46%
40%
The organisation’s impact on the natural environment (including climate change)
49%
43%
Environmental considerations don’t factor into employees’ day-to-day work—yet

Environmental considerations don’t factor into employees’ day-to-day work—yet

Only 26% of employees said their company helps them minimise the environmental impact of their job. The lack of clarity about environmental issues likely stems from a corresponding lack of communication from managers. Most companies are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, and many are making net-zero pledges, but such measures can feel theoretical and abstract to frontline employees.

The challenge for managers is to make environmental issues immediate and actionable by identifying specific behavioural changes that employees can make. PwC’s 25th Annual Global CEO Survey reached a similar conclusion, finding that climate goals were more likely to be a part of company strategy than to be a part of executives’ individual performance goals.

Key takeaways

  • Acknowledge that conversations about politics and social issues are happening at work. Leaders can make progress by establishing norms, offering resources and helping ensure that these conversations happen in safe, no-judgment environments. These environments should emphasise listening—not reaching solutions or generating consensus.
  • Workers are asking for companies to take real action on ESG matters - but also to translate it into action. Be clear and transparent on your ESG journey, bring employees on the journey and communicate measured results to build trust with the workforce.
  • The data shows a large gap in companies making it practical for workers to see how they can for instance minimise their environmental impact in their job. Place focus on better engagement, communications and ESG upskilling.
  • Address the ‘say/do’ gap. Employees want to see a clear, credible plan and unambiguous reporting. They want to see how they will be making a difference by working for an organisation whose purpose aligns to their own personal values.
Hybrid working

Hybrid working

Flexibility isn’t just preferred, it’s expected by most

Overwhelmingly, employees in Singapore now prefer to work in a hybrid environment, with 72% of respondents saying they prefer some mix of in-person and remote work - a number even higher than the global average.

With 70% of Singapore respondents telling us they can do their work remotely, most employees also expect a hybrid approach will continue. 74% believe their employer will expect some form of in-person and remote across the next 12 months.

Flexibility makes hybrid work models succeed

70% of respondents are able to work remotely

Their expectations for their current job roles 12 months from now

  • How will you prefer to work?
  • How will your employer likely expect you to work?
  • Gap
0%0%
5%5%
10%10%
15%15%
20%20%
25%25%
30%30%
35%35%
Full-time remote working
15% 15% 21%
Mostly remote working with some in-person working
25% 25% 32%
An equal mix of in-person and remote working
25% 31% 25%
Mostly in-person with some remote working
14% 14% 18%
Full-time in-person working
7% 7% 12%

Don’t forget that not everyone can, or does want to work remotely

While most prefer flexible working, it’s important to recognise that this still leaves a portion of the workforce who don’t want to or can’t work remotely. 21% of employees would prefer full-time remote work, but only 15% said their employer is likely to adopt that model. And another 7% would prefer full-time in-person work, something 12% believe their employer was likely to request.

Implications

  • Remote work is here to stay in some shape or form. Organisations will need to test, be creative and adapt to a model that works for them and their people and the experience you want to deliver.
  • Listen to the voices of your employees: understanding how they want to work. The survey shows that those who work fully remove vs. hybrid vs. in-person have different concerns. Ensure your model is flexible enough to address these differences.
  • Invest in technology to support remote work and put the right governance in place over decisions regarding pay, promotions and other rewards, to fight ‘proximity bias’.
  • Recognise that managing a hybrid workforce requires different skills and approaches to leadership. Invest in your people to make sure they are well equipped to deal with these challenges in a way that drives a consistent employee experience, and equal opportunities. Fully remote workers, for example, are concerned about missing out on development opportunities.
Key takeaways for senior leaders

Key takeaways for senior leaders

Every organisation and even individual business units will likely have their own variations on the themes we have identified. But companies won’t know that unless they start exploring. In other words, businesses must tailor their workforce strategy to the unique needs of their workers.

Specifically, companies need to gather data on employee sentiment for the topics we’ve identified, segment people with common attributes into personas and develop prioritised action plans for those groups. Most organisations still need to align their purpose and trust agenda, create the right environment for employees to address social and political issues, commit to pay transparency, double down on inclusion and invest in leadership development to make all this happen. Workforce strategy must be aligned with business strategy and the approach must be clearly communicated, and if need be then over-communicated. Businesses must track performance over time.

Amid the fierce competition for talent and major challenges, such as economic uncertainty, climate issues, social changes and cyber threats, business leaders must understand that they’ll succeed only if their people are fully engaged, motivated and eager to contribute.

This research confirms that companies must think beyond fair wage and consider the whole package and employee experience around it, from what they offer employees on flexibility (including sabbaticals, wellbeing benefits, remote working) to the ways in which they build trust in ethical and purpose-led commitments. It may also mean losing things no longer relevant to future ways of working such as traditional performance management processes - whilst staying true to their values and culture. It’s an exciting time to experiment, innovate and ultimately reimagine employee value proposition.

Contact us
to discuss how we can help you optimise your workforce

Get in touch

Specialised training empowers workers

49% of respondents say their job requires specialised training

% likely to take the following actions with their employers in the next 12 months1

  • Job doesn’t require specialised training
  • Job requires specialist training
Ask for a promotion
21%
37%
Ask for a raise
25%
41%
Recommend your employer as a place to work
29%
45%

Employees are discussing sensitive topics at work

65% of employees have discussed social and/or political issues1

Impact of these discussions, % of respondents1

79% selected at least one positive statement

Allowed me to understand my colleagues
41%
Created a more open and inclusive work environment
34%
Helped me process my views
32%
Made me more confident to share my views
31%
Increased my empathy
28%

41% selected at least one negative statement

Made me reluctant to share my views
15%
Increased my stress at work
14%
Made it more difficult for me to work with people who share different views
13%
Made me more feel more isolated in my views
12%
Decreased my productivity at work
11%
None of the above
9%

Contact us

Martijn Schouten

Martijn Schouten

People and Organisation - Workforce Transformation Leader, South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

Tel: +65 9667 4961

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