PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 - Singapore highlights

A workforce in transition: reinventing for success

PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023: Singapore highlights
  • Publication
  • 20 Minute Read
  • December 2023

2023 has turned out to be a turbulent year for Singapore employees. A softer global economic climate and supply chain diversification has led to greater uncertainty. On top of that, artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the future of work, and the realities of climate change are affecting daily lives.

This year, we surveyed 1,000 employees in Singapore to understand their attitudes and sentiments towards work. Part of the Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey which captured responses from nearly 54,000 employees in 46 countries, the Singapore results portray a workforce that is increasingly restless and on edge.

According to the study, 52% of Singapore employees believe their organisation can stay afloat for the next decade - if they remain on the current course. But more than half also believe their organisation can only last up to ten years. Compared to our Asia Pacific counterparts, 69% of respondents agree that their employers' organisations will still be in business beyond the next decade, suggesting that the Singapore workforce needs to be more confident in their employers' business viability and longevity.

Gen Z workers appear the most pessimistic about their employers’ business viability among the various workforce cohorts, with 74% doubting their organisation’s ability to survive for the long haul.

These findings are a wake-up call for employers. Organisations must reinvent themselves to chart the path forward so they can remain agile in a dynamic business landscape.

Assuming your employer continues on its current path, how long do you think the company will be in business?

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

Regarding your current role, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
The skills that my job requires will significantly change in the next five years

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

A talented and dedicated workforce is key to successful reinvention in today’s complex business environment. Yet, workers lack urgency when it comes to upskilling. Only a third of Singapore respondents believe that the skills for their job will change over the next five years.

We are also seeing an increasingly unsettled workforce, with significantly more employees planning to switch jobs over the next 12 months. Our findings reveal that Gen Z workers are more likely to quit, even early on in their careers.

Given this environment, here are five key insights and actions employers in Singapore should prioritise to enable a reinvention-ready workforce.

Understand what drives employees

1. Understand what drives employees

In 2022, the year of the Great Resignation, one in five Singapore workers said they were likely to seek a new employer within 12 months. This trend is ongoing, even as global economic volatility threatens job stability.

Employees still plan to resign from their positions despite uncertain economic times, our 2023 survey shows. We found that 34% of employees in Singapore are considering pursuing jobs elsewhere in the next 12 months, a 13% increase from the previous year. Less tied to job loyalty, younger generations have no qualms about leaving their current employers with almost half of Gen Z (48%) taking this view.

Our survey also reveals that 37% of employees plan to ask for a raise (vs 29% in 2022) and a promotion (vs 26% in 2022). High inflation could drive employees to seek more competitive compensation as they struggle to cope with the surge in cost of living. Moreover, financial stress could adversely affect the productivity of employees, our research has found.

How likely are employees going to take the following actions within the next 12 months? (2023 vs 2022)
  Singapore 2022 Singapore 2023 Asia Pacific 2023

Ask for a pay raise

Overall: 29% 
43% (Gen Z)
34% (Millennial)
Overall: 37%
56% (Gen Z)
41% (Millennial)
Overall: 43%
51% (Gen Z)
49% (Millennial)

Ask for a promotion

Overall: 26%
38% (Gen Z)
32% (Millennial)
Overall: 37%
58% (Gen Z)
39% (Millennial)
Overall: 38%
49% (Gen Z)
44% (Millennial)

Change employer

Overall: 21%
31% (Gen Z)
24% (Millennial)
Overall: 34%
48% (Gen Z)
41% (Millennial)
Overall: 28%
34% (Gen Z)
31% (Millennial) 

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

Against this backdrop, it has become even more imperative for employers to focus on enhancing employees’ total wellness through Total Rewards strategy. This concept is rooted in promoting employee wellbeing in six domains: physical, emotional, mental, social, career and financial.

Whilst competitive reward packages are vital to finding and keeping the pivotal talent that organisations need, a focus on total wellness may see greater returns for the organisations as it balances the cost of business operations while keeping employees committed and engaged.

Organisations need to align the total reward strategies with their strategic goals by developing broad, active adaptation and reframed total reward offerings that put each individual at the centre of the equation, supported by a personalised bottom-up approach to enhance the employee experience and inspire exceptional personal performance.

With employee needs becoming more heterogenous, listening to the voice of your employees and understanding their preferences through employee preference analytics will help optimise workforce investments and bring positive people outcomes. Employers need to critically look at the “whole person” and not just the “person on the job,” taking into account employees’ stage of career and season of life. In addition, developing fair rewards is important and it requires ongoing evaluation to identify areas for improvement and a commitment to active adaptation as your organisation and employees' needs evolve over time.

To create a more targeted rewards package for employees, organisations need to:

  • Understand what their employees want. Through data analytics, gather insights on what each individual values and identify what employees would trade for cash.
  • Personalise total rewards packages. Place individual employees at the centre of the total wellness equation by introducing rewards that align with their needs, for example, by offering flexible working hours.
  • Communicate the value proposition. Explain clearly to all members of the organisation how the new Total Rewards strategy will benefit them.
  • Monitor and adapt accordingly. Be flexible and readjust rewards packages according to changing employee preferences as they move through different phases of life.
Develop a culture that prioritises psychological safety

2. Develop a culture that prioritises psychological safety

Organisations that create an environment which supports psychological safety are better able to foster innovation, creativity and collaboration - the building blocks for reinvention and high performance.

When members of a team feel they are able to propose ideas, express concerns, provide feedback, ask questions or admit mistakes without fear of reprisals, they are more likely to have better morale and higher productivity.

According to PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey - Asia Pacific, 53% of CEOs recognise the need to urgently transform their business in order to remain viable, but embarking on a journey of reinvention can be challenging for employees. Navigating the uncertainties that come with change can affect employee performance, especially during the initial stages of transition. This is where a supportive environment can facilitate a smooth transformation.

However, our survey indicates that 64% of Singapore employees believe that their managers are intolerant of small-scale failures while only a third of respondents think their managers are receptive to their input when making decisions. Clearly, Singapore employers can do more to listen to their employees.

For the statement below, please indicate how frequently does this occur in your company

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your current work environment?
I can truly be myself at work

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

The perception that employers do not value employee perspectives has a ripple effect on employee behaviour. Our study reveals that Singapore employees are less likely to proactively seek feedback to improve their performance - only 40% are willing to do so vs 50% globally.

In addition, only 40% of respondents say they can truly be themselves at work, below the global average of 53%. The bottom line? A culture that prioritises psychological safety is essential to encourage employee engagement and promote a safe space for innovation and reinvention.

To build a conducive environment that fosters psychological safety and improve employee retention, employers need to:

  • Reexamine organisational culture. Identify formal and informal levers that lead to inhibiting behaviours in the workplace and replace these with behavioural levers that encourage psychological safety.
  • Act as role models. Leaders should lead by example and inspire employees by demonstrating key critical behaviours. They also need to embed coaching to support psychological safety.
  • Flatten organisational structure. Reduce traditional hierarchy and introduce agile teams with a pool of shared resources to tackle strategic projects. Prioritise discussions, sandboxing and prototyping to address emerging issues.

“Psychological safety allows people to express themselves in a more authentic way. Yet, it is often undervalued in the workplace. When leaders actively foster a psychologically safe workplace, employees will feel empowered to voice their opinions and share their ideas. An employee-employer relationship that is built on trust can lead to enhanced business performance.”

Noel Goh, Workforce Rewards Leader, PwC Singapore
Bridge the upskilling divide

3. Bridge the upskilling divide

Technological advancements are fundamentally reshaping the labour market. In the next five years, 83 million jobs are projected to be lost and 69 million created worldwide, according to The Future of Jobs Report 2023 by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Transactional jobs are most at risk of displacement. Meanwhile, the fastest-growing roles that require specialised skills, are driven by emerging technologies or are related to sustainability.

Even with the net loss of jobs globally, a wide gap continues to exist between the supply and demand for a skilled workforce. Given the relentless pace of technological disruption and automation, it is more vital than ever for tomorrow’s employees to be adaptable, resilient and open to change.

Singapore’s employees realise the value of transferable skills in helping them adapt to evolving job demands. According to our survey, they believe people skills take precedence over technical or core business skills. Employees ranked these as the top four skills: adaptability and flexibility (72%), collaborative skills (68%), critical thinking (68%) and leadership skills (63%).

These results align with those found in the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, underscoring the importance of complex problem-solving skills such as resilience, flexibility and agility in the workplace.

Skills Singapore 2023 ranking Global 2023 ranking
Being adaptable/flexible 1 1
Collaborative skills 2 3
Critical thinking skills 3 2
Leadership skills 4 4
Digital skills 5 6
Analytical / Data skills 6 5
Specialist technical or trade skills 7 7
Core business skills 8 8
Green skills 9 9

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

Our survey findings show that 37% of Singapore employees believe that the skills required for their job will change significantly over the next five years.

However, managers and non-manager respondents have differing views on the critical skills needed for their roles. Across the skills outlined as critical, we consistently saw lower scores from non-managers. This is an opportunity for leaders and managers to be open and transparent with their workforce on developing these critical skills for their development and the continued evolution of the organisation.

How important will the following skills be to your career in the next five years?
 Not at all important      Slightly important      Moderately important      Net: Important (Extremely + Very important)      Don't know
How important will the following skills be to your career in the next five years?

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

The survey also found a divide between those with specialist skills and those without these skills. Eighty per cent of Singapore respondents with specialist training agreed that their jobs will change in the next five years. When we compared that to those without specialist skills, only 26% believe the nature of their jobs will change.

We also found that two-thirds of Baby Boomers in Singapore (67%) see that they will need to evolve their skill set in the next five years (vs 52% globally). Gen X have marginally different views, with 59% agreeing with this sentiment (vs 53% globally).

Baby Boomers and Gen X regard some key critical skills as less important than their digital native Millennial and Gen Z counterparts, likely due to the skills these groups prioritise as important to the evolution of their role.

How important will the following skills be to your career in the next five years?
 Not at all important      Slightly important      Moderately important      Net: Important (Extremely + Very important)      Don't know
How important will the following skills be to your career in the next five years?

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

To minimise employee turnover, organisations must emphasise the vital role upskilling plays in enabling individual employees to reach their full potential. With the imbalance between supply and demand for emerging and specialised skills, retooling and reskilling existing employees may be less costly and challenging than bringing in new talent. As disruption displaces certain roles, employee reskilling will become even more paramount.

Specialist technical or trade skills deserve attention as technology enters a new and significantly more advanced phase. As emerging technologies such as AI transform the way people learn and work, organisations will need to consider the following:

  • Identify the skills needed for long-term business transformation. Align the development of employee skills with the organisation’s strategic objectives.
  • Engage employees. Identify the willingness and readiness of employees to embark on reskilling or upskilling.
  • Design the upskilling and reskilling programme. Tailor the learning approach to match the readiness level of employees.
  • Provide learning and development support. Set up the infrastructure to support upskilling opportunities, allocate dedicated learning time and extend financial support where necessary.

“A divide exists between those who possess specialist skills and those who do not. We must address this widening skills gap to ensure economic equality between the groups. Employers have to provide upskilling opportunities to those who need them most.”

Martjin Schouten, Workforce Transformation Leader, PwC South East Asia Consulting
Explore how to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace

4. Explore how to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace

AI technologies have seen explosive growth, with ChatGPT reaching 100 million users within two months of its launch. As these technologies advance at an unprecedented pace, organisations need to consider how AI-driven automation will impact the workplace and employment dynamics.

According to our survey, 41% of Asia Pacific respondents believe AI will increase their productivity and efficiency at work. Respondents in Africa (43%) and the Middle East (46%) are just as optimistic about the potential for AI to transform work, compared to the rest of the world (31%).

In this region, 39% of Singapore respondents acknowledge that AI will drive productivity gains at work. Younger generations (45% of Millennials) are more upbeat that AI-powered tools will change business for the better.

The majority of Singapore respondents (83%) are also confident that their employers will offer upskilling opportunities and deploy the necessary tools and resources to prepare them for a new digital era.

What impact, if any, do you expect artificial intelligence (AI) to have on your career in the next five years?
 Positive     Neutral     Negative

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

Business leaders in Asia Pacific understand the need to address the disrupting forces influencing the transformation journey. 73% of CEOs in the region have made investment into upskilling their number one priority, according to our 2023 Asia Pacific CEO Survey. This is followed by automation (71%) and the deployment of advanced technologies such as cloud computing and AI (67%).

Besides reskilling and upskilling, new technologies can also augment or transform jobs by reducing transactional activities in the workplace. This can lead to cascading effects: role and responsibilities, workforce planning strategy, organisation design, and performance management indicators will need to be redefined.

To support this, leaders will need to consider the following:

  • Explore how to harness AI to stay ahead of the curve. Examine how the implementation of AI can improve the delivery of products and services, and reduce routine activities so employees can focus on higher value work.
  • Set up safeguards to regulate AI.  Establish guidelines for the appropriate deployment of AI in the workplace and assess pitfalls to prevent misuse.
  • Manage downstream implications on the workforce. Prepare employees for the successful adoption of AI by providing clear communication, tailored training and continuous education.

“AI has a transformative impact on business. It is encouraging to see that employees are confident their employers will equip them with the digital skills to build future-ready careers. Organisations need to provide continuous upskilling opportunities to prepare for a new era where humans and technology work together to accomplish more than ever before.”

Parul Munshi, Workforce Transformation Partner, PwC South East Asia Consulting
Lay the groundwork for sustainability

5. Lay the groundwork for sustainability

Climate change has far-reaching consequences across a wide swathe of industries. Studies estimate that as much as 37% of Southeast Asia’s GDP could be lost by 2048 due to climate change-related impacts.

Employees and consumers alike are also demanding urgent action to address climate change. According to our Consumer Intelligence Survey, 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do, while 83% of consumers want to see companies actively addressing ESG issues.

Despite this, organisations need to give this critical issue the deep-seated attention it deserves. Our 26th Annual Global CEO Survey - Asia Pacific reveals that CEOs rank climate risk as the second least important threat in the next 12 months (17%). This aligns with employee sentiment that companies need to prioritise climate change sufficiently.

Only 32% of Singapore respondents believe their employers have taken responsibility to address climate change (compared with 41% of Asia Pacific respondents). Interestingly, this perception varies across levels - those in management positions are more likely to urge their employers to tackle climate change.

In addition, slightly more than a third of Singapore respondents (35%) believe their organisation has taken the “right amount” of action on sustainability. This indicates a discrepancy between what employers believe they have accomplished in meeting ESG goals versus what the workforce perceives they have done.

To what extent do you agree or disagree that your employer has a responsibility to take action to address climate change?

Source: PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 of 53,912 workers across 46 countries and territories

Our survey also reveals that employees do not prize green skills - they rated green skills as least important (38%) for their careers in the next five years. This bottom ranking could indicate that employees need to view themselves as part of the sustainability solution.

Purpose-led organisations are those which have a meaningful and enduring reason to exist. The disconnect on the importance of green skills could widen the gap between purpose-led organisations and their more traditional counterparts.

As investors and the government intensify the focus on ESG, organisations with a clear purpose and ESG strategy will have a distinct advantage in attracting both consumers and employees. They will also be better positioned to adapt to an increasingly regulated environment and to build trust with the wider community.

The path towards becoming a purpose-led organisation can be difficult, but leaders can take these crucial steps to start the journey:

  • Articulate the purpose narrative of the organisation. Focus on the organisation’s social and environmental impact and identify the key critical behaviours needed to embed the purpose.
  • Define future green skills. Ascertain the skills that will contribute to the business's environmental sustainability and align with the business purpose. Identify the reskilling and upskilling needs of the workforce to meet those needs.
  • Develop a green strategy. Establish a performance management process and reward strategy that can robustly support and deliver on the purpose-led ambitions of the organisation.

“Besides financial and infrastructure resources, what the region needs next is a capable workforce that can drive the region’s sustainability transformation and tap into new value pools created by environmental responsibility.”

Parul Munshi, Workforce Transformation Partner, PwC South East Asia Consulting
Hopes and Fears Conclusion

Conclusion

Despite the current turbulent environment, the best leaders are the ones who manage short-term disruptions while positioning the organisation for a sustainable future ahead.

Employers must make an effort to understand employees’ needs and address their hopes and fears. Only then can they respond to shifting stakeholder demands, technological advancement and evolving market conditions, and ultimately lead the business on its transformation journey. This is the critical first step towards building a reinvention-ready workforce.

Contact us

Martijn Schouten

Workforce Transformation Leader, PwC South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

+65 9667 4961

Email

Noel Goh

Workforce Rewards Leader, PwC Singapore

+65 9048 8695

Email

Dave Chen

Partner, Workforce Transformation, PwC South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

+65 8125 7640

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Parul Munshi

Partner, Workforce Transformation, PwC South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

+65 9660 5011

Email

Suk Peng Ding

Partner, Employment Tax, PwC Singapore

+65 9171 9390

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