While it is no secret that the last two years have been extremely difficult for Singapore’s workforce, this could be the year to turn it around and ensure that employees stay engaged, loyal, and productive. While the Great Resignation swept across the US and UK, in Southeast Asia, it is still simmering. Analysis of data from job portal Indeed, found that nearly 1 in 4 Singapore workers were planning to leave their employer in the first half of 2022, and 49% were unsure if they would stay on for the entire year. 

By improving key aspects of the workplace experience, employers can hold onto their top talent at a time when the economy is rebounding and the right skills could make a big difference to productivity. A happy, healthy workforce also strengthens market leadership and brand positioning. To achieve this, organisations need to self-assess and unbox the root cause of the dissatisfaction in the workplace that could be leading to less confidence and eventually resignation – and stem the tide to drive the business in the right direction. 

Most of us are facing burnout, and for some, it is measurably worse

According to Gartner, one of the top five priorities for organisations in 2022 will be workforce health. This entails not only mental and physical wellbeing but also trust between individuals, the relationship between teams and leadership, and the work environment (e.g., fairness, flexibility, inclusion). An obvious indicator of poor workforce health is the propensity for burnout. 

Our research shows that employee resilience has declined significantly and burnout has increased between 2020 and 2021. Resilience – i.e., the confidence in one’s employer and the belief that the company will stay successful in the future – has dipped by 17%, which is one of the main reasons why organisations are witnessing turnover risk. 

The prolonged challenges in work conditions have also made it harder for workers to avoid burnout. Across all age groups, 40-60% of employees report feeling medium to high levels of stress, which brings down productivity at work and impacts the long-term plans for business growth. 

What’s also important is how the feeling of stress differs across different employee groups. Caregivers of school-going and young children are at a 30% risk of burning out, compared to 22% of non-caregivers with similar workloads. Millennials are also at the highest spectrum of stress levels (16% burnout and 44% medium stress) compared to Boomers (5% burnout and 35% medium stress). This counters the myth that senior professionals in decision-making roles are more stressed compared to younger workers – therefore, every organisation and employee group has to be assessed individually. 

Managers could be adding to the problem, but they are also part of the answer

Managers and mid-level leaders are an extremely influential factor for employee resilience, but managerial support for employees has unfortunately declined since 2020. Our research revealed that the number of employees receiving support from managers when completing tasks has declined by 6 percentage points between 2020 and 2021. 

Meanwhile, managers are central to employee resilience and wellbeing. Being able to discuss work issues with one’s manager is the top predictor of engagement, according to our research. Indeed’s survey found that appreciative bosses are among the top five reasons why employees stay – yet, managers are not always adequately trained or nurtured to be able to unlock their full potential. According to Gartner, nearly 1 in 4 HR leaders believe that they do not effectively develop mid-level managers which has to be corrected in 2022.  

Frequent check-ins between managers and their team members are advisable in the upcoming months. Check-ins on a 1-on-1 basis, in groups, and across departments can strengthen interpersonal bonds and provide crucial support at a time when so many of us are still working from home. 

Proactive measures are needed to avoid a domino effect

At a time when attrition rates are on the rise, organisations need to have a proactive plan in place. The objective is to quell dissatisfaction, reduce burnout, and empower managers so that they can better harness the potential of the workforce. It will also allow organisations to self-assess and identify how the attrition of some members of the workforce has impacted the others left behind. 

It should be noted that the same conditions affect different people differently, which means that your workforce will go through a wide range of experiences and will be motivated by a variety of drivers when they decide to stay, leave, be productive, or become disengaged. Your previous employee engagement surveys should serve as the baseline for self-assessment, but you also need to measure the organisational pulse in real-time. 

A platform that helps conduct pulse surveys, enables workforce engagement analysis, correlates the data, and provides actionable recommendations can be a useful and time-saving aid. 

Adopt different approaches for different cohorts

From our research, we saw points of difference in engagement levels between cohorts such as caregivers and non-caregivers, managers and frontline employees, and different age groups. This is because engagement and health are dynamic variables that are shaped by individual, organisational, and demographic factors together. By studying engagement for specific cohorts, organisations can identify groups at risk of burnout and attrition. They can formulate a targeted and proactive plan that takes these differentiated needs into account. Further, they can stay ahead of changing employee needs as workplace conditions evolve, hybrid work is put in place, and organisational policies change further across 2022. 

In the first half of 2022, the looming Great Resignation of Singapore and the Chinese New Year exodus are challenging times for any organisation. Employees have vastly different expectations from their employers, including flexible work options (56%), career progression (45%), appreciative bosses (41%), and access to physical and mental wellbeing aids (33% and 30% respectively). More than half of employees would consider leaving their jobs if they weren’t offered some degree of flexibility. Employers who listen closely, act on the insights, and adapt to these changing expectations will see better returns on their retention efforts. 

Studying the data tells you which facets of the organisation require immediate action and which could provide you with the greatest value as you unlock the workforce’s full potential in 2022. 

This article was contributed by Leong Chee Tung, co-founder and CEO of people analytics HRtech EngageRocket

About the author

Chee Tung is committed to bring the same level of analytics, sophistication, and scientific rigor to managing people as is currently applied to managing finance and customers. He is the CEO of EngageRocket, the APAC’s fastest-growing people analytics provider that analyses employee feedback in real-time to advise you on how to manage your team better.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, he was Regional Director of Gallup in Southeast Asia. He read Economics at the University of Cambridge, and has an MA in Political Science from Columbia University under the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship (SAFOS)