Singapore top in talent, but retention remains a struggle

By Kate Birch
When it comes to enabling, attracting and growing top talent, Singapore is crowned world’s second best, but retaining the talent is a bigger challenge

The tiny city-state of Singapore is small in size, but big on talent as 2021’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index report proves.

Claiming second place in a global ranking of how well countries attract, develop, support and retain talent, Singapore beat 132 other countries to second place and came out top for talent in Asia-Pacific – the only country in APAC in the top 10.

In the report, which covers 134 countries and is published annually by French business school INSEAD and Portulans Institute, Switzerland retains its position at the top, followed by Singapore and the US. European countries claim 17 of the top 25 positions, while APAC has only three other countries in the top 20 – Australia (11), New Zealand (15), Japan (20).

Singapore – small in size, big on talent

Assessed for its ability to enable, attract, grow and retain talent, as well as its vocational and technical skills, and global knowledge skills, Singapore ranked in the top three in four of the six pillars.

In particular, the Lion City, was praised for “enabling talent with its strong regulatory landscape, attracting talent around specific areas such as bio-nanotechnologies, and growing talent with its strong education quality”.

It was also commended for having one of the world’s best pools of vocational and technical skills, meaning it can more easily match labour market demand and workforce supply.

Where Singapore does fail down on talent is in its retention, with more needed to be done to improve issues related to both sustainability and lifestyle.

Singapore taking action to retain top talent

In the first half of 2021, 69% of Singapore firms reported an increase in staff turnover compared to the same period in 2020, according to the just-released Hiring and Retention Survey by Mercer.

To retain talent and in the face of such skills shortage, the survey reveals that 3 in 4 Singapore companies (44%) are now turning to financial incentives and are offering above-market salaries for new hires with 43% of companies reporting increased starting salary for fresh grads.

In a few instances, companies have given up to 90% higher base salary to attract and recruit new talents as well as enhanced reward packages to differentiate themselves in the war for talent.  

But, while compensation is a critical component of an overall HR strategy to attract talent, companies need to think beyond pay to avoid disrupting internal parity, advises Mansi Sabharwal, Reward Products Leader, Mercer, Singapore.

“While salary adjustments and bonuses can temporarily relieve the pressure now, companies should be taking a holistic view of their value proposition for employees,” she says.

To do this, Sabharwal advises employee wellbeing, employee listening, career advancement opportunities and training to upskill talent.

“Today’s employees are as driven by company culture, work-life balance, progression opportunities and flexibility as they are by salary. Employers need to look at sustainability and address not only the financial, but also the physical, mental and emotional needs of employees.”


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