As the dust from Covid-19 begins to settle, an accelerating war for talent surfaces

Job growth recovery hand-in-hand with business recovery

While Singapore had somewhat reopened by May of this year, as its mass vaccination programme sped up, it had then downshifted into a “calibrated reopening” by the middle of the third quarter. Heightened Phase Two restrictions were put back in place with additional requirements for ART testing for on-site employees and calls for reduced social activities as infections surged to more than 1,000 cases per day.

Despite this setback, Singapore’s economy has turned a corner after the severe disruption of Covid-19. Amid continuing challenges, there is a renewed confidence within the market to accelerate growth and the hiring to support this.

Compared to the first quarter of the year, the number of job vacancies increased further, growing 79% compared to the same period last year and 12% compared to the previous quarter. In addition to Technology, where talent continues to be in high demand, we saw a pick-up in requests from Finance, Logistics, and Food-related companies.

Growth lays bare an extreme talent crunch

With the increased focus on digital practises in the workplace, such as pivoting to work-from-home arrangements to maintain company operations during Covid-19, there has been a surge in demand for technology professionals with particular emphasis on cybersecurity, data engineers and developers.

Additionally, the lingering uncertainty dating back to 2019 and the effects of Covid-19 in Hong Kong has aided in solidifying Singapore’s place as a regional tech hub among multinational companies (MNCs). Add to this the number of Chinese technology firms and Chinese-backed financial services and fintech firms investing in Singapore, which is moving the needle on significant recruitment trends across the market.

Healthcare and Life sciences sector has been on course for growth but has also seen significant additional growth due to Covid-19. Apart from commercial roles and scientists, there has also been increased demand for cybersecurity roles, especially for Health IT solutions, due to the surge in demand for telehealth and teleconsultation services.

Contracting solutions increasingly attractive

The pandemic has quickened the pace of Singapore’s Smart Nation digital transformation, and it continues to attract start-ups as the tech hub in the region. We have seen a significant increase in contracting requirements in the start-up environment as more organisations, particularly in Technology and Finance, search for senior human resources professionals, for example, to set up initial strategies for these new businesses.

Engaging contracting professionals can be a beneficial solution in the first phase of a start-up. These candidates are often more than qualified with diverse industry experience and international business exposure, giving them significant qualifications and the expertise to set up these businesses. It can pave the way for permanent hiring, later on, to drive forward the strategy previously put in place.

Companies are increasingly pivoting to this solution as an added resource that adds value. It affords the flexibility of getting projects done without affecting retention and headcount. It is a solution tailored to convenience and fulfilling business strategy rather than cost.

A need for real commitment, beyond paper strategy

​Organisations have become acutely aware of this war on talent, where skilled candidates in the market have a vast range of opportunities from which to choose. The talent shortage has blown the roof off what was accepted as a significant increment in salary when changing jobs. Whereas traditionally, 10-15% was considered a good increment, it is not uncommon for those with high-demand skills to command up to 25-30%.

​Competing solely on increments, however, is neither sustainable nor ideal. Previously, the commonly held belief was that people stay at a company due to salary, title, and benefits. Although that remains true, a much more nuanced focus is being placed on employee benefits by leading MNCs to adapt to the competition for attracting and retaining talent, and refocusing on a few key areas:

  • Workplace flexibility and hybrid working beyond COVID-19 restrictions—jobseekers are clearly reviewing their current conditions and opting for organisations with increased flexibility and trust.

  • Flexible benefits—beyond the standard benefits offered, MNCs are looking at flexible benefits so that their employees can decide what is most relevant for them. For example, buying more annual leave, medical coverage to support traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), or medical coverage to include dependents.

  • ​Learning & Development (L&D) opportunities—MNCs are looking at ways to engage their employees by offering them increased exposure within the company. For example, rotation or projects to enhance the individual’s skillset are more common, as well as increased company support for courses and qualifications their employees wish to undertake in their own time (not necessarily related to the employee’s job).

While offering L&D opportunities has always been something offered at many companies, firms that deliver on more than a paper strategy will win the war to attract and retain talent. This means, for example, not simply providing cash-for-courses but mapping L&D pathways for all employees and not just for high-potential staff.

There is no evidence of a “Great Resignation” happening in Singapore, and it is unlikely to. However, as the end of the year approaches and we head into the traditionally busy season for job movement, some of the challenges are clear to see. Should an employee be approached, or if they are feeling like they should leave, are you offering what it takes to make them feel like they are walking away from something good?

To learn more about preparing and facing these challenges as the war on talent keeps intensifying, feel free to reach out for a confidential discussion by filling in the form on this page.