Racheal Lee
Oct 2, 2013

Singapore employment policy to exacerbate talent struggle

SINGAPORE - Singapore's latest employment measure promises to aggravate the already-intense talent war in the industry.

Singapore employment policy to exacerbate talent struggle

The measure requires companies operating in Singapore to give priority to local residents in the job recruitment process, by advertising vacancies to local residents for two weeks before they can apply to fill positions with overseas workers. The recruitment notices must be posted to a central job bank to be administered by a government employment agency.

The new policy takes effect next August.

Karin Clarke, Asia regional director of recruitment firm Font, noted that the policy is similar to Australia, where companies must prove they advertised the role and considered Australians before offering a job to a foreigner. However, the difference is that Singapore relies heavily on foreign talent, whereby Australia does not.

She said the new policy would have an impact on the industry, especially for emerging skill sets such as digital roles, where many companies are looking to bring in people from mature markets to help them keep up with the latest developments.

“The creative, marketing and PR sectors require people to have a more diverse skill set than in the past,” she added. “While more graduates are coming out of university with new skills, the sector is evolving so rapidly, and Singapore can't keep up with training the talent as fast as the jobs and the evolving roles are being created.”

Longer recruitment process

The constraining effect on companies, Clarke added, will make the hiring process in Singapore longer. “We find that the hiring process already takes a long time in Singapore, because most people have regional roles—on average it takes six weeks to finalise the candidate, and then there’s usually a month’s notice period. Adding another 14 days to the process is going to mean that companies will have to start their workforce planning one quarter in advance.”

Ken Hoskin, regional chief talent officer at McCann Worldgroup, agreed the change will delay the hiring process. But more than that extra two weeks, he's concerned that the new policy doesn't help address the real issue of talent churn.  

“With Singapore being one of the fastest countries in APAC in terms of processing employment visas, this two week delay is not a huge issue when it comes to ensuring we have the right person for the position,” Hoskin said.

The turnover rate in Singapore, according to the industry experts Campaign Asia-Pacific spoke to, is generally between 25 per cent and 35 per cent.

Ujjwal Sarao, regional director––talent management, Asia at Dentsu Asia, said with the high rate of talent churn in the junior to mid-level positions within the industry, the longer recruitment times broght about by the new policy will not help the situation.

“There are a lot of global organisations with their regional HQ's in Singapore,” she added. “These organisations generally value talent mobility and like to grow their talent by job rotation, which could be in the form of long-term transfers. There could be an impact on this to an extent.”

Talent mobility

Hoskin concurred, adding that while more companies relocate their regional headquarters to Singapore, they will demand agencies to have regional teams, which are made up of people with regional experience, whether that is as a Singaporean who has worked in another market, or someone from another country moving to Singapore.

“In order to staff these teams appropriately, companies need to be able to give Singaporeans opportunities to work abroad, whether it be for mid-length assignment of one year or longer assignments so they begin to have the necessary regional experiences to meet clients' requirements,” he added.

“As of now, finding local Singaporean talent who want to get that experience, and are willing to work in a market with a lower standard of living and lower wages than what they can earn in Singapore (and what local clients can afford) is challenging, and that is where there is a real talent shortage.”

Sarao said the talent war within the industry will continue, and most agencies are now putting a greater focus and emphasis on developing existing talent and giving them opportunities to grow within the organisation.

“One of the things that our industry struggles with is the lack of proper data on the local talent pool,” she added.

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