Winning the war for talent | Singapore

Singapore organisations have a fight on their hands to attract and hold on to the region’s best and brightest.

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Winning the war for talent | Singapore

Singapore organisations have a fight on their hands to attract and hold on to the region’s best and brightest.

Even before Covid-19, Singapore companies were concerned about their ability to retain and replace key staff. Since the start of the pandemic, the ‘war for talent’ has escalated with huge demand for skilled workers in certain sectors and a shortage of suitably qualified candidates.

It’s not just due to Covid. The gig economy has changed how we think about work. The quaint notion of a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past, making it more challenging than ever to attract and retain staff.

“I don't think the ‘war for talent’ is specific to now,” says Sarita Singh, the Regional Head and Managing Director (Southeast Asia) of Stripe, the payments software company. “It’s been an issue for a long time but it is particularly acute now because of the lack of mobility caused by the pandemic. In industries that are growing and proliferating, like the technology industry, there are always more opportunities than can be filled and we are very lucky in the APAC region to have an extraordinary amount of talent. The responsibility is on organisations to recognise, retain and engage with their talent.”

Covid changed how we work (e.g. working from home and flexible working arrangements) while the lockdowns gave people time and space to consider the work they did and who they worked for. When Covid first hit, the uncertainty of what lay ahead combined with dire predictions for the global economy caused some organisations to put a freeze on recruitment. At the same time, most people were prepared to sit tight in their jobs and ride out the pandemic. More recently, as we’ve started to lift restrictions and return to some semblance of normality, people are feeling a lot more confident about changing jobs.

“The war for talent has hotted up significantly,” says Mark Hutchinson of Divergent & Co. “Organisations are losing key people to competitors and finding it harder to replace them with good candidates. Losing key talent has always been an issue but it's become more critical than ever that organisations establish a rigorous succession and talent identification pipeline.”

“Companies invest so much time and money into the recruitment process but up to now they haven’t tended to focus enough on retention. The job market is changing rapidly so you need to identify your key people and make sure they're on a defined development pathway or you will lose them. If you don't manage your internal talent, you end up with no choice but to go to market.”

The average cost of finding and hiring from outside an organisation is much more expensive than promoting from within. Every time you lose an employee you also lose their IP, years of experience, and continuity on critical projects.

“Management needs to know who the key personnel are at each level of the organisation,” says Hutchinson. “Who has the right attitude and the ability to adapt and grow with the business? Who has the potential to be a future leader?”

To help answer those questions, Hutchinson, a psychologist with over 20 years experience in leadership consulting and organisational development, teamed up with Capability Group’s psychologists and assessment experts to develop the Talent Potential Survey, a sophisticated online survey and reporting tool to make talent identification easier and more effective for organisations.

Capability Group provides high impact talent assessment solutions for a broad range of APAC clients, supporting clients with talent strategy through to the assessment of executives, leaders and professionals.

“Capability Group has come up with a solution for a problem that every company is going through at the moment — hiring, growing and retaining talent,” says Sarita Singh who sits on Capability Group’s advisory board. “You can't manage what you can't measure. This Talent Potential Survey provides context and clarity for organisations around their talent. It will help them determine what talent they need, not just now, but into the future.”

“Up to now at least, organisations have relied on a very subjective measure of talent. The Talent Potential Survey helps you understand who's who in the zoo and also informs the development strategy for all members of your team, not just your high performers. It can really help organisations scale across countries, cultures and large workforces and help to improve performance and capability growth.”

The solution is based on first principles from psychology, human potential and performance and Hutchinson’s experience of working with leaders in different sectors and organisations.

“The fact that it's so grounded in theory highlights how challenging it is to ask managers and executive teams to assess the talent in their organisation without some form of evidence-based support,” says Hutchinson.

“Without a tool like this, leaders are essentially flying blind. They're hostage to their own biases without realising it. They promote people largely based on gut feeling and intuition. The Talent Potential Survey is a more objective way of assessing your talent pool and is designed to help line managers make better judgments. It can also help organisations analyse and address issues with diversity and inclusion.”

The “mini-me phenomenon” is a well-recognised dynamic in social psychology that we like others who are similar to us. It helps explain the tendency for managers to promote people like themselves or people that they like.

This phenomenon makes reliance on intuitive talent decisions problematic when we consider the critical need for increased diversity and inclusive work practices within our organisations. It also makes it challenging to create diversity in leadership tiers at the pace required. A structured assessment tool reduces the impact of the unconscious biases and assumptions that we all have while the data helps inform the broader talent conversation in organisations.

The survey results highlight people’s strengths and the areas they need to develop. It also considers potential derailers like how volatile, defensive, over controlling or risk-averse an individual is, and how that impacts their potential and performance.

Many organisations struggle to differentiate between performance and potential.

They promote people who are great at performing their current role but who may fail in the next role because they don’t have the right capabilities or skill sets. As well as providing valuable insights on the capabilities of the individuals in a team, the survey can also act as a red flag for managers completing the survey.  

“If a line manager is struggling to answer some of the questions then maybe they need to have more conversations with their team about their aspirations or concerns,” says Hutchinson. “The survey isn’t a blunt tool or a silver bullet solution. It's not a replacement for good line management; it's an aid to good line management. It supports line managers and HR to have better talent conversations and helps organisations manage people and their careers in a more intelligent and empathetic way.”

“People usually leave organisations because they don't feel they're growing. Most companies have figured out how to create good working environments for their staff but not many have figured out how to ensure their key staff feel valued. A tool like this will help organisations identify, manage and keep great people so they've got the leaders they need for the future. It’s like having a secret weapon in the ‘war for talent’.”

Want to learn more?

Download our latest data report Winning The War for Talent and get key insights about identifying, developing, and retaining your key people.

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