The call for change is loud if not clear. Every day, we are being bombarded with buzzwords and acronyms like AI, disruptions, IOTs, block-chain and many more. As our economy restructures and transits into the digital economy, it is crucial for businesses to be in sync with this transformation and take necessary actions to innovate and develop new capabilities to remain competitive. At the same time, there is an ongoing call for SMEs to go beyond their current shores, to tap into the fast-growing economies and leverage the opportunities there. With these and multiple funding made available by our “SME friendly” government, we would expect our SMEs to lap it all up, right? Not exactly. According to Singapore Business Federation’s National Business Survey 2016/17, “62% of businesses polled agree that there is a need for companies to transform. Only 15% among SMEs and 36% among large companies strongly agree”. Why do so many organisations find such great inertia to transform? Could it be that the change mindset is not prevalent among employees?
There are positive developments at the workplace. According to our most recent National Values Assessment (“NVA”) 2018 study on workplace culture in Singapore, we observed a shift of focus at the workplace where there is a greater emphasis in effecting ‘organisational change’ (2018), a departure from our traditional focus on ‘achievements & efficiency’ (2015).
Working Singaporeans selected the following positive values as the best reflection of their current workplace: Organisational Change (Teamwork, Continuous Improvement, Continuous Learning, and Information Sharing), Excellence (Customer Satisfaction, Results Orientation, Achievement) and Employee Well-Being (Balance (Home/Work)) (see Figure 1).
It is observed that organisations are trying to balance the need for Organisational Change and Excellence at the same time. The two potentially limiting values in the Top 10 current culture values – Cost Reduction and Long Hours, were observed in the 2012 and 2015 study as well. Potentially limiting values and behaviours are values, beliefs and behaviours that may not be intrinsically negative but could be harmful if lived to excess.
The resulting behaviours of potentially limiting values may create negative ‘entropy’ (i.e. amount of dysfunction) if continued to a certain extent. Given the current uncertainties in the market today, it is certainly a good sign that organisations are spending more positive efforts in enabling its people towards change. However, if there are negative behaviours arising from potentially limiting values (i.e. long hours, cost reduction), full transformation may be impeded despite the best of intentions.
A glimpse of what is desired in terms of workplace culture may provide some insights into what it takes to succeed moving forward. These values are related to Employee Development & Well-Being and Employee Engagement & Recognition (see Figure 2).
When matched against the Top 10 current culture values selected, four of the Top 10 desired values – Teamwork, Continuous Improvement, Continuous Learning and Balance (Home/Work) – are currently experienced by Singaporean employees in their organisations. This suggests that workplaces are laying sound foundation that would put them in good stead to meet the needs of both organisations and employees moving forward. There is a strong call for a more fulfilling work experience through coaching/ mentoring, open communications and employee engagement within the organisation.
To conclude, it would be worthwhile for leaders to understand how these desired values can be further developed to sustainably meet organisational outcomes such as business growth, employee and customer loyalty. We leave you with the following questions:
Food for thought:
As the economy restructures, what’s the correct balance in terms of excellence in execution, financial results and innovating for the future?
What’s currently inhibiting organisations in terms of leadership and culture? What’s being done to address these?
What can organisation leaders do to create a conducive workplace environment to meet the personal aspirations and motivations of employees? Are they willing to invest?
Vincent Ho | Co-owner and Director | aAdvantage Consulting Group Pte. Ltd
Vincent is an accredited Culture Transformation Consultant with Barrett Values Centre and has partnered clients in Singapore, China, the US, Taiwan, Oman, Malaysia and Indonesia. His consulting focus is on leadership and culture development, business transformation and customer experience.
Vincent is the Co-owner and Director of aAdvantage Consulting Group Pte. Ltd, a boutique consulting firm of 30 team members. Founded in 2002, the firm specialises in business and culture transformation services.