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Hiring on merit makes good business sense

Employers to consider senior citizens and stay-at-home mothers as a viable source of manpower

Hiring on merit makes good business sense

SINGAPORE - With measures to cut back Singapore's reliance on foreign labour in the works, there have been renewed calls for employers to consider senior citizens and stay-at-home mothers as a viable source of manpower.

Thankfully, bosses these days are more open to putting aside their misgivings and taking steps to promote a more diverse workforce.

Over the years, companies here have increasingly committed themselves to adopting fair employment practices, said Mr Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at The GMP Group, a staffing and human-resource consultancy.

"By removing irrelevant and sometimes discriminatory job requirements, employers have a bigger pool of qualified candidates (to choose from)," he said.

Practising fair employment means hiring people based on merit instead of their ethnicity, religion, age, family status, disability and gender. And should language be a factor for consideration, it is necessary to determine whether the language proficiency is legitimate.

The company also needs to state the reason for the language requirement in the job advertisement, said Mr Goh.

"It is clear that companies which practise merit-based hiring are attracting better-quality candidates and benefiting from it," said Mr Goh.

KPMG - one of the big four accounting firms in Singapore - is among 1,600 organisations that have signed the Employers' Pledge of Fair Employment Practices.

The pledge is implemented by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices.

The firm, which has 2,400 employees here, implemented equal-opportunity and pro-family policies in 2009.

These policies were targeted at supporting working mothers and providing flexible work arrangements, time-off and employee-support programmes, said Mr Stephen Tjoa, a partner of human resources at the Singapore office.

Mr Tjoa added that KPMG's recruitment criteria focus on qualification, work experience and suitability for the job.

"We believe that fair and good recruitment practices will attract more potential candidates and (therefore) enhance the possibility for anyone to have a long and successful career with us at KPMG," he said.

"We also believe in fair retention practices... We recognise that professional and personal development and a supportive environment are needed to continuously motivate and empower them."

Mr Jan Lee, who is wheelchair-bound, is perhaps a good example of how KPMG practises the spirit of inclusion.

Mr Lee, 30, was hired as an auditor upon graduation from Nanyang Technological University in 2008.

The company helped plan his route within the office, so that he can get around with ease.

The firm also widened the access door, and re-programmed his access card to allow for longer entry time.

KPMG also retrofitted its infrastructure - it converted toilet cubicles built in the 1970s into a handicapped-accessible washroom - as Mr Lee, now a knowledge-management executive, is the first wheelchair-bound person to work at the company.

Although two thirds of KPMG's employees belong to the Gen-Y generation - those born between 1977 and 1994 - the firm does not have a preference towards the young.

In fact, it allows its older employees to work for as long as they desire - as long as they are healthy and able to do so.

Having a multi-generational employee pool is critical for any company's long-term survival, said Mr Goh.

"While the younger generation is required for the company's rejuvenation, the mature talent in the company has all the company and industry knowledge which often comes with years of working experience," he said.

"Research has also proven that a diverse group of employees is more effective than a homogenous one."

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