Since 2006, more than 2,100 organisations in Singapore have committed to non-discriminatory hiring practices with the signing of the Employers’ Pledge of Fair Employment Practices.

It is encouraging to know that more employers appreciate the business case for fair employment practices and see the benefits of engaging a diverse and inclusive workplace. But that’s only half the battle won. 

Whether or not the company ultimately wins the war depends on the hiring managers and all the rank-and-file employees. For a diversity and inclusion (D&I) ecosystem to flourish, every employee must realise that it starts with the man (or woman) in the mirror.

Research studies on D&I have shown that companies with robust D&I programmes have benefited from a more creative workforce, a bigger pool of readily available talent and, most importantly, better financial results.

Most employers are sold on the advantages but the rank-and-file employees often cannot see the tangible benefits. As a result, most employees see fair employment as a management or government duty rather than an individual responsibility.

Employees need to recognise that everyone benefits when the workplace promotes fair employment and merit-based hiring.

Power of silver

Recently, it was reported that age discrimination remains a real concern in Singapore. Older workers do face the uphill task of gaining employment. And this is not limited to the low-wage workers. The professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) feel the brunt of this discrimination as well.

Younger professionals must realise that everyone will grow old and most of us will not have the luxury of retiring early in our careers. Younger professionals may find it hard to comprehend the challenge of getting a job because of age discrimination, especially when most of them are highly mobile in their respective careers.

Unless younger executives empathise with older talent and start making a conscientious effort to involve the silver workforce, the older talent will continue to face age discrimination at the workplace. These younger employees themselves will be affected in the near future.

Return of the mummies

Another talent pool consists of today’s housewives — yesteryear’s female workforce. Many of these women are our mothers, sisters, relatives and friends.

These educated women sacrificed their careers so that their families could have the best care. Many of them decided to return to the workforce when they had more free time, for example, when their children were less dependent.

Some of them have taken courses to upgrade their skills so that they stay current with technological advancements and industry knowledge.

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on their strengths and past experiences, many employers, both male and female, choose to look at the gap in their employment history.

Very often, some patience and training is a small price to pay to help these accomplished and competent women gather speed to adapt to the new working environment. These women are capable at managing a home, so why should they be denied a chance to prove themselves at work?

Mind your language

It is common for people of similar backgrounds to gather in cliques and break into conversations using a familiar language. We are creatures of habit and there is nothing wrong with that. 

But we should be mindful that this habit should not create a barrier in fostering a more cohesive work culture, and this habit should never make its way into the assessment of suitably qualified job seekers.

Using language as a selection criterion especially when it is not required for the job should not be tolerated. How would you feel when you are penalised for a language deficiency when the language is not even required at work?

Regardless of our nationalities, as employed professionals, we have a moral obligation to contribute to the society that we have benefited from. One best way is to facilitate the employment of marginalised local talent and help develop their competencies. 

As Singapore moves into the future, it needs to build its workforce from talented individuals, regardless of race, language, age or gender. The talent pool can only expand when people realign their expectations and embrace talent, regardless of its outward appearance. Singapore needs to continue to open its arms to welcome talent from within and without.  

Article by Josh Goh, assistant director, Corporate Services, The GMP Group. It is one of Asia’s leading staffing and human resource consultancies. For more information, visit www.gmprecruit.com