Many overestimate their own value
FED up with job-seekers who lack experience yet want high salaries for managerial positions, beverage company Pokka Corporation Singapore is trying a different tactic.
It decided at the end of 2011 to hire Singaporean management trainees with lower salary expectations, whom the company trains from scratch. These trainees ask for a $3,000 monthly salary, compared to $5,000 to $6,000 by applicants with a few years' experience.
Pokka's group chief operating officer and managing director Alain Ong said hiring Singaporeans for professional and managerial roles at a reasonable salary is difficult. He explained: "Beverages move quickly off the shelves, new products are always coming out. It is more demanding than luxury goods or electronics. Potential employees know this and ask for unrealistic salaries."
When Mr Ong, 38, started out in the industry 13 years ago, the monthly salary for a key account manager was around $4,000. "These days, (they) seek the salary of a department head - $7,000 to $8,000 - with only three to four years' experience."
On hiring trainees who lack the experience of more senior candidates, he said "salary is not their only consideration. The priority is learning and some even asked if we are sending them for training programmes".
As for the new generation of PMET workers who "have a different mindset; they want a work-life balance, to go to the gym, and don't believe in working late constantly", Mr Ong emphasised it was still important to engage them.
"Like it or not, the Gen Y workers will form the main working force for years to come and it is of paramount importance for companies to start understanding them and adopt the right HR strategies to tap their potential."
Job seekers today do the interviewing
WHEN Mr V.S. Kumar first landed work as a dispatch rider in 1982, he was just happy to have a job.
"A job was like God to us then. But these days, sometimes I feel as if I am not the one interviewing the applicants, but they are interviewing me instead," said the 50-year-old who worked his way up to be managing director and owner of dispatch company Network Express Courier Services, one of the largest locally based courier companies with 185 employees.
Mr Kumar feels that despite this sense of entitlement in the younger generation of job seekers, the high expectations are not always warranted.
He said: "We've had some who apply for a managerial position expecting us to give them a $5,000 salary immediately, just because that was what they received at their previous job. But how would I know what kind of productivity they can deliver?"
New managers at his firm usually start at $3,000 to $4,000 a month. Once hired, some have been a let-down.
Mr Kumar said: "Generally, the new generation of local PMET (professional, manager, executive and technician) workers I've met aren't willing to learn new things. Their excuse for not knowing something is to blame their previous company for not teaching them."
He cited an employee who claimed to be certified in accounting but did not know how to do a goods and services tax report. Mr Kumar contrasted such workers with their foreign counterparts from India, China and the Philippines in the same departments who were "very flexible and stay on after office hours to learn new skills".
He said: "This attitude of people thinking very highly of themselves has to change. I don't mind paying high, but I must know and trust in my workers before I can pay them well."
Need to show you can go global
SINGAPOREANS may be well known for their dislike of overseas postings, but the Australian director of human resources for Asia-Pacific at shipping giant Maersk Line has a message for them:
It is vital that you smash that stereotype.
Mr Peter Baker, 43, who has lived in the United States, Taiwan and Bulgaria, said: "Every one of our senior managers, including Singaporeans, has worked across multiple countries.
"We need to help Singaporeans understand it really is mandatory that people have experience outside of their home location... It will make them a very well-rounded business leader."
What he advocates is for more Singaporeans - who have cut their teeth in multinational corporations (MNC) and succeeded - to become role models and mentors to others. This will help to break stereotypes and show others what it takes to climb the ladder in an MNC.
"People need to be able to look and see successful Singaporeans in global companies," Mr Baker said.
Moving overseas is not easy
NO WONDER it is difficult getting employees to take up a foreign post - relocating overseas is challenging for Singaporeans, says a top headhunter.
In fact, after having gone through it himself, Mr Gary Lai, 37, who is the managing director of recruitment firm Charterhouse, says he understands the concerns of Singaporeans who do not want to give up a high standard of living here, or prefer to be near their families.
"I've been very unsuccessful in moving Singaporeans overseas," admits Mr Lai, who is married with a six-year-old daughter.
He relocated to Shanghai for a year with another headhunting firm in 2010 before returning home.
Being apart from his elderly parents, and also worries about his marketability if he stayed overseas too long, were concerns for him.
"China is also not the best place to raise a family," he added.
On the difficulties of relocating, he noted that with both husband and wife often working nowadays, the woman's career is just as important as the man's.
This makes it difficult when either one has to give it up to move.
Companies have also found it hard to move Singaporeans to overseas offices because they may cost more, he said, and Singaporeans worry whether their child will fit back into the competitive education system when they return home.
Thus, Singaporeans need a lot more pull factors to relocate, and that is why a company would rather find someone "hungrier" to do the job for less, he said.
In contrast, "it is easy to move anyone from elsewhere to Singapore", with its low taxes and business hub opportunities.
"There is a buzz in Asia, in Singapore," he said.