WHAT motivates today’s generation of What’s-In-It-For-Me employees?

Salary, of course. And perks, of the free-food-and-dry-cleaning variety for which Facebook and Google are now famed. But these are not the only things that matter.

In a tight labour market such as Singapore, the concept of “total reward” is increasingly gaining traction as companies compete for talent.

Many are broadening the concept of benefits to include everything from flexible work hours to opportunities for career development and training.

A flexible approach to talent development was cited recently as a key to business success by the international consultancy Towers Watson, which studied HR trends between 2009 and 2013 among 1,600 companies.

It noted that long-term career opportunities and training are as critical to employee satisfaction as compensation — and are a key to a company’s ultimate financial strength.

“The best organisations are investing more in people,” Towers Watson says in its report, Perspectives — Tracking People Priorities and Trends in High Performance Companies.


Varied experience

But no one said career success has to be shaped like a ladder. Companies can buck the concept of a “typical” path to success and focus instead on giving people a wide range of possibilities to grow — in a variety of directions. A co-worker who starts in Logistics could move to Customer Relations, Sales or Interior Design, or to a support function such as Marketing.

Ms Lynda Lim joined Ikea Singapore as a sales assistant in the textiles department, then worked in the Cook Shop and Lighting departments before moving up to the Customer Relations team. Now, after 20 years with the furniture retailer, she works behind the scenes with the Human Resources team in a senior role as staff planner.

“I would never have dreamt I was going to go on such a journey,” says Ms Lim, whose career has included leadership roles, more than five major development courses as well as work trips to Thailand and Kuala Lumpur.

She adds: “I have had so many opportunities to develop myself — upwards and sideways, personally and professionally.”


Global opportunities

A company should also help expand its employees’ horizons — literally —across the world. Ms April Kwan started out as an Interior Design team leader at Ikea Tampines but later moved to Delft, a small town in the Netherlands that is home to canals and cobblestone streets. 

She also had the chance to travel to stores worldwide to provide specialist knowledge in planning and building showrooms in new stores.  Last year, she returned home to Singapore and is now enjoying her regional interior design job, as well as time with her extended family.


Learning and development

The Towers Watson study also noted that the global recession led many companies to cut costs in Learning and Development (L&D) — often seen as a “nice to have” rather than an essential.

While the effects of the recession are still lingering, training opportunities are now broadly recognised as essential to retention.  

This year, many companies are devoting increasing energy and capital into L&D that can include comprehensive on-boarding programmes, classroom training and buddy systems to mentor newcomers. 


Employee empowerment

Employee empowerment is also a characteristic of successful companies: High performance companies have environments in which it is safe to speak up and suggest ideas without penalty, and employees have the flexibility to do right by customers.

In a context where hierarchies are the norm, recruiters are told to look for people who are ready to ask questions and make decisions.

For example, values such as “Daring to Be Different” and “Leadership by Example” are posted on walls in Ikea’s back offices and are the basis of performance appraisals.

The company is now working with what it calls values-based recruitment. Its biggest focus is on not just finding the right people — skills, education and experience matter too — but also ensuring they are a good fit with the organisational culture.


Perks for everyone

Of course, retailers know that potential hires are also looking for all the usual benefits as well. A company can distinguish itself from the pack by offering, for example, medical benefits to all — even permanent part-timers. Other perks can include subsidised meals, staff discounts on merchandise, and an incentive scheme that rewards every co-worker when the company meets its targets for sales and productivity.


Article by Magnus Fristedt, Regional HR Manager of Ikea Singapore.