It is no secret that in the current employee’s market, Singaporean job seekers are in the power seat, enjoying the pick of the crop.

Businesses have no choice but to reduce their reliance on foreigners to fill positions because of the foreign worker quotas. And it seems there aren’t enough Singaporean and Permanent Resident (PR) workers to go around. Here’s how you can compete for them:


Higher salaries

There is a caveat to this: it does not always work — especially when an employee is already high on the pay scale.

But the fact is that Singapore is now officially the world’s most expensive city, according to the 2014 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

While not everyone agrees with the survey’s findings, there is little doubt that Singaporeans are grappling with the rising cost of living. For many, it always seems to be the case of “money no enough”.

As a prospective employer, you can be certain that while employees do want an environment they can thrive in, money — and therefore financial security — is always topmost on their minds.

Confirming this is a 2013 survey by JobsCentral, which saw Singaporean respondents across all ages agree that salary is their most highly prized factor when it comes to job opportunities. They also rated this aspect as being the one they are most dissatisfied with.

This is where you can swoop in and gain an edge by offering them a better package than your competitors. But if your organisation does not have the financial muscle to compete for talent based on salary, read on for other tips.


Career advancement opportunities

The same JobsCentral survey noted that while salary was first on the Singaporean employee’s mind, career advancement opportunities were a close second.

Most people desire progress. Make it part of your organisational culture to seek ways to help workers advance in their careers. Managers should take the time to get personally involved in their workers’ career goals.

Understanding their aspirations and offering them opportunities for career advancement wherever possible will go a long way towards making them feel that their company cares for them and their future.  

Your company will soon gain a reputation for having a nurturing environment in which employees are supported to advance in their career and this will help attract the right people to you — while decreasing the likelihood of your good talents jumping ship for the promise of a bigger title. 


Learning and development opportunities

You can’t have a dynamic, forward-looking organisation staffed with employees who are stagnant and don’t want to expand their knowledge and improve their skills.

High-performing employees will be keen to learn and grow professionally, so be sure to offer them opportunities for training and development to gain higher professional qualifications and upgrade their skills — or risk losing them to your competitors.  

Employees who benefit from training are better equipped to contribute to your organisation. When they perform well, they receive greater recognition and rewards such as monetary incentives and promotion opportunities, which lead them to stay on longer in the organisation.

Again, this helps to boost your employer branding in the marketplace and make your company an “employer of choice”.


Engage your people

An engaged workforce looks very attractive to outsiders. Companies that project an image of offering a great work environment are likely to attract good-quality candidates.

The idea of happiness in the workplace is neither a myth nor just a fluffy concept. Many studies show that happy workers achieve higher levels of productivity, not to mention the positive word of mouth they will help you spread in the industry.

To be sure, it is much easier said than done. Seek to implement HR best practices and invest in employee engagement programmes because the payoff of happy workers will be great.


Flexi-work arrangements

Many organisations are very wary about this trend that is slowly but surely creeping into workplaces across Singapore. But if carefully planned, providing more options for flexi-work may be more a boon than a bane.

Flexi-work arrangements allow you to tap on a larger pool of talent. According to the Ministry of Manpower, there were more than 418,000 economically inactive locals last year, many of whom left the workforce due to family commitments.

Of these, almost 40 per cent indicated that they intended to find work in the next two years. Consider filling manpower gaps in your organisation with such individuals and offer them flexible hours or the opportunity to work from home twice a week.

What’s more, you can even draw on government funding under the $170 million WorkPro scheme that encourages this group of locals to return to work. The support is there, it is up to you to explore how it can work for your organisation.

It is no mean feat being able to balance the perceived needs of the Singaporean job candidate with the limited resources of your company. But with a targeted recruitment strategy in place, you will be better equipped to channel Singaporean talent your way.


Article by Ronald Lee, managing director of PrimeStaff Management Services, a leading human resource consultancy based in Singapore with a growing regional reach. For more information, call 6222-3310, e-mail or visit