IN A region which is still behind the global curve in offering flexible staff perks, employers in Singapore stand out as the most progressive in freeing employees to choose their fringe benefits.

That is their intention, at least, according to a recent survey by human resource consulting firm Mercer.

More than three in four, or 77 per cent, of the Singapore employers polled are prepared to abandon a fixed benefit plan for a flexible one - higher than the 61 per cent average for the Asia-Pacific region, the survey shows.

Nearly 900 employers in Singapore were covered in the survey.

Almost half - 48 per cent - of the Singapore bosses thought it will better meet their staff's needs if the employees get to pick the perks they want.

And most - 82 per cent - felt that's important enough for them to make the move to flexible benefits one of their three key priorities.

Nearly a quarter - 24 per cent - of the employers believed flexible perks will help them recruit and retain talent.

'With 92 per cent of Singapore employers feeling the impact of the 'war for talent' and wanting to cater for an increasingly diverse workforce, many see the benefits that a flexible program has to offer,' Mercer says in a news release yesterday.

Almost two-thirds - 65 per cent - of the bosses who didn't have a flexible benefit plan said that they like to put in place one within the next three years.

According to the survey, employers who give employees a say in their perks are happy, with 90 per cent of them reporting this has met their original goals. And 95 per cent of these employers intend to continue with the practice.

'Singapore organisations with a flexible benefit scheme say it has helped them gain a competitive advantage, allowing them to address people-related challenges, including workforce diversity, attraction and retention,' Mercer says.

It adds that flexible benefit programmes can help to contain rising costs and in 'harmonisation of legacy benefit arrangements'.

Mercer says that employees here also see the benefits of choice - and favour flexible perks.

In a separate survey of 1000 Singapore-based workers, the consultant firm found flexible benefits 'very important' in motivating 62 per cent of the workers and keeping them engaged at work.

Some 45 per cent of the workers indicated that getting to choose their benefits was key in their decision to sign up with the company. Nearly half - 48 per cent - said that it will also influence them to stay.

Yet flexible perks are far from universal. Mercer says that employers are deterred by cost and complexity in taking the flexible route when offering benefits.

'While 36 per cent of those with a (flexible benefit) programme say cost is their greatest ongoing challenge, 50 per cent of those without a programme perceive cost to be the greatest inhibitor to adopting flexible benefits,' it says.

Over a quarter - 27 per cent - of the employers who offer flexible perks are having a hard time grappling with the administration of their schemes.