Ms Evelyn Kwek wants workplace awards to mean something again.
The managing director of Great Place To Work Institute (Singapore) has attended far too many awards ceremonies in which, after descending from the stage, human resources managers pat themselves on the back for having submitted a good write-up to a panel of judges — with zero input from the employees themselves.
These companies often have a rich haul of workplace awards to their name, but to Ms Kwek, these awards are not indicative of whether a workplace actually is a great place to work.
“If you look in the news today, you’ll find that Singaporean employees are among the most unhappy in the world,” she says.
This is why Great Place To Work’s scoring methodology depends largely on the input from employees, with two-thirds of the final weightage coming from employees’ own evaluation of their workplace experience, and the final third coming from Great Place To Work’s evaluation of the organisation’s people practices and policies.
“That’s where the proof of the pudding is: the beneficiaries themselves,” she says.
The Great Place To Work Asia Insights 2018 report revealed that 92 per cent of employees who felt “psychologically safe” at their workplace also believed that their workplaces were also great places to work.
A psychologically safe workplace is one where interpersonal trust exists, mutual respect flourishes and people are comfortable being themselves.
The report also revealed that more than remuneration, recognition or development opportunities, it is psychological safety that drives people to contribute more, take more risks and perform better as a team.
And according to Ms Kwek, one of the primary ways organisations can foster psychological safety in the workplace is by focusing on supportive organisational practices. “Employees in Asia, particularly, appreciate opportunities to be trained and developed,” she explains.
A new development this year is the launch of the Great Place To Learn certification — a collaboration between Great Place To Work and the Institute of Adult Learning (IAL) under SkillsFuture Singapore.
The two institutions have jointly developed a Learning Index that serves as a quantitative indicator of whether an organisation is deemed a good place for learning and development by its employees.
The Learning Index was created by mapping IAL’s proprietary diagnostic to assess enterprise workplace learning conditions against Great Place To Work’s Trust Index Survey. It was built on 30 years of research and data — the same model used to curate the Fortune Best 100 Companies To Work For.
Each workplace is then assessed on the effectiveness of four key aspects: Leaders, Co-Workers, Individuals and Environment.
Great Place To Learn’s certification is still in its pilot phase, so only five companies have undertaken the certification process. Of these — Shalom International Movers and Signify in Singapore (previously known as Philips Lighting) — have been certified.
Every company needs only undertake one assessment process to qualify as a Great Place to Learn, Great Place to Work, and Best Workplace.
“The aim of this certification is to recognise enterprises who take steps to build positive learning environments in their workplaces,” says Ms Kwek.
“In an environment that sees constant change and disruption, in line with the national SkillsFuture agenda, we hope this certification encourages companies to promote continuous learning and innovation, as well as allow for individual skills mastery.”
“Our Best Workplaces consistently hire people with learners’ mindsets,” says Ms Kwek. “These are people who are constantly looking to improve and deepen their skillsets.”
This does not just stop with the hiring process. Once these people are part of the organisation, their employers provide both the environment and the resources to enable learning, using different modes and mechanisms to cater to different types of learners.
Given the rapidly digitalising nature of the workplace in recent years, most of these resources likewise tend to be digital. These often take the form of online learning, mobile learning, and even gamification.
But Ms Kwek is quick to add that this is not just to deepen their employees’ expertise at their current jobs. It develops their professional competencies for the future, even when they leave the organisation.
“Best workplaces are willing to invest in their people’s development not just as an employee, but also as a person,” she explains.
“Some even provide subscriptions to apps and classes that encourage mental and psychological well-being. They go beyond developing technical competencies.”
This generosity and empathy also extend to helping employees level up.
Says Ms Kwek: “Traditionally, companies would only send existing leaders or those considered as having high potential for leadership development. But every employee matters in an economy that is about connectivity and innovation.
“Human qualities like passion, character and collaboration are what set companies apart as these traits can’t be programmed even into increasingly intelligent machines.
“We need to maximise the potential in every employee, not just select ones, extend that hand and say to them ‘Let me level you up.’”