News Risk Management25 Apr 2018

Singapore:Businesses risk falling behind due to poor workplace diversity

25 Apr 2018

A new study has revealed that Singapore businesses still have much to do when it comes to embracing inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

The Workday Diversity & Inclusion report showed that there is a gender gap in leadership roles, with more than half (52.8%) of respondents seeing less than 20% of women in those roles. When it comes to the disabled, over 60% felt their companies were not doing enough to support them.  Inclusion of people with disabilities (38%) and ageism (28%) are the biggest issues companies in Singapore face--two of the most pressing issues with hiring and promoting older workers is outdated skill-sets and lack of aptitude for new technology.

The report, released last week at a panel discussion comprising participants from hospitality companies Agoda and the Lo & Behold Group, together with KPMG and LinkedIn, is based on a survey of more than 100 Human Resources (HR) leaders for large companies and SMEs in Singapore. It covers gender and social diversity, inclusion of people with disabilities, ageism, and companies’ general approach to diversity and inclusion.

“Studies show that businesses see greater profitability and productivity when their workplaces are more diverse and inclusive. With one quarter of Singapore’s residents being ethnic minorities, an ageing workforce, and 3.4% of the population identifying as disabled, diversity and inclusion is a critical issue for local businesses,” said Workday president, APAC, David Hope. “We strongly support diversity and discuss ways to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. We’re also inspired to see many of our customers adopting initiatives that support inclusive company cultures.”

The key findings of the report include:

Gender gap

  • More than half (52.8%) of the respondents have less than 20% of women in leadership roles.
  • 60% want to see more than 20% female representation on leadership teams within the next five years.
  • The majority of the respondents felt that the lack of female role models (26.9 %) and flexible working (37%) in their organisations were two of the main factors stopping women from their career progression.
  • While 80% of men said that their companies do enough to support women aspiring to leadership careers, only 65% of women agreed.
  • Almost two out of five (38.8%) of the HR leaders in the study said they didn’t have enough socially diverse role models.

More support for the disabled

  • 58.3% feel their companies aren’t doing enough to support the disabled.
  • Respondents believe that the two top areas where Singapore companies can do better to support people with disabilities are the facilities they provide (36.1%) and their inclusive hiring processes (26.9%).

Age is not just a number

  • Large companies (32%) said age discrimination was more of an issue in their workplace than in SMEs (20%).
  • One in four felt older workers faced discrimination in their workplace.
  • Inclusion of people with disabilities (38%) and ageism (28%) are the biggest issues companies in Singapore face.
  • Two of the most pressing issues with hiring and promoting older workers is outdated skill-sets and lack of aptitude for new technology.

Barriers and motivations

  • Only 16% of companies had diversity and inclusion policies that covered people with disabilities and only a third (35%) had policies that cover age discrimination.
  • Company culture (57%) and flexible working conditions (53%) are the biggest barriers to increasing diversity and inclusion.
  • More than half of respondents said increased diversity and inclusion enhanced employee morale (58%), and innovation and creativity (52%). Half of companies (50%) rated government and regulatory advisory as one of their top two motivators for improving diversity & inclusion, followed by 45% for performance benefits.

Panellists at the event expressed their views on what more could be done on the less than satisfactory results.

“We can all do more, particularly in this region, to ensure we are enabling all our people to be accepted and be successful in the workplace,” said hotel booking site Agoda’s chief people officer Jeffrey Lee.

“As a long-time consultant specialising in workforce optimisation, I’m pleased to see this agenda growing in prominence. With the continued talent shortages and rise of new skills, we know that top talent is highly sought after in Singapore. For professional services firms like KPMG, we really need to challenge past assumptions about ‘what top talent looks like’ and think outside the box when it comes to hiring diverse candidates that better represent our changing client and business portfolio,” said KPMG Singapore partner Peta Latimer.

“Everyone deserves equal access to career opportunities and to feel comfortable in the workplace. Leaders have the responsibility of fostering an inclusive work environment that embraces individuality and diversity in order to better ensure that employees feel protected, empowered, and included. This can be a key differentiator in retaining and hiring today’s top diverse talent, whose differing backgrounds, educations, and experiences can contribute to bringing more innovative solutions,” said Ms Melissa Murray Bailey, senior director, Asia-Pacific, LinkedIn.

Lo & Behold Group chief talent officer Merle Chen concluded, “As a fast-growing hospitality company that owns and operates a portfolio of concepts each with a distinct cultural-culinary perspective, diversity is fundamental to our heritage. Operating in a challenging and competitive industry, we constantly strive to innovate and move from good to great in creating awesome experiences and indelible memories for all who walk through our doors – employees, guests and partners alike.”

Workday is a provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources.

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