Skip to main content

Speech at CEOs' Breakfast and Dialogue during Work-Life Campaign

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Chairman of Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy, Grand Park City Hall

  1. A very good morning.

    The Business Case for Flexible Work Arrangements: Increased Productivity and Talent Retention
  2. Some of you may have seen our advertisements or received our electronic mailers highlighting the benefits of implementing flexible work arrangements – increased productivity and retention of talent.
  3. A 2012 study1 by global provider of workplace solutions Regus showed that the majority of global businesses reported increased productivity and revenue as a direct result of implementing flexible work arrangements. Many other surveys have similarly established a positive relationship between flexible work arrangements and productivity when employees take charge of their work-life needs.
  4. Amidst a tight labour market, the attraction and retention of employees are increasingly important to employers. 85% of employees in a recent Straits Times-Employer Alliance survey on work-life indicated that they would be attracted to work for organisations that support them in managing work and family commitments. About half would consider leaving an organisation if there is a lack of flexible work arrangements. Employers who do not offer flexible work arrangements may find themselves falling behind in the race for talent.
  5. Another 2014 survey by global professional recruitment consultancy firm Morgan McKinley found that 20% of the Singaporean workforce was unaware of the flexible work arrangements options available to them. Employers can certainly do more to communicate the flexible work options to their employees.

    Raising Awareness through Work-Life Week
  6. Today is the second day of the Work-Life Week which was initiated by the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy to raise awareness and start conversations on work-life and flexibility at the national level.
  7. The theme – “Flexibility at the Workplace” – is not a new concept. The Work-Life Week is a call-to-action to employers, middle managers and employees to offer, manage and use flexible work arrangements. Myriad activities have been planned this week. Employers and middle managers can participate in the learning journeys to Alexandra Health and Cisco Systems to learn best practices. To help employers acquire skills to implement flexible work arrangements effectively, there are workshops on piloting flexible work arrangements and on-site consultations available. Potential entrants and workers returning to the workforce will be pleased to know that over 500 job vacancies with flexible work arrangement options will be available at the job fair on Thursday.

    Focus on Building Capability and Developing Ecosystem
  8. Beyond raising awareness, the TriCom will focus on building companies’ capabilities and developing an ecosystem for workplace flexibility.
  9. Some employers have told me while they see the value of workplace flexibility, there are challenges in implementation. I understand that you have to manage the tensions in your own workplaces. What we would like to share with employers is that they can manage the challenges if they understand the needs of their employees better, and in the process, they would be able to better retain their employees. It may cost a bit more, but in the long run, we will be able to retain good employees without compromising on corporate goals.
  10. In some companies, the top management may be supportive but the line managers do not know how to manage workers requesting for or are on flexible work arrangements. In other companies, the employees may be unaware of the options available or are unsure of how to broach the subject with their supervisors. To address these challenges, the TriCom issued a Tripartite Advisory on Flexible Work Arrangements last week. A copy of the advisory is in your folder. The tripartite partners have drafted the advisory to help stakeholders understand their roles in making flexible work arrangements work. Practical steps for flexible work arrangement implementation have been set out, which will be useful for employers who wish to pilot flexible work arrangements, or review existing work-life practices.
  11. The Government will continue to provide support for employers who wish to adopt flexible work arrangements. Employers can tap on the WorkPro Work-Life Grant through our programme partners – the Singapore National Employers Federation and the National Trades Union Congress. Taking in employers’ feedback, the Government reviewed the Work-Life Grant and streamlined the grant requirements with effect from 1 July 2014 to make it easier for employers to tap on the grant. Under the enhanced grant, employers can also engage work-life consultants to provide customised solutions and help them pilot flexible work arrangements in their companies. The TriCom will look into growing the pool of work-life consultants, to further support companies in the adoption of flexible work arrangements.

    Leadership is Key
  12. I am heartened by the turnout today. As leaders, I applaud those who have invested time and energy to ensure that your work-life beliefs are shared by all in the organisation. A good leader influences but a great leader inspires effective change agents. Of course, employees must also take charge of their own work-life fit by exploring the range of flexible work arrangements available to them, and actively engage their supervisors and employers on their work-life needs to find mutually acceptable solutions.

    Work-Life Excellence Award Winners
  13. Last Friday, the TriCom held a gala dinner to honour winners of the Work-Life Excellence Award 2014. The individual award winners are invited to share their stories with us today. Hailing from different industries and facing different challenges, the four award winners have demonstrated their perseverance, dedication and willingness to lead their colleagues and employees to new performance levels. Allow me to share three success stories with you.
  14. Mrs Jeanne Cheng is a long-time advocate of work-life excellence. Jeanne is the Managing Director of SP Services which provides market support services to electricity, gas and water customers. She was one of the first employers in Singapore to allow call centre staff to work from home – a key breakthrough in an industry where physical presence had always been seen as a limiting factor. Jeanne’s personal efforts in leading SP Services to tap on technology and flexible work arrangements improved productivity, and reduced staff absenteeism and attrition.
  15. Mr Kevin Wo is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Avanade, which helps customers realise results through business technology solutions. He introduced the Orange Life Programme in 2010, which is a structured framework for work-life programmes and policies. As a role model, Kevin influences his leadership team and service line leads to understand the work-life needs of their colleagues by initiating a series of visits to experience first-hand the challenges faced by employees at various work sites.
  16. As the principal of West Spring Primary School, Mrs Jacinta Lim made significant headway in promoting work-life harmony in her previous school by introducing a number of productivity initiatives in Yangzheng Primary School. Emphasising the importance of working smart, she uses technology to reduce administrative tasks, regulates school operating hours without comprising curriculum time, and integrates the meet-the-parents session with e-learning so that students were at home doing their assigned work while parents meet the teachers. Students are engaged while the parents are engaged at the school. My other portfolio is in the Ministry of Education, and I know that schools, too, face challenges in the implementation of the flexible-work arrangements. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that schools have been winning awards for their work-life strategies. I hope more school leaders like Jacinta will share their expertise with the others, and I’m sure they can play a part in inspiring other leaders to follow suit.

    Work-Life Excellence Award Showcase
  17. I encourage all of you to visit the panels set up by this year’s Work-Life Excellence Award winners during the break. By speaking to the winners about their work-life strategies, you can get more ideas for refining your own strategy to deliver greater results.

  18. In closing, I would like to thank the partners and TriCom members for organising this Week. I also extend my appreciation to all the organisations who will be sharing your work-life journeys. Your efforts in creating great workplaces for your employees and colleagues will inspire many others to do the same. Thank you.

1A “Flexibility Drives Productivity” 2012 study by Regus on 16,000 business respondents in 88 countries.