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Speech at Best Companies to Work For Awards Ceremony

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower , Conrad Centennial Singapore

Michael Bush, CEO Great Place To Work, USA

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

I welcome the launch of “Best Companies to Work for” here in Singapore.

  1. Employment growth in Singapore has slowed down.    
  2. On the supply side, we have slowed down the growth of foreign manpower, to keep it in tandem with the growth of our local manpower.
  3. On the demand side, more companies in more sectors are making better use of technology and improving work processes to save manpower.
  4. This slowdown in employment and workforce growth is in line with our repositioning to become a more “manpower-lean” economy, with higher productivity and faster pace of innovation. 
  5. As we continue on this journey of economic transition, companies will face two challenges.
  6. First, to compete for manpower in a tight labour market, they will have to become better employers.
  7. Second, to sustain growth in a manpower-lean economy, they will have to learn to maximise the full potential of every employee. Otherwise, manpower will become the bottleneck of future growth. 
  8. In a recent dialogue I had with a group of SME employers, one business owner expressed his unhappiness with our local employees. He has not been able to attract and retain his local staff and he hoped we would do a U-turn and allow the more liberal intake of foreign workers again. 
  9. I shared with him that when I was with the NTUC, there were workers who were unhappy with their employers too.
  10. When employers and workers point fingers at each other, nobody wins. Workers are not motivated to give their best to the companies and in turn employers are not able to offer their best to the customers.
  11. A better way forward is for both sides (employers and employees) to value each other more, and work together to create a healthy relationship for a win-win partnership and outcome.
  12. Given our low unemployment and high employment rates in Singapore, the best companies to work for will have to excel in the following three aspects:
  13. First, respect and value every worker in an inclusive way – low-wage workers, young and inexperienced workers, mature workers, back-to-work parents, mid-career workers, part-time workers, casual and non-traditional workers  and more.
  14. These various categories of workers may have different needs and aspirations, but I believe they all have one thing in common: they all want to have good jobs and meaningful careers, be treated fairly and be valued and recognised for their contributions.
  15. For them, the best companies to work for are those that provide them with fair and equal opportunities, and those that help them to acquire the right skills, put them in the right jobs and nurture them to move up the right career ladder.
  16. In short, they look for employers who do not focus on their weaknesses since no one is perfect. Instead, focus on their strengths and build on them so that everyone can improve, change for the better, and grow in their careers.  
  17. Second, the commitment to upgrade and deepen their roots in the local community. 
  18. In a globalised economy, we see at least two types of enterprises – the hunter and the farmer.
  19. “Hunter” enterprises are more opportunistic, more responsive to market, and more mobile too. They upsize and hire quickly when market is up, and downsize, fire and relocate quickly too when market is down. 
  20. “Farmer” enterprises are responsive and hard- headed too, but they also believe in investing for the longer term. They are prepared to ride out any downturn and gear up for the next upturn.
  21. They look at human resources as the most valuable capital of the enterprise.
  22. They embrace “glocalisation” – globalising their business operations while localising their human capital so as to deepen the roots in the local community as responsible corporate citizens.
  23. In short, they look at Singapore as their home away from home, forging strong mutual commitment between the enterprise and the local community.   
  24. Last but not least, the ability to compete for customers and passion to care for their employees. A competitive company is a good company to work for. A caring company is a better company to work for.
  25. However, the best company to work for has to be one that is both competitive and caring, and committed to putting people first.
  26. These companies who take good care of not only the customers, but also the employees are well positioned for future growth.
  27. They are able to run faster, go farther, and grow together as one enterprise.
  28. To succeed, transforming workplaces into great workplaces has to be the joint responsibility of the management and staff.
  29. Active and two-way engagement make all the difference, between good companies, better companies and the best companies to work for.
  30. I congratulate all the companies that have made it to the first list of “Best Companies to Work For” by Great Place to Work Singapore.
  31. These companies have built inclusive workplaces, with sound HR policies to ensure a diverse mix of employees hired and developed on merit.
  32. They have received high scores from their employees for high levels of trust, and for treating their employees with respect and fairness.
  33. They show us that every company, regardless of size and industry, has the potential to be a great place to work. 
  34. I hope your achievement will inspire many more companies to strive to be best companies to work for as we continue to transform and grow.  

Thank you.