Companies in Singapore at risk of losing talent as mental health and workforce exhaustion slip from risk radar: Mercer Marsh Benefits report
Singapore, 4 August 2022 – Cyber security and data privacy (#1), administration and fiduciary (#2) as well as catastrophic personal life events (#3) have emerged as the top three people risks for companies in Singapore.
This is according to People Risk: Resetting priorities to manage risks for workforce and business resilience, a new report by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB), which surveyed 2500+ HR professionals and Risk Managers across Asia on the top 25 people risks impacting businesses today.
While companies have identified these as pressing priorities in the short to medium term, with 52% planning to invest in mitigating these risks, this may have come at the expense of support for employees. A gap in what employers say and do, a divergence in how human resource (HR) and Risk Managers weigh different threats as well as a failure to take a holistic view of individual risks are putting companies in Singapore in danger of losing top talent.
Closing the say-do gap
In Singapore, nine in 10 (92%) companies regard health and safety as the most serious threat to business, compared to organizations in Asia (89%) and globally (87%). Yet, far fewer are taking action to address these risks, particularly with regards to mental health and workforce exhaustion. Only 66% of employers in Singapore are actively taking steps to mitigate risks on employee mental health challenges, lower than the global (70%) and Asia average (74%). When it comes to workforce exhaustion, only 62% are addressing the risk as compared to global (66%) and Asia average (69%).
At the Singapore Health Forum organized by Mercer Marsh Benefits last week, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Defence, highlighted the importance of employee mental well-being and the long-term benefits it has on employee retention and morale as well as lowering absenteeism. With employee burnout on the rise in Singapore, he shared that companies need to shift their focus from treatment to prevention of mental health challenges, and take concrete actions to mitigate these risks before it becomes a larger business issue. He also suggested that companies should set the tone and foster a culture in which employees can be open about their struggles and feel assured that they would receive support from both leaders and peers.
Neil Narale, MMB Leader, Singapore, says, “Half of the workforce in Singapore feel stressed every day, one in three employees are considering resigning in the next six months and Singapore is officially the fourth most overworked city in the world. Yet, companies continue to focus on immediate threats, placing serious risks like mental health (#18) and workforce exhaustion (#17) in the backseat. It’s time for employers to prioritize these risks by creating a holistic talent strategy and realigning benefits programs to better support employees. When organizations start to put their people first, they will not only attract and retain top talent, but will also build a more resilient workforce in the long run.”
Differing priorities for HR Leaders and Risk Managers
The report also highlighted disparities in the different risks HR and Risk Managers prioritize. Risk Managers in Singapore were more concerned about workforce exhaustion (#6), ranking it among the top 10 risks compared to HR Leaders (#23). On the other hand, HR Leaders prioritized talent attraction and retention amid a tight labor market (#8) while Risk Managers ranked it #18.
Equally worrying is the divergence in how Risk Managers and HR Managers view the rising cost of wellbeing benefits, with HR Leaders prioritizing it at #11 and Risk Managers ranking it at #21.
Mr Narale adds, “The difference in sentiment between HR and Risk Managers likely stems from differing views of risks and the overall organizational goals. At a time when companies are facing unprecedented challenges, it’s more important than ever for both HR and Risk Managers to work together to agree on the severity of each risk and are part of the actions to address it. Failure to do so will only further exhaust the workforce, causing employee burnout and low engagement, ultimately affecting financial performance.”
A more holistic approach needed
While employee health and safety and talent retention are both pressing people risks, 86% of companies also ranked accelerated digitization as a serious threat. Among digitization risks, cybersecurity and data privacy emerged as the top threat to businesses, impacting both a business’ financial performance and reputation.
What HR and Risk Managers failed to recognize is that cybersecurity and data privacy is as much a people as it is a technology issue. One in three companies reported that monitoring remote work access was a challenge in Singapore and, similarly, one in three said that employee-owned devices used during the pandemic were responsible for security incidents.
Workforce exhaustion (#17) is also inter-related. A study by IBM found that overworked and stressed employees are more likely to make mistakes, as human error accounts for 95% of cyber security breaches. Data privacy risk is also exacerbated by high employee turnover.
“As such, companies need to pay just as much attention to talent retention, ranked currently #10”, says Mr Narale.
“People risks are all intrinsically linked. Talent is linked to cyber issues, workforce exhaustion linked to mental health issues, and mental health is linked to both talent and financial issues. To effectively mitigate the people risks impacting the business, companies need to take a holistic approach instead of resolving each challenge on its own. Moving forward, HR and Risk Managers will play critical roles, working as a team to mitigate people risks linked to health and safety, talent practices and accelerated digitization.”