Motivating millennials: The importance of employee engagement in Singapore

  • Published: 2 May 2018
  • Author: Tess Zinnes

Companies always say, “People are our biggest asset.” Their actions, however, are sparse when it comes to translating this sentiment into appreciation. While previous generations are accustomed to this status quo, millennials are less gracious. According to a 2018 Aonstudy, only 56 percent of full-time, Singaporean millennial employees are engaged in their work. This statistic is jaw-dropping considering that millennials compose the largest generational segment of the workforce.  In a regional context, Singapore is tied for last place at fifty-nine percent engagement, alongside Hong Kong, compared to other Asian countries.

Employee engagement is defined by Aon as “the level of an employee’s psychological investment in their organization.” Levels are measured by asking employees if they:

  1. are motivated to offer their best effort at their companies;
  2. speak positively about their company;
  3. plan on staying at their company for a long time.

Millennial apathy manifests itself into a vicious recruitment-retention Human Resources nightmare, which directly curbs a company’s performance. A Gallup study (whose results for Asia mirrored those of Aon) quantified the importance of engagement levels by showing that top-quartile business units outperformothersby:

    1. 24% to 59% lower turnover rates
    2. 10% higher customer loyalty
    3. 20% higher productivity (sales)
    4. 21% higher profitability

With two out of three millennials hoping to switch companies by 2020, recruitment and retention are of particular concern. While salary and financial benefits are the top determinants of millennials’ employer selection, it is unsustainable for companies to rely on bribery in exchange for shallow loyalty. The good news is that other factors can compensate for salary in an employment package.

Millennials will vote with their feet and select your company for the long haul if you cater to their needs. Excluding compensation, four of the top six reasons employees select an organization are (in descending order of importance):

  1. Sense of meaning from work
  2. Professional development training programs
  3. The impact their organization has on society
  4. Strong sense of purpose

Female millennials in particular
 place the ability to draw a sense of meaning from work at a higher priority than do men, which is insightful for those companies seeking to boost female representation. Given this context, it is therefore unsurprising that 86 percent of millennials believe that business success needs to be measured by more than just financial performance. Companies that leverage these insights will see increased millennial loyalty and productivity.
CSR Asia in Singapore recently launched an Employee Engagement Campaign that utilizes interactive trainings to increase engagement among millennials. Given that Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources declared 2018 as the Year of Climate Action, the quarterly trainings provide individual and workplace strategies to combat climate change. Companies can also choose to align the trainings to their industry and/or CSR strategy. Only 13 percent of millennials feel their organizations are addressing social and environmental challenges. This gap presents an opportunity for companies to create a culture of engagement that differentiates them from competitors among millennials.

Henkel Singapore is one company ahead of the curve that offers a range of climate related employee engagement opportunities. As a first step, employees are joining the company by making individual climate action pledges. Another 120 employees are being trained to become Sustainability Ambassadors. Sustainability Ambassadors will then go to schools to teach children green tips that they can apply at home. Henkel’s climate commitments have put in motion a ripple effect of action throughout the community.

People are the intangible capital that drive a business’ success and today these people are purpose-motivated millennials. Purpose is not innate, however. Companies must cultivate the “why” behind how an employee’s work matters to their team, company, and society. Developing this motivational narrative is essential to meeting the expectations of millennials and thus gaining their loyalty and raising their productivity. Employee engagement trainings can be an effective first step towards this empowering goal.

For questions regarding CSR Asia Singapore’s Employee Engagement Campaign on Climate Action, please contact Tess Zinnes at [email protected].

Cited Sources:
2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement, AON
The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Winning over the next generation of leaders
The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, Apprehensive Millennials:  seeking stability and opportunities  in an uncertain world
2016 Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis Report
Pew Research Center defines “millennials” as anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22-37 in 2018).