DPM Heng Swee Keat at the celebration of Great Workplaces Awards Ceremony 2022

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 17 November 2022

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the celebration of Great Workplaces Awards Ceremony 2022 on 17 November 2022.

Mr Michael C. Bush, 
Global CEO, Great Place to Work

Mrs Joni Ong and Ms Evelyn Kwek, 
Managing Directors, Great Place to Work ASEAN & ANZ

Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good evening to all of you. I am delighted to be back at this year’s Best Workplaces Awards ceremony, and to see so many of us gathered today to support this important initiative. When we think of great workplaces, the first things that come to our mind could be material perks, like free flow coffee and comfortable lounges. These are no doubt important, but the true test of a great workplace is whether it elevates work to become a source of inspiration, purpose, and fulfilment.    

This is what our award winners this evening have achieved. So, let me begin by congratulating all our award winners. You put your people at the heart of what you do, working together to weather the global pandemic, economic disruptions and many other challenges. A great workplace can exist in any industry, and in companies big and small. But the spotlight in previous years tend to be larger firms. So, I am happy to see a new “Micro” award category this year, celebrating the commitment of start-ups and companies with less than 30 staff to build great workplaces and cultures. 

The post-pandemic workplace

As we learn to live with COVID-19, we are also crystallising new norms for the workplace. Let me highlight two of them. 

One, flexible work arrangements have become a core part of working life, and not merely a perk offered by progressive employers. The pandemic accelerated the pace of digitalisation, and showed us the possibilities of flexible work arrangements, especially remote work and staggered working hours. This has made workplace flexibility much more prevalent. Even as the pandemic fades, some degree of flexible work is here to stay. Nick Bloom, a Stanford economist, found that employees were willing to forgo a 10% pay increase for returning to the office full-time, because they valued their hybrid work arrangements. But thankfully, many employers, including the Singapore Public Service, are offering flexible work without any pay implications! 

Two, our COVID-19 experience has strengthened our commitment to well-being and engagement at the workplace. We drew lessons from the stressors brought about by the pandemic, such as caring for our family while working remotely; and going beyond our typical work scope and hours to the point of burnout. We recognised that for employees to contribute their best at work, they must also be managing well outside of work. So today, we speak more openly about mental wellness, and offer resources to support our employees’ well-being. Employee engagement now goes beyond team building and career development, to include supporting better work-life harmony, and enabling employees to be their best selves both at work and outside of work. 

These shifts are positive and timely, as they take place against a backdrop of broader trends. For example, caregiving commitments will grow as our society ages. Our elderly parents will require support from us, and we will need to juggle their care with work commitments. Economic cycles are increasingly volatile and challenging. The fourth industrial revolution is transforming businesses and jobs. This will exert greater stress and anxiety on employees, who will need to upskill and reskill in order to remain relevant. These are significant national issues that we are tackling under the Forward Singapore exercise. 

Great Workplaces 

Over the years, we have been making good progress to build strong and progressive workplaces, through the efforts of Great Place to Work, as Michael has described, and other initiatives. In my engagements with companies, I get to observe first-hand how they run their businesses and support their employees. From these interactions, I have several takeaways. 

The first is people-centric transformation. I earlier mentioned how technology such as robotics and AI are changing the workplace as we know it. But effective economic transformation requires companies to not only build new enterprise capabilities and grow their markets, but also upskill their workers and enhance the workplace to bring out the best of their employees. Change is inherently stressful. Workers need to adjust to new roles, pick up new skills, and work in new teams. So, we must put people at the heart of what we do, for economic transformation and people development are inseparable and mutually reinforcing forces. 

Second, taking a more people-centric approach to transformation means paying attention to your employees’ holistic well-being and care, in addition to equipping them with hard skills. Good employers recognise the stressors generated by technological disruption and transformation. They also know that employees need to manage the duality of work and life. They offer options like flexible work arrangements, and resources for employees to care for their mental well-being. 

Third, what truly sets great workplaces apart is not the schemes that they put in place, but the strength of the trust and purpose they share with their employees. Employees who feel empowered by their employers go the extra mile, enabling them to achieve greater things with their employers. Employers who demonstrate genuine care and concern make employees feel value and trusted. Trust begets trusts. It enables employers and employees to tide through challenges and uncertainty together, where both sides are able to adjust and adapt. This is the foundation of a great workplace culture, which helps to retain and attract talent. We see this in this year’s winners – your employees have spoken positively for you, because they are proud to be part of your organisation and contributing to your success!

Employers are not alone in this journey of transformation and building great workplaces. We have a strong eco-system that supports them in bringing out the best of their employees and building progressive workplaces. Our tripartite partners are at the forefront of improving workplace norms and practices, such as through the Tripartite Guidelines on flexible work arrangements, which will be introduced by 2024. The Ministry of Manpower, Workplace Safety and Health Council, and the Institute for Human Resource Professionals have been working together to develop playbooks and resources. These enables employers across the industries and sectors to share best practices, grow capabilities, and build better workplaces for their employees. 

Let me conclude. In this era of volatility and disruption, great workplaces will anchor employers and employees in riding the winds of change to emerge stronger. A great workplace, which all of you here embrace, is characterised by putting people at the heart of transformation, with a strong emphasis on the holistic well-being of your employees, and a high degree of trust and purpose. Employers are not alone in this journey, for we have a strong tripartite movement behind our economic transformation efforts.  

I hope that we will continually learn from and inspire one another to create the best possible workplaces for our people. This year’s winners lead the way as role models. From technology firms to boutique consultancies, the diversity is proof that a great workplace can be in any industry, and a company of any size. I also commend Joni, Evelyn, and the team at Great Place to Work, for sharing research and best practices across countries. Together, we can make work a joyful and purposeful part of our lives. 

Let me once again congratulate this year’s Award winners. 

Thank you and have a great evening.