25 January 2016

Four in five overseas Singaporeans are keen to work back home

Pie chart showing the reasons for recruiting returning Singaporeans. More than a third (35%) say it is because they have international exposure and expanded skillsets.
Source: Robert Walters.

According to the latest annual Global Salary Survey* from specialist professional recruitment firm Robert Walters, the competition for Singaporean talent is set to further intensify in 2016. This will drive more demand for attracting returning overseas Singaporeans. In the interest of developing a home-grown workforce and the Fair Consideration Framework**, hiring managers have recognised the viability of local talent who are currently overseas to ease the talent crunch.

Returning Singaporeans are an attractive talent pool as they typically have international exposure and expanded skillsets compared to Singaporeans who have not worked outside the country. Nearly a quarter (23%) say they have the ability to contribute a global mindset and understanding of the Singapore market. They are also likely to have multilingual skillsets and the ability to work cross culturally, Robert Walters notes.

This pool of talent will be a particular focus within the key areas of recruitment such as digital, cyber security, e-commerce and corporate governance. Firms looking to attract these professionals with specialist experience are likely to face the challenges of a limited talent pool and skills gap, the company said.

Robert Walters' Ivy Low, International Candidate Manager, said the Balik Kampung (a local term meaning to return to where you grew up) programme has been ramping up in the past few months. The initiative only began hiring activities in earnest in June 2015, she said, with awareness building prior to that. The company originally had 2,500 names in its database but added more when they began asking 'inactive' members in their lists globally if they would like to return to Singapore.

Many of those whom Robert Walters had reached out to said that they were either interested to return immediately, or that they were planning for it after several years, Low said. "There are a good handful who want to come back because of ageing parents, or for their children's education, " Low said, pegging this group as couples in their 30s or 40s who have parents in their 60s or 70s. "They see Singapore as home and want to come back home."

Potential employers have been very interested, especially those which have tried to conduct similar recruitment activities. Robert Walters has the advantage of dedicated resources to the programme, Low noted.

Clients want people who are sincere about coming back, Low said. On the other hand, many who want to come back may not find a match. "It is all about timing," Low said.

Data from the report suggests that salaries are expected to remain relatively flat in 2016, though candidates with the skills that are in demand can anticipate an average salary increment of 10 – 20% when switching jobs.

Fowlston delivers a presentation on the key results from the Salary Survey.
Fowlston delivers a presentation on the key results from the Salary Survey.

Toby Fowlston, MD, Robert Walters Southeast Asia, commented: “Singapore remains a crucial economic hub for Southeast Asia and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, with a dynamic recruitment market to match. As organisations vie for the best Singaporean professionals, the hiring landscape in 2016 will be candidate driven. To gain an edge in talent attraction and retention, companies need to look beyond offering attractive salary packages. It is essential to constantly assess interview processes as well as training and development programs for stronger employer branding.”

Three out of four overseas Singaporeans will not return without first securing a job, however. Several benefits are rated by overseas Singaporeans as top sweeteners to a package, Fowlston added. One out of two returning Singaporeans expect a 15% increment over their existing salary, he shared. However, only one out of five companies are willing to give a new hire that 15% increment. "The reality in Singapore is that we have some wage inflation," he said.

Flexitime is another popular benefit, but many have found that they end up working longer hours than on a standard package, and have asked to switch later on, he said. A clear career progression, flexible working hours, and a relocation allowance, including for housing and transport, are also deal-makers.

According to Fowlston, nine out of 10 employers would be happy to hire returning Singaporeans, and 46% have already done so.

Other highlights for Singapore in 2016:

 There will be vacancies for secretaries who can support whole divisions, as well as for top-tier executive secretaries and office managers who can run an office independently

 Singapore’s position as an arbitration hub will boost hiring levels within private practice. Lawyers with proven track records and familiarity with the Singapore market will be sought after for in-house legal teams

 In the accounting field, employers offering training and development, flexible working hours and overseas work opportunities are likely to retain professionals. Specialists skilled in niche areas such as treasury, tax and internal audit are in high demand due to the limited talent pool
 Continued offshoring and cost management measures within financial services, particularly investment banking, will fuel market uncertainty, but professionals in cash management, trade finance sales and structured trade will see job opportunities

 Strong recruitment demand within technology, particularly for specialists in data protection and cyber security as firms defend themselves from online threats, driving up salaries by as much as 20% for job movers

 Perception shifts in the market on contracting has created a healthy pool of highly-qualified professionals becoming 'career contractors' in search of better work-life balance

 Despite moves to a business-partnering HR function, continuous restructuring will result in leaner HR operations. Therefore HR professionals will still be expected to be more hands-on, regardless of seniority

According to the recruitment firm, the banking sector continued to experience difficulties in 2015, feeling the impact of further cost cutting and increased offshoring. While uncertainty following the China slowdown made financial companies reluctant to increase their permanent headcount, the contract market saw a boost.

IT professionals experienced strong demand for their skills in 2015. There was particularly high demand for those with specialist skills in cyber security and e-commerce.

The company advises employers to be specific about role requirements and the career opportunities on offer, and provide clear timelines for their interview processes to secure the best talent. "Hiring teams need to be in agreement about what they are looking for, to avoid sending mixed messages to candidates. It is also imperative that all stakeholders are agreed on salary budget at the beginning of the recruitment process," the company noted in the Singapore pages for its Salary Survey 2016.

Recruitment in Malaysia is likely to remain cautious in the first half of 2016 due to pressures from the weak ringgit as well as falling crude oil prices. Across sectors, hiring is only anticipated either for replacement positions or within critical business units, Robert Walters said.

With a slowdown in recruitment, employers are turning their efforts towards upskilling their existing professionals. This strategic move is expected to assist companies with retaining their top talent in preparation for the economy's recovery. Hiring is anticipated to rise in the latter half of 2016 as the Malaysian economy is expected to stabilise.

Published figures suggested that qualified job movers with in-demand skills such as IT and corporate governance can expect an average overall salary package increment of 20-25% in 2016.

Sally Raj, MD, Robert Walters Malaysia, comments: "In times of market uncertainty, companies need to see the long-term value of investing in their employees. Staff retention is now more crucial than ever as Malaysian professionals are highly motivated by training and development initiatives as well as leadership opportunities. Despite this general slowdown, growth is still forecasted within IT, corporate governance and Islamic banking, all of which are driving recruitment of top-tier skilled specialists."

Other highlights for Malaysia in 2016:

 Demand for accounting and finance professionals experienced in project management and the shared services businesses environment as more multinational corporations migrate their functions to Malaysia

 Malaysia remains the biggest player in the global Islamic banking industry which will drive more opportunities for relevant professionals, particularly in Islamic asset management

 As the technology space experiences rapid growth, more firms are likely to utilise digital channels to boost revenue. This will increase positions for IT specialists skilled in big data and e-commerce

 Penang has been earmarked as a hub for semiconductor and electrical and electronics (E&E)  manufacturing as more foreign direct investments enter the state

Robert Walters focuses on placing high-calibre professionals into permanent, contract and temporary positions at all levels of seniority. The Singapore business recruits across the accounting, banking, business support, compliance, financial services, HR, legal, IT, risk, sales, supply chain, marketing, procurement and supply chain fields. The Malaysia business recruits across the accountancy and finance, banking, business support, compliance, financial services, HR, legal, IT, sales, supply chain, marketing, procurement and supply chain fields.


Read the WorkSmart Asia blog post about the launch of the Balik Kampung programme

WorkSmart Asia also covered how Singapore fared in the Robert Walters Asia Jobs Index

*Compiled by Robert Walters' dedicated research division, the Salary Survey is based on an analysis of placements made across the company's network of offices and specialist disciplines during the course of 2015. Now in its 17th year, the Survey is used by employers, HR managers and employees for benchmarking salary levels within their industry. 

**The Fair Consideration Framework, launched in 2014, legislates on local employment quotas.

posted from Bloggeroid