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The case for workplace fairness – Why SMEs should care
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The case for workplace fairness – Why SMEs should care

Employees who are treated fairly will be more motivated to do their best for the organisation, thus more likely to feel more meaningfully engaged and productive, experts from Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) point out.

New or old, big or small, every business needs to make workplace fairness their business.

It is essential to recognise that ensuring workplace fairness offers benefits to all organisations, including SMEs. Read on to find out why all employers should prioritise workplace fairness and start factoring it into their core business objectives.

More engaged and productive staff

As the saying goes, “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your organisation.”

In lean and resource-constrained SMEs, maximising the potential of each team member becomes even more critical for achieving sustainable growth. According to a 2021 survey by the Harvard Business Review, higher perceptions of fairness can improve employee performance by up to 26%.

When employees are treated fairly, they will be more motivated to do their best for the organisation. As a result, they are likely to feel more meaningfully engaged and productive, both in their individual tasks and interactions with colleagues.

Creating a fairer workplace can include putting non-discriminatory hiring practices in place, implementing transparent performance management processes, and ensuring fair and sustainable wages in accordance with the National Wages Council’s guidelines.

Better staff morale and a more harmonious workplace

Workplace conflicts are inevitable, but how they are handled and resolved lies in your hands.

A potential misconception in small close-knit teams is that a grievance handling process may be deemed unnecessary, as communication channels are relatively more open, and issues can be worked out informally.

But when miscommunication and misunderstandings occur, they can negatively impact staff morale and productivity if they are not managed properly, which could have even more far-reaching consequences in a small team. SMEs should put in place formal policies and processes to manage and resolve workplace disputes amicably, as this gives employees the assurance that the company cares about them and will find a way to address their grievances.

In fact, a strong culture of fairness not only reduces conflicts and prevents negative emotions from building up, but also improves cooperation within teams in the long run.

When conflicts are minimised, employees can focus their time and energy on delivering good quality work and achieving business outcomes.

Better access to the best talent

Attracting and retaining talent starts with fairness.

A 2022 report by the World Economic Forum found that 48% of SMEs cite talent attraction and retention as their biggest challenge. In today’s increasingly competitive labour market, what makes companies stand out are their culture and values. Those that prioritise and intentionally build a workplace culture based on fairness have a distinct advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, and can reduce turnover rates by up to 27%.

This can result in cost savings in the long run, helping SMEs – who already grapple with a tighter budget – save on the cost of hiring and retraining new employees.

No dedicated HR team? No worries

Despite limited resources, it makes good business sense for small firms to strengthen their HR capabilities. This can include fractional HR, where companies engage HR professionals on a part-time basis rather than hiring dedicated staff to save costs.

You can also appoint an existing employee such as a trusted manager or supervisor to be the dedicated person handling staff feedback or grievances and send them for relevant training workshops to equip them with the necessary skills for the role.

Prioritising workplace fairness

Achieving a balance between immediate priorities and proactively preparing for the workplace fairness legislation is crucial for organisation success. SMEs need to cultivate a culture that embraces workplace fairness along with business growth, as neglecting it can prove costlier in the long run.

Not sure where your organisation stands in terms of workplace fairness? Take a quick self-assessment via the Fair and Progressive Employment Index (FPEI).

TAFEP provides information and resources to help employers and HR professionals keep abreast of HR best practices. Visit to find out more.

ALSO READ: HRadiO: How HR professionals should prepare for the upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation (WFL) in Singapore

Photo: 123RF

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