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The yin and yang of the local workforce

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Have Singaporean companies found the right balance between Asian and Western working styles?

There are clear differences in working styles between local and global talent, including having a preference for structure, a respect for hierarchy, being consensus-driven and risk averse and having less direct communication styles.

But according to a new collaborative report by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP), Community Business and Aperian Global, while these differences set Singaporean employees apart from their international peers, it might also create misconceptions resulting in a misalignment and bias when reviewing and accessing local talent.

“Our research shows that Singaporean talent brings unique strengths to leadership and organisational success, yet we observe that local employees often do not rise up through organisations to secure leadership positions,” Kate Vernon, director of strategy and communications of Community Business and co-author of the report, said.

Leaders have to be aware of these differences in order to best manage and utilise their local talent, so Singaporeans can work with traits from the best of both the Asian and Western worlds.

Vernon said there is a concern current talent development structures in Singapore may not be as inclusive as they could be, risking companies overlooking key talent in the pipeline.

“Leading companies are beginning to examine their approach to talent development – taking steps to better understand their local workforces and scrutinising their talent assessment processes to ensure they are appropriate to the local context,” she said.

In order to achieve balance for both employers and staff, companies need to be aware of cultural diversities within the organisation and engage in conversation to ensure fair expectations from both parties.

Companies also have to be cautious competency benchmarks are not skewed towards Western working styles and “take into account local interpretations in competency needs”, the report said.

“Focusing on talent development specifically in Singapore, we recommend a stronger focus on early-career global assignments, mentoring opportunities pairing Singaporeans with globally-located mentors, and talent development programmes linked to developing global versus generic leadership competencies,” the report said.

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