THE Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) Management Monitor was first conducted in 2009. It aimed to be a comprehensive survey of management attitudes and sentiments in Singapore. 782 mid-level to C-suite managers from various organisations participated in the 2012 survey. The main focus of the 2012 survey were key management trends, focus on small- and medium-enterprises, SMEs, and management needs for the future.
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Jeffery Tan presenting the survey findings to the audience.
A forum was held in SIM Management House on 27 September 2012 to discuss findings, draw inferences on reasons for the managerial sentiments, and learn how to stay competitive in the business environment. The panellists were Professor Sundaram Janakiramanan, head of finance programme, school of business, UniSIM, Heng Thye Yong, former executive director on the board of SSH Corporation Ltd, and Elizabeth Martin-Chua, former senior vice-president of human resources at Philips Electronics.
Attended by 50 participants, SIM’s Strategic Plans and Research director, Jeffery Tan presented an overview of the survey findings. Professor Jana says the survey may have provided a report of managerial sentiments, but does not explain the reasons for such sentiments. He invited the audience to give their views on the survey findings.
Seated in front of the audience were panellists (from left): Elizabeth Martin-Chua, Dr Sundaram Janakiramanan, and Heng Thye Yong.
The first item discussed was the sharp contrast between managers’ sentiments towards Singapore’s economy and the global economy. Forty-five per cent of Singapore managers are optimistic about the local economy while 53 per cent are pessimistic about the global outlook. Heng explained that this is unusual as Singapore’s economy is tied closely to the global economy.
Another issue was the problem of finding and retaining talent in SMEs. Elizabeth says attracting talent is a matter of how they sell their image or employer brand. SMEs can improve on their image and potential employees will return the respect shown to them.
SMEs cited concerns about the shortage of local talent and the need for more foreigners. Elizabeth advised where there is a real shortage, turn to foreigners. Where there is surplus, it should be given to locals, even if it is slightly more expensive. If companies explain themselves clearly and are transparent in their dealings, people will be receptive.
A concern raised is that many employees leave jobs because of poor direct-report relations. Elizabeth says companies need to take more responsibility in both fulfilling their duties and engaging their employees. Heng says a company without good people cannot be a good company. He emphasises the need for companies to sell themselves better to employees. SMEs are well-positioned in this because they are able to offer potential employees tremendous growth opportunities and accelerate their careers.
Another issue is that the take-up rate of government assistance schemes for SMEs remains low, even though there may be awareness of it. Heng says some companies may be better informed than others. He agrees that some schemes may be too generic. It is important to work with industry associations and experts to develop programmes that really meet the needs of SMEs. Application processes can be made less onerous, without detracting from the importance of ensuring funds are administered correctly.
A participant in the forum fielding a question.
Janakiramanan summarised the forum by saying that a lot of SMEs are unable to progress either because of mindset challenges, or the lack of time. There are about 186,000 SMEs. Only about 10 or 20 per cent are set to grow. The others may languish, or decide to exit. The question from the government’s point of view is whether they should concentrate on the 20 per cent with growth potential, or the other portion.
Catherine Chan, a consultant who was a participant at the forum found the session to be insightful. She was able to discern a perception gap between two communities—people who are looking for jobs and the SMEs: “I find there is actually a gap in the thinking because the SMEs think that it is difficult to attract talent, but a lot of talent do not know that SMEs want them. So there’s really a mismatch. These people are out there still searching, and the SMEs are looking for it, but there’s no suitable match.”
Tengku Sri Indra, managing principal, SDG Asia, who was in attendance, said: “I think it gives you a good perspective, of exchange of experiences, ideas, and thoughts. It’s a good balance between functional skills like HR in Elizabeth and Mr Heng who talks about the business aspect. The networking gives you a chance to look at what other people are doing and learn from them.” He thinks the survey should place more emphasis on leadership.
Copyright © 2012 Singapore Institute of Management