From salary to work-life balance: What motivates Singaporean workers?

Robert Half research has found work-life balance has become a more prominent motivation for many Singaporean professionals than a higher salary.

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide reveals the latest hiring trends and in-depth salary data for Singapore’s finance and accounting industry

  • Top three primary reasons why Singaporean workers change jobs: Work-life balance (25%), financial rewards (24%) and career development (23%). 
  • 99% of Singaporean CFOs have staff retention policies in place, with training and professional development programs being the most popular initiative (57%).  
  • 99% of CFOs in Singapore plan to attribute salary increases to an average of 25% of their finance staff, with the average salary increase expected to be 7%. 
  • Top three finance positions in demand in 2018.

Salary is generally the key incentive for Singaporean professionals to remain with their employer. However, according to new independent research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half and published in the newly-released 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide, the desire for work-life balance has become a more prominent motivation for many Singaporean professionals than a higher salary. 

According to the survey among 500 Singaporean jobseekers, one in four (25%) Singaporean office workers would leave their current organisation to get a better work-life balance, followed closely by 24% who refer to financial rewards and 23% citing career development. Another 16% refer to management/leadership and 5% to co-workers as being the primary reason why they would leave the organisation.

Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, Managing Director of Robert Half Singapore said: “Salary remains a significant part of a remuneration package in Singapore and companies realise that they have to offer above-average salary packages to secure high-calibre professionals. However, there’s been a steady shift of preferences from jobseekers who are looking for more work-life balance, and even prioritise non-financial incentives other than just a higher salary. Companies looking to attract and retain top performers need to consider other non-financial incentives, such as workplace flexibility and the option to work from home, especially if they are not in a position to award pay increases or above-average salary rates.” 

Pay rises awarded to top performers in 2018
Despite the fact that work-life balance is increasingly becoming a key motivator for Singapore’s professionals, salary remains a crucial incentive to attract and retain top talent, especially hard-to-find professionals. In a market characterised by growing skills shortages, the finance and accounting sector is a perfect example as 100% of Singaporean CFOs say it is challenging to find qualified finance and accounting professionals, with many planning to award above-average salary increases to their top finance employees this year. 

As revealed in the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide, the overwhelming majority (99%) of Singaporean CFOs plan to award pay rises to an average of 25% of their finance staff, with the average salary increase expected to be 7%. This positive salary sentiment is a wider reflection on increasing national wage growth, with a 4.3% increase in average income in 2017, versus an increase of 2.7% in 2016 .

“Highly skilled financial professionals will naturally gravitate towards more attractive remuneration packages, particularly in a candidate-short market. These professionals are aware of their value in the employment market, further emphasising the need for employers to continuously benchmark their staff’s salaries against competing levels. This makes resources such as a salary guide an invaluable asset for both jobseekers and employers looking to better understand the market.” 

Non-financial employee retention initiatives 
Singaporean finance employers understand the importance of having a well-developed retention policy to achieve business goals. Almost all (99%) of Singaporean CFOs state they have in place employee retention initiatives within their organisation, with more than half (57%) offering training and professional development programs to aid their staff in upskilling and half (51%) offering flexible working arrangements, such as the option to work from home. Just under half (49%) are implementing employee appreciation programs and 47% have in place employee wellness programs. Just over four in 10 (43%) are conducting regular salary reviews. 

“With Singapore’s employers vying over top financial talent, it’s vital for companies to have a proactive recruitment and retention strategy in place to not only hire top talent, but also to avoid losing their best people. It’s not just about finding and recruiting the best people, retention strategies are essential for business growth, as losing talent can lead to lost productivity and increased workloads for current staff,” concluded Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard.  

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide has identified the top finance and accounting roles in demand in 2018  – The Singaporean workforce’s shift towards digitisation is driving a hiring competition for professionals with niche skills and expertise. Finance and accounting professionals who can adapt quickly and increase efficiencies for their organisation will find themselves in high demand:

•    Financial Planning and Analysis Manager 

  Salary Range      
Percentiles 25th 50th 75th 95th 
  $90,000 $115,000 $140,000 $160,000

Source: 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide 

With businesses focused on initiatives aimed at supporting growth, employment options for Managers within the Financial Planning and Analysis function will continue to increase. Highly skilled Financial Planning and Analysis Managers with well-developed technical and communication skills are able to negotiate an above-average starting salary.  

•    Finance Manager 

  Salary Range      
Percentiles 25th 50th 75th 95th 
  $90,000  $110,000 $135,000 $150,000

Source: 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide 

Finance Managers are in high demand in 2018, particularly those with well-developed communication skills and business acumen. They are perfectly placed to offer expert insight and financial advice to help their organisation make the most informed decisions. 

•    Tax Manager 

  Salary Range      
Percentiles 25th 50th 75th 95th 
  $100,000  $130,000 $160,000 $175,000

Source: 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide 

Demand has increased for Tax Managers as companies look to increase their efficiencies in fiscal matters and manage their tax statements and returns for their business and clients. This demand is placing highly-skilled tax professionals in a favourable position to negotiate a higher starting salary. 

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About the Robert Half Salary Guide
The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide is the most comprehensive and authoritative resource on starting salaries and recruitment trends in finance and accounting, financial services and information technology.

It offers a comprehensive overview of the current salary ranges, industry trends and specific job trends for finance and accounting, financial services and technology professionals. The results and insights of the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide are based on comprehensive analyses, local job placements, local expertise and independent research of executives and office workers. 

About the research
The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in December 2017 by an independent research company, surveying 75 CFOs with the finance and accounting sector in Singapore. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace. An additional study was developed by Robert Half and conducted in January 2018 by an independent research company among 500 jobseekers in Singapore.

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