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Study: Singapore Employees Do Not Feel Empowered for the Digital Age

While 62% of Singapore employees consider themselves to be mobile workers and spend at least 20% of their time working outside of their offices, only 37% feel empowered by their organization’s culture and managers to be able to work together productively and collaboratively, according to Microsoft’s Asia Workplace 2020 Study.

In addition, only 26% of respondents agree that their organization is committed at a leadership level to ensure every employee is included in closing the digital skills gaps within the workforce.

The study, which involved close to 4,200 working professionals from 14 markets in Asia, sought to understand shifting employee behaviors and gaps in the workplace when it came to productivity, collaboration and flexi-work practices. This included 307 respondents from Singapore.

“As Asia primes itself to become the most connected market with more than half of all mobile connections originating from the region by 20212, organizations need to rethink how they empower their workforce with the right culture, policy, infrastructure and tools to maximize their potential,” says Kevin Wo, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.

“This means enabling collaboration from anywhere, on any device. However, it is also critical for business leaders to evaluate and implement changes to counter cultural and management challenges that are hindering employees to work seamlessly from wherever they are, which will in turn, hinder an organization’s growth and progress in the digital age.”

A Digitally Savvy Workforce is Key to Digital Transformation

An earlier version of the study conducted in 2015 found that 39 out of 100 respondents in Singapore were ready for the New World of Work, whereby organizations had the right People, Place and Technology principles in place to enable a productive, collaborative and innovative workforce. This year, 44 out of 100 respondents felt so, indicating that organizations in the market are slightly more equipped, although more can be done to move the needle.

But beyond People, Place and Technology factors, the rise of the 4th industrial revolution has also accelerated the pace of transformation. A recent Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study conducted in late 2016 found that ‘Empowering Employees’ is the number three digital transformation priority among Singapore’s business leaders. On the other hand, lack of a digitally skilled workforce was the number one barrier in their digital transformation journey.

New Work Styles and Organizational Conflicts Need to Be Addressed

It is evident that mobile professionals in the market are embracing flexi-work today, and organizations should look at new workplace practices, especially with the impeding influx of digital natives (born after 2000) entering the workforce for the first time.

Majority of the respondents (80%) value work-life integration today, where the boundaries of work and life have blurred, but have enabled mobile professionals to be able to collaborate and work virtually.

The study also found that organizations need to address several structural challenges within the workplace to ready themselves for the digital age, as well as flexi-work practices:

  • Organization’s leaders are a key enabler to drive flexi-work practices in the workplace: Only 26% agree that their organization’s leadership is committed in bridging the digital skills gap in the workplace.
  • Organizational culture is important: Only 23% agree that their organization has invested in culture development through training and development led by HR.
  • Access to newer, data-centric technologies to enhance collaboration and productivity: Only 21% feel that their organization has invested in analytics and data tools to help them make informed and timely decisions; only 22% agree that their organization has given them tools to simplify workflows.

New World of Teams Requires New Approaches 

Workplace shifts have undeniably resulted in new ways of work, where technologies have enabled increased collaboration between individuals and teams across geographies and groups. However, the Study found that there were certain gaps today that hindered collaborative and productive outcomes from teams.

The top five challenges included:

  • Too many face to face meetings that are taking up productive time (36%);
  • Teams are too rigid and not open to new ways of work (29%)
  • Teams take too long to respond to internal issues (26%);
  • Teams are not open to new initiatives to improve processes (20%);
  • Information about the team’s work or project is scattered in multiple places (17%)

However, respondents feel that strong leadership and vision (45%), support from manager (44%) and access to technology tools for collaboration (41%) can help build more collaborative teams.

Access to Newer, Collaborative Technologies will Enhance Productivity

The study also found that respondents are seeking better devices to help them become more productive at work. Beyond hardware requirements, 34% hope to have access to information and data on mobile devices, 26% wish for cloud-based productivity tools and 21% hope for real-time collaboration capabilities.

When asked about emerging technologies that will help build better work environments by 2020, 48% think real-time intelligences will help them make informed decisions at work, and 44% believe artificial intelligence will be able to help perform tasks independently. Thirty-three percent look forward to virtual workspaces that support instant messaging and document sharing.

“As the nature of work changes, how employees collaborate and work together will be impacted as well. It is critical for business and HR leaders to seek ways to better empower individuals and remove barriers to collaborate for the digital age, especially when the Study clearly identifies gaps that can be minimized with technology. However, it is also important for businesses to also bridge the leadership and employee gap with more focus on people and culture,” said Wo.

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