Spotlight on rewards trends in Singapore – H2 2023

Author Janard Liew
September 26, 2023

It is fascinating to observe how the rewards market has adjusted since last year, where we saw record demand and hiring levels for compensation and benefits professionals.

Fast forward 10 months later, while rewards hiring has managed to retain its momentum despite broader economic challenges, organisations have certainly adopted a more conservative approach. For example, applying modest salary increments (+10% to 12% instead of the former 18% to 20%+), also stretching out the number of interview rounds to check for consistencies and/or increased support for the hires.

What remains unchanged is that total rewards has continued to innovate and remain at the top of the leadership discussions, and we highlight three recent hiring trends that are apparent –

Higher demand for middle management in rewards

With Singapore’s vital role as the strategic and regional hub for many multinational organisations, there tends to be a larger concentration of rewards leaders based here to help facilitate stakeholder management with the regional leadership team. The talent pool historically thins out towards the middle management (Manager, Specialist, Assistant Manager) due to having in country rewards professionals spread across the region, and expands again at the bottom (i.e. Analysts, Associates and Executives). Demand for talent at the middle levels, however, has noticeably risen this year, as Asia continues to be the fastest growing region, necessitating that organisations should expand their reward teams to support business growth operationally, taking a “bottom up” view where appropriate to allow for co-creation within rewards programmes rather than always being “top down”.

Rewards as business partner and adviser

Leveraging total rewards strategies to help drive organisational objectives has undoubtedly led to the emergence of and demand for a ‘new’ generation of Rewards practitioners. This means that possessing knowledge of the technical know-how (e.g. salary benchmarking, executive comp) only constitutes half of the recipe for success, with strong stakeholder management and advisory skills, as well as being able to take a strategic “total rewards view” that aligns with the commercial priorities of the business is increasingly fundamental.

Put simply, rewards professionals are being encouraged to innovate and enhance at all levels of the function. After all, a total rewards solution is only as good as the practitioner’s ability to influence and obtain necessary buy-in, and be able to articulate and share complex solutions in a way that is simple and accessible for the business. With initiatives such as fair pay and/or new salary structures and frameworks being implemented, the ability to communicate the outcomes, as well as navigate the cultural implications are vital to success, making sure the organisation is catering to the needs of employees.

Shaping total rewards through technology

Finally, the push for organisations to automate and digitalise their HR processes is increasingly felt at the granular total rewards level. This means reducing the reliance on spreadsheets and manual practices whenever possible, superseded by technological tools that minimise inefficiencies and inaccuracies during annual core activity design and delivery. Conservatively, this could entail expanding the firm’s internal/external datasets and improving general data quality to strengthen the analytical processes. At its most ambitious, the migration of entire HR systems and investing in compensation modules/applications have gained traction among firms with the financials to do so. Correspondingly, technological literacy (especially workday, SuccessFactors) as well as strengths in people analytics, data, and likely increasingly generative AI, will undoubtedly be factored in as a means of setting one candidate apart from another, on top of the traditional emphasis on Excel mastery. 

The future of rewards

These observations not only reflect the ever-evolving rewards landscape, but also coincide with several trends that have been observed across the broader people function. The persistence of talent shortages is an ongoing challenge that organisations. While appointing like-for-like replacements remains employers’ typical preferences, we encourage more organisations to recognise the potential of investing in internal learning agility as one means of tackling the talent crunch. At present, this either takes the form of upskilling high-performing junior rewards specialists or promoting internal mobility within the HR team via secondments and gigs. Whilst it might take two/three years before they can fully run independently, under the right guidance, it encourages workforce productivity and organisational ‘loyalty’ as well. Nurturing the next generation of the total rewards community remains a priority and concern, with reward leadership doing what they can personally and professionally to attract talent into this progressive function.

Total rewards will continue to develop in multifaceted ways, and it is important to stay abreast of these trends to be able to address them in a timely manner. If you would like to discuss your career or your firm’s hiring needs, please contact Charlotte Matthew, Sofia Wikho-Ng or myself from the Total Rewards Southeast Asia Practice today.

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