Google tops S’pore best employers ranking in light of employees working from home

The tech industry has had a challenging year or so, with mass layoffs and company closures, but Google has stuck to its hybrid work arrangements.

Cheow Sue-Ann

Cheow Sue-Ann

The Straits Times


Tech giant Google has stuck to its hybrid work arrangements, earning wide backing from its staff. PHOTO: GOOGLE

April 18, 2023

SINGAPORE – The tech industry enthusiastically embraced work-from-home and flexible work arrangements when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, so it is no surprise that sector giant Google has again been ranked as Singapore’s best employer.

The firm, which has clinched the honour for the third year in a row, recognises that flexibility and the ability to control their own schedules is important to employees, and that the option for hybrid work can have a huge influence on how staff regard their employer.

The tech industry has had a challenging year or so, with mass layoffs and company closures, but Google has stuck to its hybrid work arrangements, earning wide backing from its staff, as its top ranking in the Singapore’s Best Employers 2023 list attests.

Consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble (P&G) came in second, followed by financial services company Wells Fargo. Tech giant Apple and jet engine maker Rolls-Royce make up the rest of the top five, out of more than 1,700 eligible organisations across 27 industries.

Singapore’s Best Employers 2023 ranks the top 250 companies and institutions with at least 200 employees.

The list, which was released on Tuesday by The Straits Times and global data firm Statista, stems from an online survey of around 17,000 employees in September and October 2022.

Companies were given a score based primarily on whether their staff members would recommend their company to a friend or family member. The top score for 2023 was 9.13 out of a maximum of 10, while the score for the 250th place was 6.97.

Statista analyst Wu Ruoh-Yiang said that there was an improvement in overall satisfaction among surveyed employees for 2023 from previous years, with 20 industries out of 27 recording higher overall scores.

Ms Wu said the option of working from home had the most influence on employee satisfaction under the category of working conditions, adding that the average satisfaction in this area had increased from 2022.

Six categories were assessed: Atmosphere at work and potential for development; image; working conditions; workplace; salary; and diversity.

The IT, Internet, software and services industry was outstanding, making it into the top three in each of six categories. The satisfaction of its employees also improved over 2022, said Ms Wu.

Google Singapore managing director Ben King said that while Google allows for significant flexibility as to when and where people work, the company believes in a hybrid model – “three days in the office and two wherever works best”. The firm also enables staff “to work anywhere in the world for a period of four weeks per year”.

Mr King said: “Being named Singapore’s Best Employer for the third year running is something we don’t take for granted, and we’re grateful that employees… continue to view Google as a place they’re proud to be at.

“Our overall philosophy has always been to give Googlers ownership – specifically around their own schedule, time and workplace culture. We have found that if you give people freedom, they will amaze you.”

Another focus is to foster a sense of belonging. This is done in various ways, from encouraging connections through culture clubs and employee resource groups, to holding all accountable around diversity, equity and inclusion, particularly senior leadership.

Mr King said: “We acknowledge that it has been a difficult time, particularly for the tech industry, and we have not been immune to economic headwinds. With this said, we… continue to prioritise (staff) health and well-being, support career growth and offer flexibility.”

Associate professor of management and organisation Song Zhaoli, who is based at National University of Singapore Business School, told ST that the focus on flexible work arrangements and work-from-home options is unsurprising, and likely to become commonplace.

“This practice has been promoted years and years before in America, Europe; this has become a norm, even before the pandemic,” he noted. “Locally, human resource professionals and people have been asking for this for the past two decades. Singapore as a nation, in terms of practising flexible working arrangements, has been left behind.”

Prof Song said that multinationals like Google are at the forefront of enabling such options in Singapore.

He added that it was unlikely that the mass retrenchments in the tech sector would have had a major impact on the poll results, given that layoffs have extended past the survey dates.

“There are so many contingencies to consider, such as the proportion of employees who are laid off, what kind of support is available to (them) during this period; those factors need to be considered before we can have a conclusive answer to this question.”

P&G, which placed second in the 2023 ranking, said adopting human resource policies to ensure that the unique needs of each employee are met is an important factor. Understanding the needs of staff and issues that are important to them, rather than blanket policies, creates an environment where employees feel valued by the company, it added.

Ms Sarah Davies, P&G’s senior vice-president and chief human resources officer for the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said the firm invests in listening to its staff: “We do this through employee surveys at regular intervals, group discussions, and individual feedback sessions.

“We recognise that in the current landscape, no two employee journeys are the same – in short, there is no single equation.”

Ms Davies said the company recently devised a “refreshed employee value equation”, after analysing staff feedback, with the goal of defining the company’s purpose, values and principles in a way that reflects the experience that employees seek, particularly in today’s context.

She said that P&G’s employees know that they “have equal and multiple opportunities to grow, know that they are being valued and rewarded for their contributions, and are inspired to make a difference in the lives of our consumers and communities”.

Ms Davies also said that “P&G has been and continues to be a world-class leadership academy where people learn from their colleagues and develop into global leaders”.

The firm was already offering work-from-home options before the pandemic, so it had the right infrastructure and tools in place to help employees move to remote working.

Ms Davies added: “During and post-pandemic, we also doubled down on our focus on mental and emotional well-being.”

One initiative in this area is the “Pause and Recharge Week”, which gives employees two weeks a year when they can plan their days without having non-essential meetings and work.

Ms Davies said: “Employee satisfaction and motivation are essential; it is critical that our employees feel inspired, valued and rewarded for us to deliver on our business goals.”

Staff asked to rate employers anonymously

A survey to find Singapore’s best employers was conducted in September and October 2022, and quizzed around 17,000 employees working for a wide variety of firms that employ at least 200 people here.

The employees – part-time or full-time – were consulted anonymously through several online portals in order to avoid any influence from their bosses.

The survey, now in its fourth year, could also be accessed through The Straits Times’ website.

Respondents were asked to name their company, and to rate their willingness to recommend it to friends and family.

The responses were analysed on a scale of zero to 10, where zero meant “I wouldn’t recommend my employer under any circumstances” and 10 meant “I would definitely recommend my employer”.

The results of the two questions were then used to calculate an overall score, with greater weight given to the direct score given by the participant to their current employer.

The respondents were also asked to give their opinions on a series of statements about issues including working conditions, salary, potential for development and company image.

More than 200,000 responses were evaluated by Statista, with the top 250 companies making it on to the list of Singapore’s Best Employers 2023.

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