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Report highlights gaps in employee expectations

A recent report by Indeed reveals that despite the growing popularity of flexible work arrangements in Singapore, employers may need to better align with the preferences of their employees to meet their expectations.

The study, titled “Beyond 9 to 5: The Future of Flexibility in Work,” highlights a significant disparity between employer claims and employee perceptions. While 83% of employers assert that they offer flexibility to their staff, only 61% of employees feel that their workplace genuinely provides flexible options.

The disconnect between employers and employees regarding flexibility is particularly evident in the retail sector, where 80% of employers claim to provide flexibility, yet only 42% of employees feel they experience it. A similar gap exists in the tech, hospitality, and professional services sectors, as per the report’s findings.

Karthik Sudhakar, Strategy & Operations Lead at Indeed Singapore, emphasized the need for employers to establish a mutually beneficial alignment.

“Employees should have the opportunity to embrace flexible work arrangements without facing penalties, and employers should prioritize flexibility to attract and retain talent,” Sudhakar stated in a press release. “Ultimately, the ideal flexible work arrangement is one that serves the needs of both employees and employers.”

The report encourages employers across Singapore to make flexible work arrangements a permanent fixture in their workplaces. According to the report, the most common flexible work arrangements offered by employers include:

  1. Hybrid work (48%)
  2. Flexible working hours (44%)
  3. Remote work (19%)
  4. Location flexibility (17%)
  5. Four-day work week (15%)

Employers cited various advantages of flexible work, with the most prominent being greater staff retention and talent attraction (34%). Other benefits include increased productivity (18%), cost savings, and operational efficiency (15%), a happier workforce (15%), and the ability to foster a more diverse workforce (14%).

However, employers also acknowledged certain drawbacks of flexible work, with the most significant being the challenge of maintaining a shared culture among teams (24%). Other concerns include managing workload and deadlines (22%), handling employee expectations and fairness (15%), a lack of visibility over work (12%), potential income reduction (10%), and perceived skills gaps (6%), along with decreased productivity (4%).

Despite these challenges, the report highlights that 84% of employers remain optimistic about the continued prevalence of flexibility in the workplace.

“Hopefully, with mutual trust and respect, flexible working can enable organizations to thrive while providing a secure and accommodating environment for employees,” the report concluded.

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Survey reveals strong inclination towards human-led approach

In a recent study conducted by Wiley Workplace Intelligence involving 3,000 participants across North America, findings indicate a strong inclination towards human-led learning and development (L&D) rather than AI-driven approaches. The survey highlights that 59% of respondents express a preference for an instructor—whether physically present or virtually—to guide their workforce development training, while merely seven percent favour AI.

Of those surveyed, a significant majority (87%) emphasize the importance of having subject matter experts curate L&D content rather than relying on AI (12%). Dr. Mark Scullard, Senior Director of Product Innovation at Wiley, underscores this preference, stating, “When it comes to learning and development, employees crave a human connection. They want a person to create and lead their instruction, even if it’s in an online setting.”

These revelations emerge at a time when L&D professionals are increasingly open to integrating AI into their practices. The survey reflects that 64% of respondents believe that AI could enhance efficiency by handling administrative tasks. AI’s potential as an automation tool is seen as a means for L&D professionals to redirect their efforts towards more value-added pursuits, such as curriculum design, instructional design, and learner support.

While the respondents from Wiley’s survey express reluctance towards AI-directed workforce development training, they do not discount the possibility of L&D practitioners enhancing their methodologies. This stance comes amidst the broader adoption of AI in various workplace functions. Approximately one-third of workplaces have actively integrated AI into their operations, with 29% incorporating it into at least one business facet.

Key Insights:

  • AI finds the highest adoption rate in service operations across various business functions.
  • Human resources and development show a seven percent AI adoption rate.
  • Additional areas where AI is utilised include marketing and sales (15%), product or service departments (15%), supply chain management (9%), manufacturing (8%), strategy and corporate finance (7%), and risk assessment (6%).
  • Despite its increasing popularity, 36% of respondents indicate that their organizations have yet to embrace AI.
  • Major barriers to AI implementation include budget constraints, integration uncertainty, a lack of strategic priority, time limitations, and insufficient buy-in.
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Companies to disclose salary disparities to address gender inequities in the workplace

The government of New Zealand has unveiled its intentions to mandate companies to disclose their gender-based salary disparities. The announcement, presented on Friday, was delivered by Jan Tinetti, New Zealand’s Minister for Women, and Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety.

As per the ministers’ estimates, approximately 900 establishments employing over 250 staff members might soon be required to publicly reveal their gender pay discrepancies. This scope will subsequently extend to firms with more than 100 employees within four years.

Tinetti emphasised the distinct workplace experiences of women compared to men and stressed the necessity for change. She stated, “The imperative for companies to divulge their gender pay gaps will incentivise them to confront the factors causing these disparities and will enhance transparency for employees.”

Drawing attention to practices in other nations, Tinetti highlighted that countries such as Australia, Canada, and the UK have already implemented protocols for gender pay gap disclosure.

Radhakrishnan clarified that the initiation of pay gap reporting would initially be voluntary, followed by a governmental review after a three-year period to ascertain whether it should become obligatory.

Radhakrishnan also mentioned the government’s commitment to exploring the inclusion of ethnicity in pay gap reporting. She emphasised that ethnic groups like Māori and Pacific peoples often encounter compounded impacts from both gender and ethnic pay gaps. “As we move ahead with our consultation phase, we will deliberate on the integration of ethnicity before formalising the legislation,” she affirmed.

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Allegations of failure to accommodate post-injury needs

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia recently concluded a case involving an injured worker who filed a discrimination lawsuit against his employer, accusing them of failing to reasonably accommodate him after an injury.

The worker in question is Mark Panazzolo, employed by Don’s Mechanical and Diesel Services Pty Ltd. He claimed that his employer discriminated against him due to a wrist disability resulting from an assault outside of working hours. Following the incident, he was unable to return to work, but he believes he has sufficiently recovered to resume his duties.

The core issue of the case was whether the employer neglected to make necessary adjustments for Panazzolo’s return to work and if implementing those adjustments would impose unjustifiable hardship on the employer.

Panazzolo brought the case under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). The court had to carefully consider the interests of Panazzolo as a person with a disability against the interests of Don’s Auto as his employer.

On October 15, 2020, while walking his dog on a public pathway near his home, Panazzolo was assaulted by two individuals. The incident had no connection to his employment and occurred outside of working hours. As a result of the attack, he sustained a fracture to his left ulna, one of the bones in his forearm. He underwent surgical repair, involving the insertion of a metal plate and screws to stabilize the fracture. The surgeon advised him that he could not engage in heavy lifting or loading involving his injured arm for approximately three months after the surgery, which took place on October 21, 2020.

Panazzolo’s job as a heavy vehicle diesel mechanic at the employer’s workshop involved various tasks, including changing brake shoes, draining oil, lubricating steering, replacing clutches, oil filters, and rotating tires, as well as unbolting gearboxes.

Following the injury, Panazzolo believed that he was capable of returning to work from early 2021 onwards, supported by medical practitioners who had treated him. However, the employer argued that some tasks, particularly those involving pneumatically powered rattle guns, wheel hub removal, and clutch replacements, might exceed his physical capabilities due to his wrist injury. The employer also highlighted their duty of care to ensure proper repairs for public bus operators, as safety was a paramount concern.

In late December 2020, Panazzolo inquired via text message whether he still had a job at Don’s Auto, mentioning that his orthopaedic surgeon had cleared him to return to work. Due to the injury being unrelated to work, the employer proposed that any required assessments and tests, including grip strength and cardiovascular fitness, would be at the worker’s expense. After several exchanges between the parties, the employer warned Panazzolo that returning to work might pose a risk of aggravating his current injuries.

Frustrated by the situation and facing financial difficulties, Panazzolo formally resigned from Don’s Auto on August 4, 2021. He believed he had no alternative, as he needed to apply for social security benefits, which were not available to him because his former job at Don’s Auto was considered still open to him, even though he had resigned.

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Dubai-based start-up offers tailored well-being solutions for MENA companies & employees

Lifemost, a Dubai-based platform specializing in corporate wellness programs, has successfully secured USD 650,000 in a pre-seed funding round, which was co-led by MENA-focused angel investors. The funds raised will be allocated to further enhance product development, intensify marketing efforts, and explore new partnership opportunities within the MENA market.

Lifemost’s B2B platform offers companies the means to provide their employees with easy access to a wide array of physical and mental health activities, all available through a single mobile app. The platform encompasses four distinct product categories, catering to different company requirements. These offerings include access to a network of studios for various activities and training, corporate events and team-building sessions, educational lectures and workshops on mindfulness and stress management, as well as a range of online courses and live fitness sessions featuring over 350 pre-recorded classes. The platform is customizable, allowing businesses to tailor the content to meet their specific objectives. Employees can effortlessly book services and classes using the Lifemost membership app, while companies have specialized access to manage their employees’ corporate wellness programs.

Dennis Yudchitz, the CEO and founder of Lifemost, emphasizes the significance of corporate well-being activities for companies in terms of recruitment, sustainability, and employee motivation. By tailoring the platform’s content to suit each company’s unique needs, Lifemost aims to provide employees with diverse wellness options, while offering top management and HR professionals an all-in-one wellness solution with continuous analytics on engagement rates.

Initially conceived with the vision of fostering a healthier and more productive lifestyle among employees, Lifemost now boasts an extensive portfolio of 1,000+ activities spread across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These activities are accessible through over 120 locations, with plans to expand to 300 locations by the year’s end.

Recent data highlights that 83% of employees consider their well-being to be as crucial as their salary, yet 36% of employees do not feel that their employers prioritize their well-being. This underscores the need for novel solutions in recruitment and work performance, particularly for high-level employees and specialists.

Research on corporate well-being market trends reveals that companies implementing wellness programs enjoy several benefits, including an average of 28% less absenteeism, 30% lower healthcare costs, and a 15% increase in productivity. The global well-being industry is experiencing significant growth, with consumers worldwide increasingly investing in wellness, driving the market size to surpass $4.4 trillion, and annual growth rates ranging from 5 to 10 per cent. Notably, the Middle East’s wellness industry is witnessing stable growth and is estimated to be valued at over $108 billion. In the UAE, the online health and fitness market is projected to contribute $36.5 million by 2025. Additionally, the global wellness industry is forecast to reach almost $7 trillion by 2025.

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Discrimination dropped from 24.1% to 8.2.%

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed encouraging statistics that demonstrate a positive trend in the reduction of discrimination experienced by job seekers and employees. According to MOM’s research, the proportion of job seekers facing discrimination during their job search dropped for the second consecutive year, reaching 23.8% in 2022. This is a significant decline from 25.8% in 2021 and 42.7% in 2018.

Similarly, discrimination against employees in the workplace continued to decline, with only 8.2% experiencing discrimination in 2022 compared to 8.5% in the previous year and 24.1% in 2018.

The data also highlighted the specific areas where discrimination was observed. In 2022, age, race, and mental health were the more common forms of discrimination during job searches, with 16.6%, 7.1%, and 5.0% respectively.

Within workplaces, mental health discrimination ranked as the most prevalent form in 2022, affecting 4.7% of employees. Age discrimination followed closely at 3.7%, while race discrimination was reported by 2.6% of employees.

The positive shift in these statistics can be partly attributed to an increase in employees seeking help when they encounter discrimination at work. The proportion of those seeking assistance almost doubled to 35.3% in 2022, compared to 20.0% in 2021. Additionally, more firms took proactive measures to address workplace discrimination, with 59.8% having formal procedures in place in 2022, up from 54.0% in 2021.

Overall, the concerted efforts of MOM, TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices), and other tripartite partners to promote fair employment practices have contributed to this positive development. The Ministry expressed optimism that this progress will lead to even greater improvements in workplace fairness in the future. It is evident that the collective actions taken from 2018 to 2022 have significantly reduced discrimination and are helping to foster a more inclusive and equitable job market in Singapore.

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35% of companies have already adopted AI

In a recent report titled “The Future Is Now: AI, the Metaverse and the World of Work” by Experis, a division of ManpowerGroup Inc., it was revealed that more than half of employers, precisely 58%, believe that artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) will serve as job creators.

The survey conducted for the report also highlighted the intention of companies to integrate emerging technologies into their recruitment process. The following statistics were obtained:

  • Artificial intelligence: 35% of companies have already adopted it, while an additional 36% plan to do so.
  • Conversational AI: 35% of companies have embraced this technology, and another 36% have plans to incorporate it.
  • Machine learning: 38% of companies have implemented machine learning, and 34% have intentions to adopt it.
  • Virtual reality: 30% of companies have already integrated virtual reality, and 35% have future plans for its adoption.

Ger Doyle, the Senior Vice President at Experis, emphasized the transformative impact of AI, machine learning, virtual reality, and other emerging technologies on various industries. He stated that this integration necessitates a flexible and adaptable workforce. Doyle also expressed his observation that companies are actively embracing these technologies and either hiring new talent or upskilling their existing workforce to leverage the potential productivity gains. He added that forward-thinking employers understand the significance of embracing digitalization while nurturing human talent to enhance their preparedness for success in this era of rapid technological advancement.

The report also provided additional insights:

  • 65% of the respondents agreed with the statement that “The metaverse would improve ways that I can interact with my colleagues in other locations.”
  • 76% of job seekers expressed comfort with the use of AI in the hiring process, but 46% preferred having a real person review their application.
  • 40% of workers expressed their comfort with virtual job interviews, while 32% still preferred in-person interviews.

The survey was conducted from March through April and involved a total of 1,100 responses from employers and candidates. The responses were gathered through LinkedIn (1,000) and online platforms (100).

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Would it result in more low-income workers leaving the workforce?  

In a groundbreaking move, England is set to conduct its first-ever trial of universal basic income, with 30 individuals being offered £1,600 per month without any work obligations. The aim of the trial is to assess the impact of providing a standard income on people’s lives. 

The pilot project, proposed by the think tank Autonomy, will span a period of two years and select participants from Jarrow, a town in northeast England, as well as East Finchley in London. The objective is to determine whether this scheme effectively addresses inequality and poverty. 

If the trial proves successful, there is potential for the government to adopt universal basic income, a system in which all individuals in society receive the same salary regardless of their means or abilities. 

 Universal basic income in the age of AI 

The concept of universal basic income has gained significant attention recently due to the integration and advancements of AI in the workforce, which has raised concerns about widespread job displacement across various sectors. 

Earlier this year, a report by Goldman Sachs indicated that AI could potentially replace 300 million full-time jobs. Universal basic income has been proposed as a potential solution to cope with high unemployment rates resulting from the replacement of jobs by AI. 

Nevertheless, critics argue that the implementation of universal basic income would impose a substantial financial burden on the government and divert funds from other essential public services. 

 Advantages and Disadvantages of Universal Basic Income 

Supporters of universal basic income highlight its potential to empower workers by allowing them to reject unsuitable jobs, advocate for better working conditions, and pursue activities that genuinely interest them. Social researcher Dr David Frayne, in a note on the Autonomy website, asserts that UBI could rectify the current situation where social inclusion hinges on one’s ability to secure employment. He states, “Basic Income could solve this problem by giving people the resources to undertake productive activities for themselves and for each other if they so choose. The hope is that, with the benefit of time and a guaranteed income, people would be able to develop a range of interests and capacities outside employment. You can finally do the thing you actually want to do.” 

However, opponents argue that universal basic income would place a considerable strain on government finances and could result in reduced funding for vital public services. 

The upcoming trial in England will provide valuable insights into the potential benefits and challenges associated with universal basic income, offering an opportunity to evaluate its effectiveness in addressing societal inequalities and shaping the future of work. 

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Two-thirds of business leaders say they need deeper understanding of HR function

Business leaders identify HR as ripe for disruption by AI

New data reveals business leaders recognise the potential of AI and automation in terms of  revolutionising HR – however, businesses will only thrive if they keep HR’s human touch.

HR software company Personio surveyed 500 C-suite level executives and 1000 HR decision makers at SMEs in the UK and Ireland. The data reveals 74% of business leaders reporting there is a need for their business to become more efficient and productive and 66% believe AI and automation have potential to deliver this within the HR department.

Key findings include;

43% of HR managers are worried they’ll lose their job as more of the HR function is automated.
73% of business leaders say HR will be more important to the business in the future.
60% of UK business leaders intend to incorporate more AI and automation into their HR department in the next 5 years.

In light of recent technological advances with generative AI, like Chat GPT, 61% believe HR will be taken over by AI in the future. However, these statements about the future of HR may be a symptom of a misunderstanding of the value that HR teams deliver to organisations. The survey uncovered a clear knowledge gap, with 67% of business leaders admitting they’d like to have a better understanding about what their HR team does.

Ross Seychell, Chief People Officer at Personio, said: “Emerging technologies such as generative AI tools, like Chat GPT, have the potential to revolutionise workplaces, and the HR department is no exception. But will HR be ‘replaced’ one day by AI? I certainly don’t believe so, and the business leaders that say it is possible are short sighted and worryingly misinformed about the role that effective HR plays in businesses. Instead we can expect to see AI make HR more important, by allowing a hard-pressed department to focus more on business critical issues like building a great culture or solving retention challenges, while new technology will make admin tasks more efficient.”

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Small businesses embrace generative AI tools

According to a recent report by FreshBooks, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on organizations continues to grow, with 25% of small businesses currently utilizing or testing generative AI tools. Encouragingly, two-thirds of these businesses plan to explore these tools for their work within the next 12 months. The report surveyed 1,000 small-business owners from diverse industries in the United States and Canada during May.

The findings suggest that small-business owners are not overly concerned about AI replacing their roles, as only 44% of respondents anticipated hiring fewer people in the future due to the capabilities of AI. Mara Reiff, Chief Data Officer at FreshBooks, explained, “Anxiety over AI has been growing lately, with workers in certain industries expressing concerns that their jobs will be replaced. In the world of small business, it appears that owners don’t feel particularly threatened and don’t believe artificial intelligence can do their jobs just as well as they can. On the other hand, their eyes are wide open to the potential of using AI as a support to help them scale.”

The survey revealed that the majority of current generative AI adopters are employing it for text generation purposes, while others are leveraging its abilities to create images or conduct general business research. Most respondents reported using AI-generated content on their business websites and social media platforms. However, fewer participants stated that they utilize generative AI content for customer support and communications.

Regarding the impact of AI on their businesses, 60% of respondents believed that AI would bring about significant changes within the next five years. The areas expected to be most affected include business analytics, sales and marketing, and customer communications, according to the report. On the other hand, respondents rated human resources, recruiting, and service delivery as the areas least likely to be impacted by AI.

Despite the growing adoption of AI, privacy, ethical concerns, and intellectual property issues were significant points of worry for 80% of small-business owners. This demonstrates a recognition of the potential risks associated with AI implementation.

Overall, the FreshBooks report highlights the growing acceptance and optimism surrounding the use of generative AI tools among small businesses. As these businesses explore AI’s potential to support their growth, they remain mindful of the ethical and privacy considerations associated with this technology.

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