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Commentary: ‘How are you?’ – these three words are your most powerful retention tool

Creating meaningful connections not only increases employee satisfaction, it is also a very powerful tool for retention, says HR expert Paul Thomas.

Commentary: ‘How are you?’ – these three words are your most powerful retention tool

File photo. Employers need to recognise that engagement, not turnover rate, is the key indicator of an organisation’s work culture and a proxy for an employee’s satisfaction level. (Photo: iStock/hxyume)

SINGAPORE: The Great Resignation. Quiet quitting. Career Cushioning. These workplace buzz phrases have drawn much attention on and offline, from hushed conversations in office pantries to worried discussions in corporate boardrooms.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for better work-life balance and well-being have grown louder, and rightly so.

Companies are facing a talent shortage with higher attrition, with Mercer projecting Singapore’s voluntary turnover rate at 15.2 per cent at the end of 2022, surpassing pre-pandemic levels of 12 per cent. According to MOM’s latest labour market report, the average monthly resignation rate in Singapore edged up to 1.8 per cent in the third quarter.

While salary increments can go some way towards attracting and retaining talent, money can’t solve every problem – especially when it comes to engagement.

A recent Gallup report found that globally, a mere 21 per cent of employees feel engaged at work, indicating that many are doing just enough to avoid being dismissed but aren’t likely to go above and beyond their primary responsibilities.

The lack of engagement, passion and initiative is highly detrimental. According to the same study, only 33 per cent of employees are thriving in their overall well-being and 44 per cent of employees surveyed said they experienced stress a lot the previous day.

Quiet quitters are costing the global economy a massive US$7.8 trillion in lost productivity; co-workers and managers are bearing the brunt of the slack, setting off a vicious cycle of burnout and frustration.


According to a McKinsey-led research on workplace mental health, one in three employees in Asia is experiencing symptoms of burnout and it is important that we identify the factors that affect workplace mental health, so action can be taken to create happier, more inclusive, and increasingly productive organisations.

Often, the workplace environment plays a significant role in empowering employees, and employers need to be aware that not everyone has the same personal end goal, nor do they need to be equally ambitious. Efficient workers who complete their set tasks within their working hours should not be seen as lacking compared to another who is willing to go above and beyond to climb the corporate ladder.

Employers should be encouraged to align with potential employees on their expectations ideally during the interview stage, and have honest discussions with employees about their desired approach to career.

In other words, it is vital that the management considers different career pathways, different personalities, and different industries to promote inclusivity.


Employers also need to recognise that engagement, not turnover rate, is the key indicator of an organisation’s work culture and a proxy for an employee’s satisfaction level and willingness to work towards the company’s goals.

By identifying the underlying factors, company leaders can take decisive actions that can in turn increase workplace productivity.

Separately, creating meaningful connections will not only increase employees’ satisfaction, it is also a very powerful tool for retention.

One of the easiest ways to create that connection is a simple “How are you?” greeting every morning at work. Those three words acknowledge the presence of employees and make them feel welcome.

Regular check-ins between managers and employees once a week can provide direction and opportunities for learning. These regular check-ins help both employees and their managers identify areas that may need improvement, and figure out a plan for growth as well as improve trust and communication. These sessions also provide an opportunity for managers and employees to discuss issues and seek solutions together, in addition to planning for career growth.

In addition, engagement surveys every half a year will help measure employees' commitment, motivation, and passion for their roles and the company, providing detailed insight into which areas of the business are thriving — and where more attention needs to be paid.

Providing employees opportunities to lead mentoring sessions at work or having recreational activities and team-building activities for optimum work-life balance during working hours can also help boost productivity levels and ultimately translate into growth, since passionate workers enjoy new challenges that provide them with chances to better themselves.

These team-building activities can include “Amazing Race”, or an annual company family and sports day, or a dinner and dance. Should these activities take place after working hours, attendance should be made optional as a sign that companies are respectful of their employees’ work-life boundaries.

Some companies also have monthly town hall "Ask Me Anything" sessions to allow employees to share their thoughts and concerns anonymously, which are then addressed by the executive team directly. It is through outlets like these where meaningful connections and trust is fostered between both employers and employees.


Getting rid of quiet quitting or the Great Resignation isn’t just in the hands of the leadership team. In between the leadership and the employees are the team managers, who are critical in cascading the passion down the organisation.

Multiple studies have shown that a positive and passionate workplace that gives employees the opportunity to take charge of their career development has a greater tendency to establish a stronger career persistence, thereby reducing the number of quiet quitters.

Managers can start by having employee recognition strategies, through acknowledging and rewarding employees for standout work. By doing so, managers can show their staff that what they do matters to the organisation. In addition, employees who receive visibility and acknowledgment are less likely to fade into the background.


As much as the management can do to improve the morale of their employees, workers should also be pushed to play their part in taking control and start making changes.

After all, empowered employees play a significant role in eradicating the problem within their work space by seeking better support, better opportunities and better chances at growth.

Quiet quitting is only a passive form of resistance that does no positive impact to the employee or the organisation. As a professional in the field, an employee should also do better and seek better.

Paul Thomas is Asia Chief People & Culture Officer at online employment marketplace operator SEEK.

Source: CNA/aj


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