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How to prepare for workplace diversity

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Three facts Singapore businesses need to know about diversifying their workforce in the age of global change

International Cultural Diversity Day was celebrated on Tuesday and here are three facts every employer in Singapore should know about workplace diversity.

Millennials matter

A ValueChampion survey released in February found Singapore to be the most millennial-friendly city in the Asia-Pacific, with highly-skilled professionals in this age group enticed from all over the world by the exceptional career prospects and quality of life in the country.

This emerging generation will play a major part in the global workforce.

To tap into the potential of Singapore's millennials, employers should assess if their workplace values will attract this group of professionals.

Offering more direct feedback on their progress, prioritising professional development and growth, and encouraging mentoring between lesser and more experienced employees will help encourage millennials to work in your company.

Age discrimination

According to the Ministry of Manpower, age discrimination accounted for 13 per cent of formal complaints in the three years to 2018.

Even with age discrimination laws in place, many senior professionals feel forced into retirement, or face difficulties trying to re-enter the workforce.

It is a problem that will only cut deeper in coming years if left unattended, with a recent United Nations study projecting that 40.1 per cent of Singapore's population will be over 60 years old by 2050.

To embrace age-based workplace diversity, employers can introduce a range of policies that include flexible working hours; continuous development and mentoring; and recognition of the value of the wide spectrum of knowledge, experience and values that can be found in an age-diverse workforce.

Gender equality still lagging

According to a recent report by Grant Thornton International, women now occupy one-third of senior management roles in Singapore, in line with a global trend towards more equal gender representation in the C-suite.

However, in Singapore, just 9 per cent of businesses polled had a female CEO, well behind the Asean average of 21 per cent.

Furthermore, a survey conducted three years earlier by the non-profit Association of Women for Action and Research reported unequal treatment in a range of areas, including career progression opportunities, remuneration, performance appraisal, and women having their positions downgraded after returning from maternity leave.

Increased parental leave, flexible hours and remote working are just some of the benefits that could encourage more women to come back to the workforce.

Employers can also encourage working Singapore mothers to go for more flexible training programs to prepare them for leadership roles.

Workplace diversity

As Singapore's society evolves with global change, the diverse workplace is Singapore's greatest asset.

Employers need to place themselves at the forefront of workplace diversity efforts, acting as agents of change for the betterment of the island nation.

The writer is managing director of specialist recruiter Robert Half Singapore.