Stephen Tjoa

Senior Advisor, Influence Solutions Pte Ltd (Retired Partner, Managing Partner’s Office, KPMG)

13 Jan 2021 Work-life harmony

Stephen Tjoa 
Company: Influence Solutions Pte Ltd (Retired Partner, Managing Partner’s Office, KPMG)


The Business Case for Work-life

As a veteran HR practitioner and Head of HR in one of the top four accounting firms in Singapore, Stephen is well-versed in the work-life challenges facing the industry. “These organisations were known for their long hours and high staff turnover. The industry was demanding professionally and personally for many people.” A turning point came as the employee profile gradually shifted to include millennials who were more open about their need for flexibility. 

“Empowerment over their environment, time and split between personal and professional obligations, is a priority, and thus, work-life harmony is a key consideration in their (employees’) career choices”

Thus, Stephen believes that in industries that traditionally find it challenging to implement FWAs, the idea of flexibility - even within a structured environment that requires discipline, should be a fundamental driver in an organisation’s people agenda. “We needed to address such considerations critically if we want to attract and retain the best talent”.

In an age of unprecedented challenges, Stephen believes that the Future of Work revolves around an organisation’s ability to be agile and adapt to the changing conditions of our economy, business and sociopolitical climate. “The way we work has evolved rapidly in a short span of time, and the ‘new normal’ is focused on technology, flexibility, and empowerment. Trust is central to successful organisations.” With significantly more working individuals participating in some form of flexible work arrangements due to the pandemic, Stephen anticipates that the way we work has changed permanently. The ideas of work and life being intertwined will take centerstage in everything one does. 

Stephen shares that for a work-life strategy to be truly sustainable, it needs to have the support and endorsement of the leadership and senior management team. Where this is a challenge, he recommends that the HR leader invest time and effort in providing a compelling value proposition backed with statistics to build a coherent and quantifiable business case for such a strategy. 

As with any well-executed strategy, the work-life plan also needs to be communicated clearly, at all levels of the organisation, and the programme efficacy needs to be measured; did the initiatives increase staff attraction, reduce staff turnover and increase staff engagement? His experience with KPMG emphasizes these factors, where staff turnover decreased, while employee engagement steadily increased through the years. 

Stephen shares that tying work-life programmes to a bigger purpose and value orientation almost always guarantees adoption, and employers will need to drive these with passion and consistency. Where work-life initiatives are implemented well, “employers have happier, healthier and more engaged employees.”

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