SG SMEs hardest hit by Great Resignation in APAC, ability to digitally transform hindered

SG SMEs hardest hit by Great Resignation in APAC, ability to digitally transform hindered

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SMEs in Singapore are experiencing the Great Resignation much more acutely than the rest of Asia Pacific and Japan. About three in five (62%) of Singapore SMEs said more staff are resigning now compared to a year ago, in contrast to 40% that say the same across APAC and Japan, according to a recent study by SAP titled "Transformational Talent: The impact of the Great Resignation on Digital Transformation in APJ’s SMEs".

Close to half (49%) of Singapore SMEs also said that they are finding it difficult to deal with the Great Resignation. Additionally, 65% found it difficult to hire or find replacements compared to the previous year, while 52% saw few or no qualified applicants when they try to hire new employees. 

great resignation sg vs apj

The Great Resignation has impacted Singapore SMEs' ability to digitally transform their businesses. According to the study, 17% of SMEs in Singapore cited digital transformation as a top strategic priority over the next 12 months, compared to only 10% of SMEs across APAC and Japan (APJ). 

Yet, a lack of skilled talent to drive digital transformation was ranked as the biggest barrier for 39% of SMEs in Singapore.

Meanwhile, 69% of SMEs in Singapore said digital transformation is very or extremely important to their organisation’s survival for the next year.

sap sg strategy

Nonetheless, the change in environment, such as the pandemic and the Great Resignation, has prompted businesses to move from a reactive footing based on resilience, to one looking to enable future growth. Three in four SMEs in Singapore said they are either neutral or highly resilient in dealing with the challenges of the pandemic and, in turn, are moderately, very, or extremely optimistic about growth over the next 12 months.

To retain talent and stave off the Great Resignation, SMEs in Singapore have turned to training and education to retain staff and bolster their organisations’ ability to deliver digital transformation. For instance, 72% of SMEs in Singapore agreed that they needed to upskill and train employees urgently to support digital transformation, while 75% said they plan to focus on digital training and development over the next 12 months.

sap sg resilience

Separately, on a regional APJ level, 64% of SMEs said they are facing difficulties coping with the impact of the Great Resignation. Furthermore, nine in 10 SMEs in APJ said that workforce volatility, such as the pandemic and now, the Great Resignation, has directly impacted their digital transformation plans.

This is in spite of 69% of SMEs in the region saying that digital transformation is very important to their organisation's survival over the next year. Additionally, SMEs in APJ looking to digitally transform their businesses also face a lack of skilled talent, just like their Singapore counterparts. In fact, it was ranked as the top challenge to achieving successful transformation for SMEs across APJ, ahead of traditional obstacles such as cyber security, lack of budgets, and lack of understanding about available digital solutions.

Paul Marriott, president of SAP APAC and Japan, said that digital transformation is a fundamental way SMEs not only build resilience but also create agile, innovative paths to growth. "Without the right people, any transformation will struggle. Investment in talent must match investment in innovation to ensure SMEs in APJ both survive – and thrive," he added. The sample for SAP's study comprised 1,363 respondents across eight key countries - Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Thailand.

Investing in talent and training

Nonetheless, having managed significant challenges over the past two years, SMEs across APJ are looking beyond a focus on resilience. Almost half (49%) them said that their organisation is highly or fully resilient in weathering the pandemic’s impact, compared to just 4% that believed they are not resilient at all. This was also translated into their optimism toward their growth prospects, with 81% of SMEs saying they are moderately, very, or extremely confident in their growth over the next 12 months. 

SMEs across APJ are investing in their workforce. To mitigate the effects of the Great Resignation and to bolster their organisations’ ability to deliver digital transformation, SMEs in APJ are looking to invest in improving financial incentives (43%) and introducing flexible working arrangements (43%), in a bid to boost talent retention over the next 12 months. 

Beyond those strategies, SMEs are also focusing on providing upskilling opportunities (40%).

Additionally, 72% of SMEs plan to focus on digital training throughout this year. This comes as over two-thirds (68%) of SMEs said that upskilling to support digital transformation is urgent.

Marriott said that prioritising upskilling and career progression, and supporting it with access to the right technology and partners is proven to be a win-win for employees and for SMEs. 

“Our small and medium-sized businesses are a bellwether for the wider economy, making up 97% of businesses in Asia and employing 50% of the workforce. By harnessing this optimism and putting it together with great innovation, a commitment to talent, and a strong partner ecosystem we can chart a course to the next decade of SME success in APJ," he added.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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