Singapore unicorn doubles down on DIB amidst talent shortage

How to build a global company through diverse hires

Singapore unicorn doubles down on DIB amidst talent shortage

Chief financial officer at Atome Financial (An Advance Intelligence Group (AIG) company) AND chair of AIGs diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB) committee – not really a traditional role-pairing, but for Trina Yeung who holds DIB very close to her heart, “it’s a sensible and very important move” for her organisation, that recently announced its unicorn status after the Singapore-based company closed a US$400 million series D round with an investor consortium led by SoftBank, Vision Fund 2, and Warburg Pincus.

“I think it [DIB] makes sense in a company like ours,” said Yeung. “You cannot build a global company if you only intend to hire Chinese or Singaporean people. As we’ve built our footprint, we have become not only pan-Asian, but we now have offices in Brazil and places like that so having that need to create diversity in our workforce has become really important,” Yeung told HRD though she admits that diversity is probably the hardest of the DIB objectives to achieve with the Singaporean government placing high importance on hiring Singaporeans which skews the workforce.

Yeung has lived and worked in London, New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore, working for multinationals that have diverse cultures and employee welfare initiatives so she is well poised to chair the DIB committee at AIG, but she feels some of the more traditional Singaporean companies may not have had the same level of exposure to DIB practices.

“There is a huge difference between the way corporations are run in the west compared to how they are run in Asia,” said Yeung explaining that in Asian countries there is no expectation that what happens outside your work life should be an employer’s responsibility, but western countries are observing human behaviour and how that relates to the smooth running of their business.

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“I was interested to see if we could instil that in our company today to ensure that we can have very strong future growth because being able to attract the right talent is probably one of the biggest pain points of working in a tech company in Singapore,” said Yeung.

Singapore has emerged as a tech country to watch in recent years, the abundance of homegrown talent has encouraged big multi-national tech companies to set up shop here too, in a talent pool that isn’t so deep that has kind of created an issue.

“It is very difficult to hire good quality talent in Singapore at the moment,” said Yeung. “The Singapore government have been very proactive about providing the employment policies or conditions in which to attract foreign talent into Singapore whilst balancing growth in their own local workforce, but there is still a long way to go in terms of developing the skill set amongst all of those people to match the requirements of all the companies coming out here,” said Yeung.

At AIG, they try to incorporate as much of a sense of belonging as they can in employees. Aside from the usual perks like free lunches that other tech companies offer, AIG has installed a robust onboarding program, every team is offered a team building budget to spend on what they think is fit, and they have OKRs to run people’s quarterly objectives.

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“We’ve really been focusing on making sure individuals feel like they belong to the organisation, we build a lot of support infrastructure into the business and our core values relate back to that sense of belonging as well and once you have that sense of belonging it becomes easier for the team to encourage others to feel included,” said Yeung.

Employees these days don't work for the sake of having a nine to five job. They want to be able to have infrastructure and support in place as well. “Being able to provide good health benefits and support from a more personal perspective is beneficial to the staff and helps people to be more productive. So, I do encourage that you know, more companies really spend some time thinking about how they can support their staff.”

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