SINGAPORE (21 July): More Singapore businesses say they have moved back to “cautious hiring” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a pulse survey conducted by global professional services firm, Aon.

The survey, which was conducted among 417 companies in Singapore, found that 18% of businesses reported a hiring freeze in June, compared to 30% in April, while those in a “cautious hiring state” rose from 46% to 60% during the same period.

Aon reported while over three quarters of the companies surveyed said they were not considering layoffs “for now”, many companies were changing their rewards programmes for their employees, most often by postponing salary increases. Between Aon's May and June pulse surveys, businesses delaying salary increases for all employees grew from 24% to 29%. 

However, it seemed that layoffs were still unavoidable for some, as the percentage of participants that confirmed layoffs rose slightly to 15% in June, compared to 13% in May and 4% in April.  

Overall, Alexander Krasavin, partner at Radford, and regional commercial head for APAC & MEA at Aon said the results “show a stabilisation in businesses in Singapore” and that the “adjustments to rewards have averted widespread downsizing efforts.”

But it is not all bad news with COVID-19. When asked how the experience of responding to COVID-19 might change future workforce strategies, Aon found that 56% of companies in Singapore expect their digital transformation agendas to accelerate, while 89% are planning for different working models, such as an increase in permanently remote employees and more flexible working hours. 

In fact, 75% of participants said that they are offering flexible working hours to employees with young children − an increase from 67% in April and May.

Krasavin noted businesses are “looking beyond the immediate economic impact of COVID-19 and planning for longer-term structural changes to operations and workforce strategies. They are seeing opportunity within a very difficult situation."