SME employees give their employers a thumbs up on trust and belief

A survey conducted by SME Magazine in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson (WTW) has revealed that employees of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia believe in their employers, despite the challenges of COVID-19, a cooling global economy, and increasing competition.

The SME100 Engagement Survey 2020, conducted in partnership with Willis Towers Watson for the SME100 Fast Moving Companies Awards was done to help SMEs better understand their employees’ perspectives, enabling data-driven insights into the importance of developing a great employee experience.

Besides Malaysia, the study was conducted and completed earlier this year across Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The survey revealed that SMEs in Malaysia scored an average of 90 percent in employee experience. This is six percent higher than the regional average.

The study showed that 9 out of 10 Malaysian employees:

  1. believe in their company’s purpose, mission, and vision,
  2. trust in their leaders and supervisors,
  3. are provided the opportunity for growth, and
  4. feel they are adequately recognized for their contributions.

The survey responses suggest that their understanding and belief in the vision set out by their leaders drives their willingness to constantly improve on ways to better work with customers.

As a result, employees are proud to be associated with their company, greatly believe in the company’s products and services, and have a strong understanding of how their work contributed to its broader goals and objectives. These feelings of engagement are made more sustainable by the strong sense of camaraderie amongst employees, and feeling they have no major obstacles inhibiting their ability to do well in their roles.

92 percent of those surveyed are proud to be part of their companies, and as a result, 2 out of 3 have indicated that they are happy to stay in their current roles, while 3 out of 5 are willing to recommend their company to their friends.

However, the same study discovered that 2 out of 3 Malaysian employees are reporting high levels of stress. These include concerns around their financial situation, less than ideal working arrangements and not having the right enablement and support on a daily basis.

Yeo Ooi Keong, practice leader at Willis Towers Watson said, “Our data shows that the ability to build trust and belief within a company is largely driven by how connected employees feel towards their leaders. A leader’s ability to communicate a clear direction, walk the talk and empathise are all critical factors that impact an employee’s willingness to trust and believe in the company. This in turn, impacts their motivation to do better for your customers and the company as a whole.”

Working Through the Pandemic

As we reach the end stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health and wellbeing has been an become an emerging concern across many companies, both big and small. Across the board, employees are realigning their priorities while working from home, and support from their employer is important for this transition. Companies that focus on improving employee wellbeing and engagement are more likely to drive optimal individual and organizational performance.

Datuk William Ng, group publisher of Business Media International and editor-in-chief of SME Magazine said, “Identifying challenges early are especially crucial for SMEs as it allows owners to strategize areas of improvement to their business operations and to be more effective in attracting and retaining talents for their businesses”.

Ng added, “It is enlightening to dispel the notion that our SMEs are not up to par when it comes to employee experience. In fact, Malaysia scored higher than our regional peers. However, we do need to empathise more with employees during this pandemic; including watching out for signs of ‘burnt out’, help employees balance their work and personal commitments and perhaps even provide employees with financial education resources”.

Positive Sentiments

Overall, the data show positive sentiments across the board. Further analysis suggests that these positive scores are largely driven by transparent communication across the company, leadership’s ability to build trust across employees and teams, as well as having the opportunity to develop their skills and careers further.

Adapting and recognizing these challenges are half the battle to keep business productive as two third of the workforce in Malaysia are employed by SMEs, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia. While lockdowns are crucial to flatten the Covid-19 curve, employee mental health and wellbeing has become an emerging concern across many companies.

Yeo added, “Given the hyper competitive landscape for talent in Malaysia, being able to attract and retain the right talent is a critical advantage for SMEs. The survey data has shown that SMEs are equally able to provide an engaging work experience for their employees and we see the roles of leaders being key in supporting this. By leveraging on an experience that is focused on practical development, we believe that SMEs hold a distinct differentiator against the rest of the market.”


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