Companies Can Drive Change To Create A More Compassionate Business Community

When companies lead the way in doing good, it sets the wheels in motion for a more effective and resilient workforce.

Times are tough. Nowhere has this sentiment been truer than in the past year as Singapore fell into its worst recession due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As many as 26,110 workers were retrenched in 2020 — causing hardships for many people. Among those affected were clerical, sales, and service workers, as well as those with secondary school and lower qualifications.

But tough times have also brought out the collective good and care among everyday Singaporeans as people rallied together to support the community and small local businesses, such as hawkers, F&B operators, and retailers.

Business owners and entrepreneurs can take the lead by bringing employees together to help the community and do good on a much larger scale. This will help create a positive, bigger, and much more lasting impact.

Regular corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have long been the approach adopted by many companies to support the disadvantaged, including through corporate giving, event sponsorship or volunteering.

But sometimes, what some groups of people just need is a job — and companies are well-positioned to offer such employment opportunities. Unemployment affects the underprivileged more severely and they may encounter more difficulties in finding and securing a new job.

“There are people who are trying to enter the workforce, but due to certain barriers or personal circumstances, they cannot work,” said Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation Foundation (SBFF).

This was echoed by Mr Tan Chuan Jin, Speaker of Parliament during SBFF’s webinar on the Employability Fund, held in collaboration with the Community Chest in March this year. Mr Tan noted that during times of economic downturn, it is even more difficult for those with special needs or people who have previously been incarcerated, and that employers can step forward to make a significant difference in their lives. “The best form of welfare is employment because work comes with a sense of dignity, self-respect and allows people to stand on their own feet,” he said.

Care from within empowers vulnerable groups

When businesses provide employment opportunities to vulnerable groups, they are opening themselves up to a readily available group of people with varying skill sets. Businesses not only benefit by doing good such as providing job security, ensuring sustainability, and empowering people. They also get to reap the cost savings that come from fewer job turnovers, and retraining.

Employment is the key to independence and fosters integration with the community. With employment, workers get access to other subsidy schemes such as housing or childcare, which are especially crucial for disadvantaged groups.

As the social impact arm of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), SBFF is making it possible for businesses to support vulnerable groups through two initiatives.

Empower Circles is a conversation series, organised in partnership with the Singapore Human Resources Institute that highlights the employment barriers faced by vulnerable individuals. It focuses on three groups — rough sleepers and the homeless, single, or young mothers, and individuals with mental health conditions. The initiative serves as a platform to bridge employers and the social service agencies who aid these disadvantaged groups.

SBFF has also launched the Employability Fund, where businesses can make donations which go directly to the charities that help these groups. The Fund supports programmes that reach and benefit different population groups.

Commendable effort to help a struggling breadwinner find new hope

At New Hope Community Services, a transitional shelter for homeless individuals and families, Madam Wati lives with her four children. As the sole breadwinner for her family, she is usually away from her family due to work commitments.

However, she also needs to be on standby at all times as one of her sons has special needs and requires extra care and attention.

This has made it challenging for her to hold on to a stable job with regular working hours. Moreover, she is on a long-term visit pass, which makes it more difficult for her to secure employment.

Fortunately, New Hope Community Services was able to connect Madam Wati to World Clean Facility Services, which was willing to renew her long-term visit pass.

Now, fully employed, she no longer needs to worry about her finances and is thankful that employers are willing to give her a chance to prove herself.

Madam Wati is just one of many individuals in the community who face difficult circumstances that make securing employment a challenge. With employers like World Clean Facility providing an opportunity for individuals like her, businesses can help uplift vulnerable members of society and contribute to a more compassionate society.

The good from compassion

As SBFF seeks to empower those trying to enter the job market, those within the workforce are not forgotten either.

This is where the industry-led Compassion Fund, launched in June 2020 to provide financial assistance and community aid to employees in need, comes in. Through the fund, participating trade associations and chambers have an avenue to reach out to their members and the larger business community to offer support to employees in need.

The Compassion Fund recognises that difficulties experienced by people go beyond financial aspects. Employees who apply to the Fund are also connected to other resources including social services and community care agencies that can provide targeted support.

People face hardships that may not be apparent to everyone. This is where business leaders can be more proactive and show care for their employees – not just in the financial sense but also in providing support for other difficulties that they may be facing, whether socially or emotionally.

As the pandemic continues to cause socioeconomic uncertainty, the collective efforts by businesses in supporting the Employability Fund and Compassion Fund will bolster existing efforts and contribute to a kinder, more caring, and inclusive society.

The Empower Circles conversation series will be held across different webinars. Businesses can sign up to hear from the charities that support these groups and the individuals themselves.

The next webinar will be held on 28 September. Find out more and register here.