In light of this trend of “war for talent”, the HR department has reviewed the existing benefit programs. And after consulting general employees and managers of all levels through online surveys and talks, some problems related to current practices are identified and studied. These issues include tuition refunds, flexible work schedule, gym membership and holidays with family. All the feedback and suggestions by employees are carefully studied and considered. Finally, with the consideration of a balance between employee interest and company cost-effectiveness, some recommendations are made to adjust the existing benefit programs to make them stay relevant.
2. Issues and solutions
Four issues regarding employee benefits are discussed below. For each issue, current practice is studied with a description of background, and recommendations are given to make it stay compatible with the needs of today’s employees.
2.1 Issue of tuition refund
2.1.1 Study of the case
Training is an essential part in the human resource management as it can ensure the employees’ skills and knowledge can match the future requirement of the human resource (Stone, 2002). Its purpose is to develop the individual abilities and satisfy the current and future manpower needs of the organization (Armstrong, 1996).
Philips Singapore has a long history of providing training to her staff, and the training takes in many forms. Currently, almost every technical team has some engineers sent to European research headquarters to learn the platforms and technical parts of the latest Philips products. Different technical trainings targeting individual technical team are organized every few weeks during work time. The speakers can be from both inside and outside Philips, and all engineers are encouraged to participate. This is to ensure that every engineer and researcher in Philips Singapore has the understanding of the latest technology trend. Philips Singapore also provides full tuition subsidy for lines managers going for evening management course.
However, with the increasing pressure for self development in the recent few years, many diploma holder associate engineers are going for part-time degree courses, and the number of engineers reading part-time master degree course are also increasing. As the tuition fees are considerably high in Singapore, this group of staff have requested for tuition subsidy.
2.1.2 Recommendations for issue of tuition refund
It should be recognized that through taking part-time courses, engineers has increased the productivity which benefited the organization as a whole. Hence their request of tuition refund is quite reasonable. However, if company grants every employee the benefit of tuition subsidy without any restriction, it will add a big burden to the operation cost; plus, it may fail to serve the company’s strategic business objective if subsidized employees resign shortly after the completion of higher courses. Based on this consideration, following recommendations are made: for level 10 and 20 assistant engineers and associate engineers, half tuition fee (around S$5,000) can be subsidized if they willing to serve a 2 years bond with company; for level 40 and above engineers, half tuition fees (around S$10,000) can be refunded associated with a 2 year bond. And full tuition refund can be considered on a case by case basis. And the consideration criteria should include position of the engineer, willingness to serve longer bond, to name but a few.
2.2 Issue of flexible work schedule
2.2.1 Study of the case
Flexible work schedules are designed to provide employees with a choice in the hours that they work (Stone, 2002). And it permits the organization to respond quickly to changes in the work force (Thornburg, 1994). In the light of changing lifestyles, pressure for further education and employees’ dual roles – at home and on the job – flexible work schedule is very much longed for and requested by employees.
Philips Singapore has launched Flexitime scheme a few years back. The official work time in Philips Singapore starts from 8:30am and ends at 6:00pm. Under the Flexitime scheme, employees are allowed to select a starting time within 8:30 to 10:00am, and the ending time will be delayed accordingly to maintain a 8.8 hours per day and 44 hours per week work schedule. Ever since the Flexitime introduced, it is very much welcomed by employees.
However, some new demands are arising with the change of time. Many married employees need to take half or one hour off in the afternoon to pick up theirs children home from school. And those employees taking part-time course wish to knock off a bit earlier to catch their evening courses. And during the examination period, they wish to have more time to prepare their exams. Even though Philips Singapore grants every employee taking part-time courses two days of exam leave, they feel that they need a few more days for preparation.
2.2.2 Recommendations for issue of flexible work schedule
In consideration of employees’ demand for an extension of current Flexitime scheme, care is taken to not affect company’s normal operation. An extended Flexitime and a Variable Week scheme are recommended. Under the scheme of extended Flexitime, employees are allowed to take no more than one hour off in the afternoon to pick up their children home from school, provided that they don’t have any urgent works or projects on hand, and they must satisfy the 8.8 work hours per day requirement. The scheme of Variable Week is only applicable to those taking part-time courses. Under this scheme, eligible employees are required to present at work during designated weeks, which are weeks that have relatively high workload or those need to meet project deadline. However, they have option to work more hours in flexible weeks and the accumulated hours can be used to declare as off days to prepare their exams. In both schemes, employees need to complete their basic (non-overtime) work requirement. Certainly, this flexible work schedule is not appropriate to be grant to all eligible employees at same time. This means that, at any given period, at the same function domain, only part of the eligible employees will be granted this flexible work schedule. This is to protect the company from suffering short of manpower.
2.3 Issue of gym membership
2.3.1 Study of the case
Health programs reflect an organization’s strategic concern for employee productivity and quality of life (Stone, 2002). Shaw and Blewett suggest that in performance-oriented organizations, considerable attention should be given to employee health and safety. In a research and development intensive company like Philips Singapore, stress generated from work is a non-negligible factor that affects employee’s performance. And gym excises provide a good stress-relief channel for employees.
Philips Singapore has a medium-sized gym room inside company and it is open to employees of all levels. However, study shows that the usage rate of this gym facility is extremely low. This is due to a couple of reasons. First, after a day’s hard working, employees normally feel very tired and want to go home quickly. Doing Excises in gym room immediately after work is not so attractive to employees. Secondly, after dinner, employees feel reluctant to come all the way back to company just for gym excises. And most employees perceive company as a place to work, not somewhere to do excises. Nevertheless, the need of doing excise to release stress is still strong, and many employees signed up outside gym members. In this circumstance, employees have a demand of subsidy for gym membership.
2.3.2 Recommendations for issue of gym membership
Since company’s gym facility does not work out for its purpose, employees’ request for subsidy of gym membership shall be considered. However, this can not be done without consideration in cost. Recommendations are make to achieve a balance between cost-effectiveness and employee benefit. Gym membership can be partially or fully subsidized based on seniority levels. For manager, who are ranked level 50 and above, gym membership can be fully subsidized with a cap of S$3,000 per year; for engineers ranked between level 20 to 40, their membership can be refund 50% with a cap of 1000 per year; for those non-executive staff and staffs with rank lower than level 10, there are encouraged to used the existing company facilities and if their membership can not be refunded.
2.4 Issue of holiday with family
2.4.1 Study of the case
Work-family balance is critical for keeping employee motivation high. And no doubt to say that wok-family conflict will cause negative consequence on employee performance. All employees will be more effective, contributing individuals if there a proper balance among the various demands of work, family and life.
In Philips Singapore almost every department organizes employees for an overseas holiday each year, and the fees are 80% subsidized by company. The holiday normal last 2 to 3 days and if family members come along, they have to be self funded. Last year, Singapore government launched a pro-family program and companies are encouraged to adopt a pro-family culture to help its staff achieve work-family balance. Hence, employees are requesting of subsidy for their dependants in the department organized trip.
2.4.2 Recommendations for issue of holiday with family
Philips Singapore has always been regarded as the “employer of choice”. And it is recommended that subsidy for employee’s dependants in department organized trip shall be supported. Half of the transportation fees can be subsidized by company. Even though this will increase company cost, but the benefits is enormous. It not only increases employee’s loyalty but also promote a pro-family culture which in coherence with Singapore government’s policy.
With the objectives of enhancing loyalty, commitment and engagement of employees in Philips Electronics Singapore, four existing benefit programs are reviewed. Problems of these existing benefit programs are identify by feedbacks from employee online surveys and talks with managers. Recommendations are given to make these benefit programs stay compatible and relevant with the changing society.
The four employee benefit programs discussed are tuition refund, flexible work schedule, gym membership and holiday with family. These four issues truly reflect employees’ needs in the current situation. Tuition refunds and flexible work schedule reflect employees’ pressure for self development; gym membership show employees’ desire for a balance between intense work and health; holiday with family is a reflection of hope for a better work-family relationship.
With each issue has been sufficiently discussed, recommendations are given at the end to meet the changing demand.
Recommendations are made with consideration of cost-effectiveness and company’s long term competitive advantages.
Tuition fees can be refunded partially or fully based on individual’s eligibility and willingness to serve bond; an extended Flexitime and Variable weeks are introduced with terms applied to meet the demand for flexible schedule; gym membership will be subsidized however the amount will be based on seniority; holidays with family will be greatly supported in coherence with Singapore government’s call for a pro-family employer.
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XXX 02 May 2006