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How to build employee trust and retain talent amid economic challenges

Find out how employers in Asia can improve talent retention and employee trust amid the economic downturn and cost-of-living crisis.

Eroding trust among employees is undermining organisations’ resilience

According to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends survey, trust among employees in Asia towards their organisations continues to erode, with a decline of almost 20% from 2022 to 2024.1

Broken promises and unfair treatment were cited as the top two causes of eroding trust. One aspect of unfair treatment is the disparity in health and well-being offerings, as many benefits packages are designed to provide the most benefits to the highest job level. Consequently, only 66% of employees say their employers genuinely care about their health and well-being, despite 88% of global employers considering themselves as caring.2

Employers in Asia are also facing challenges with employee retention, with three in 10 planning to quit in the next 12 months.3 One of the key factors driving employees to change jobs is to keep up with the cost of living in a challenging economic environment.4

At the same time, 46% of employees expressed that they would be willing to forgo a pay increase in exchange for additional well-being benefits.5 This highlights that building trust is no longer just about pay increment, as there are more factors to consider in building a thriving workforce. 

5 actions for employers to rebuild trust with employees

Mercer’s survey found that “trust in their organisation” is the strongest variable influencing how energised employees feel at work, their sense of thriving and their intent to stay. The following five approaches can help organisations build trust through empathy, while improving talent retention and productivity in a cost-effective way:

1. Promote equity by ‘flipping the pyramid’

 ‘Flipping the pyramid’ – an approach to provide equitable healthcare at every level, especially for employees at lower job bands who typically need it more can improve their overall well-being. By recalibrating the benefits structure, employers can potentially improve retention, enhance productivity, and reduce the likelihood of expensive medical claims arising from delayed or deferred treatment.

Organisations can start ‘flipping the pyramid’ by:

  • Conducting a thorough analysis of employees' needs.
  • Addressing the most critical needs first, e.g. reducing out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Optimising benefit programs to eliminate outdated, inappropriate, and inadequate plans based on identified needs.
  • Effectively communicating new benefit offerings to the workforce.

2. Offer comprehensive preventive health benefits

Early-onset cancers - cancer cases diagnosed under the age of 50 - increased globally by a staggering 79%.5 In recalibrating the benefits structure, Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) works with healthcare providers, insurers and employers to ensure that appropriate preventative healthcare offerings are in place to identify conditions at an earlier stage, such as:

  • Health screenings for early detection of prominent health risks such as cancer — the top contributor to medical claims in Asia.6
  • Reviewing the minimum age for health screening to address the increasing cancer incidences among younger adults.
  • Providing employee time off for annual health checks.

Case study: Incorporating preventive healthcare into the benefits structure

A leading business management software company with offices in China believes that supporting employees’ well-being is crucial for its long-term success and partnered with MMB to:

  • Develop a data-driven health checkup plan to screen for conditions like chronic diseases and cancer.
  • Provide flexible options to meet individual health needs.
  • Design an inclusive benefits package with optional add-ons for checkup at a discounted price.
  • Offer follow-up health assessments, encompassing the review of health reports, health counselling, and tailored recommendations from healthcare professionals.
  • Organising on-site health activities to increase well-being awareness.

These initiatives saw an over 80% participation rate, with an average employee satisfaction rate of over 90%.

3. Provide support for caregivers

In a recent survey, MMB found that one in two ‘dual caregivers’ — employees financially supporting both children and parents — feel “somewhat stressed” every day. As Asia’s ageing population grows, this figure is expected to increase. Employers should consider taking the following actions to ensure they provide sufficient assistance to employees with dependents:

  • Conduct surveys to identify employees who are caregivers to understand their needs.
  • Review caregiving-specific benefits, including subsidies for child/senior care. 
  • Track the utilisation of specific offerings and measure employee satisfaction levels to optimise the programs.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate the needs of caregivers.

4. Create open communication channels

Facilitating two-way communications can lead to greater employee trust within organisations.8 To achieve this, employers should: 

  • Provide regular updates on the company’s goals, strategies and decisions.
  • Ensure employees have the right information they need to perform well and eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Build a positive work environment. 
  • Actively listening to employees’ feedback and suggestions with follow-up actions to acknowledge their contributions.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to engage with leaders (e.g. town halls, fireside chats).

5. Organise seminars and talks that empower action to improve well-being

Once a redesigned benefits plan is in place and two-way communication is established, employers can further reinforce employee trust by organising regular seminars, talks, workshops and initiatives centred around physical, mental and financial well-being. Depending on geography, employee socio-economic profile and education level, MMB can advise on initiatives to prioritise. For examples:

  • Educational talks on best practices of health and hygiene.
  • A well-being marketplace where employees can purchase healthy food or sign up for exercise classes at a discount.
  • Ergonomic improvements to office furniture.

Are you ready to enhance trust with your employees?

Building employee trust and retaining talent amid economic challenges require a proactive approach from employers. Get in touch with an MMB representative today for a non-obligatory discussion to identify and address the key workforce challenges of your organisation.

1 Mercer (2024), Global Talent Trends 2024 | Asia
2 Mercer Marsh Benefits (2023), Health on Demand.
3 Mercer (2024), Global Talent Trends 2024 | Asia
Yahoo News. (2024). More than 4 in 5 Singapore professionals are considering a new job in 2024.
5 Mercer (2024), Global Talent Trends 2024 | Asia
CNN (2024). Cancer cases in younger people are rising sharply. Here are some preventive measures to take
7 Mercer Marsh Benefits (2024), Health Trends.
8 Mercer Marsh Benefits (2023), Health on Demand.
Kang M., Sung M. (2017). How symmetrical employee communication leads to employee engagement and positive employee communication behaviors: The mediation of employee-organization relationships. Journal of Communication Management, 21(1), 82–102.