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Singapore Government agencies-7 ways to motivate and award employees 

Managing in the public sector is different from managing in the world of business. Often, the environments in which government managers operate can actually make it more difficult to succeed.

In these highly-visible environments, managers need to actively engage government workforces if they are to succeed. Public sector leaders need to understand and address the factors that motivate government employees. They are:

1.Create awareness of the purpose of the agency and its contribution.

Politicians and some media, portray public sector employees (i.e., “nameless and faceless bureaucrats”) as overpaid and underworked. These images hurt employee morale and engagement. To mitigating this situation, educate the public by showing the public what their agencies do and how their contribution affect the public’s wellbeing. This can be done through press releases, public forums, websites, social media, and even outreach to schools. Managers can make employees aware, too, of how much power they have to shift public opinion. Research conducted by Gallup and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service revealed: When citizens interacts positively with public servants in government agencies, they are three times more likely to hold positive opinions of government in general. Engaged public servants can move the needle of public opinion about government, one interaction at a time.

2. Articulate long term missions, values and impacts

Few things are more engaging than making important progress toward goals. The goals of government agencies are often hard to translate into objectively measurable units. Therefore, government managers must clearly articulate long-term missions, values, goals, and impacts – and help employees see how their work connects.

3. Strong civil-service rules and employee protections. 

The fact that public employees have stronger job protections, even in nonunion organizations, than their private-sector colleagues, makes it more difficult to deal with poor performers. Managers must therefore clearly define employee expectations, provide frequent feedback, and take action to deal with substandard performance. They must also use the new-hire probationary period to weed out bad fits.

4. Recognize performance with non-financial rewards 

Government agencies usually can’t provide performance incentives like large pay raises and bonuses; or perks like stock options, fitness center club memberships, and car services. Faced with limited ways to reward and award employees for good performance, government managers need to focus on agency mission and impact, and also provide nonfinancial recognition. This includes adopting workplace flexibility practices, and providing non-financial recognition that sometimes means simply saying “thank you” and praising good performance.

5. Strong union influence. 

Union membership in the public sector remains stable. Managers must therefore form alliances with labor. Before conducting its first employee engagement survey, HR staff met with union representatives to discuss survey strategy and ask for support to generate a high response rate. HR staff also met with union reps to review survey results, including areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.

6. Public visibility of government.

The work of government is uniquely visible, due to open meetings/records laws that require agencies to meet in public and also provide, on request, meetings minutes, memos, decision documents, emails, and even text messages. This transparency means that public-sector managers committed to improving engagement need to help employees feel safe and secure, allowing them to feel comfortable voicing opinions, taking risks, and innovating.

7. Different employee motivations. 

Many employees enter public service because they find meaning in their work by making a positive difference in the lives of the citizens they serve. They are already committed to the mission of government. Managers must then leverage public-service motivation by involving employees in decisions and helping them see and appreciate their individual contributions.


As managers in Singapore government agencies increasingly focus on engagement, a cottage industry has grown that promises any number of one-size-fits-all solutions and “secrets” to improve engagement and award good performance. In truth, there are no secrets to maximizing employee engagement. Great management always begins with understanding the unique characteristics of the workforce, figuring out what makes employees tick, and creating the environment in which they can and want to do their best work.