Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was right when he said that getting Singaporean engineers to return from Silicon Valley is not just a matter of pay or having a job ("To lure tech experts home, 'rethink what engineering means'"; Feb 18).
An important aspect is having an employer that not only recognises the employee for his skills but, more importantly, also takes care of him as a person with different needs.
Perhaps we should try to understand why these people are attracted to work at Silicon Valley.
Let's take the example of Google and the perks enjoyed by its employees.
- Employees don't have to worry about food or drinks, as free gourmet food, snacks, and juice and coffee bars are available around the clock for them, especially for those who work late into the night.
- Besides paid paternity and maternity leave, employees also get "baby bonding bucks" to help with expenses like diapers and milk powder.
- The spouses of Google employees who die are entitled to insurance payouts, half the employee's salary for the next 10 years, and an additional $1,000 a month for his children.
- Pet owners are encouraged to take their pets to work.
The list of benefits goes on. This is the kind of workplace that inspires loyalty and commitment from its employees.
Singapore would have to match these perks and welfare benefits to attract our engineers back.
We have to change our mindset that employees are mere digits in the company, and move away from a focus on performance and bottom lines.
It is a steep learning curve and a huge gap for us to bridge to get to Silicon Valley's standards in how we treat our workers. We certainly have a long way to go.
Seah Yam Meng