SAF's referral bonus is a hit

Members of the Singapore Armed Forces during the march pass at the SAF Day Parade on 1 July, 2013.
Members of the Singapore Armed Forces during the march pass at the SAF Day Parade on 1 July, 2013.PHOTO: ST FILE

1 in 4 candidates recommended by SAF regulars is hired

A move to give cash incentives to servicemen who refer potential recruits to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is proving to be a hit, with one in four of the more than 100 referrals hired over the past year.

The SAF scheme, which was launched in July last year to recruit more women and mid- career professionals, pays out a $500 cash bonus for every successful referral.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said the scheme complements its recruitment efforts to reach out to the likes of former career soldiers and operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).

Regulars 'can serve as SAF promoters'

Calling the referral bonus a "token of appreciation", Mindef told The Straits Times that the referral programme "provides an avenue for our regulars to serve as ambassadors of Mindef/SAF and play an active role in the recruitment within their respective social circles".

"Regulars who have an influence on the recruitment, selection and hiring process, as well as those in senior appointments, are not eligible for the bonus," said Mindef.

The referral bonus will be paid only if the referred candidate stays in service for at least six months. Those who have referred candidates cannot be serving notice at the point of the payout.

Mindef added that there is a cap on the amount of referral bonus an individual can receive per financial year, although it did not elaborate.

The scheme comes as the SAF ramps up efforts to beef up its manpower with mid-career professionals and women. It needs to ensure it can still mobilise about 300,000 soldiers from regulars, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and NSmen.

Today, about 20,000 men are enlisted for national service every year, but this is expected to shrink to about 15,000 a year in future as the birth rate declines.

Navy chief Lai Chung Han, who is one of the senior military officers spearheading such efforts, said in an interview earlier this year that those who choose to trade their office wear for military fatigues will enjoy a "full career".

Offering bonuses for referrals is a common practice in business.

Some agencies in the public sector have also implemented such bonus schemes. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), for instance, started a scheme in 2008 to offer its scholarship holders $500 for every student or colleague they refer successfully for a scholarship with the government agency.

The United States Army had a referral bonus programme that paid US$2,000 (S$2,780) for successful referrals. But the scheme, which was launched in 2006 at the height of the Iraq war, was suspended three years later amid allegations that people were abusing the system and getting illegal payouts.

All things considered, hiring one in four of those who have been referred is a good hit rate for the SAF, said recruitment experts.

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said the incentive scheme will ensure that the military has a higher chance of finding a "better fit" for its fighting force.

"The person referring a candidate will be able to be the first line of screening for someone who can... do the job, " he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'SAF's referral bonus is a hit'. Print Edition | Subscribe