Navigating the post-Covid world has been hard for Singaporean employers.
They’ve needed to juggle the needs of employees during the pandemic, while still maintaining profitability and operating requirements.
At the same time, they’ve had to deal with rising inflation and supply chain swings, and hiring the right staff has remained a constant challenge for many employers.
They’re all competing in a hot labour market. Singapore’s employment numbers bounced back well from the pandemic, improving significantly in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s Statement on Labour Market Developments in 2022.
One of the key solutions is for employers to embrace change, advised Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in February 2023.
“Companies and workers alike must be ready for transformation,” Gan told the House. “In the face of rising costs, biting resource constraints and a more challenging international environment, this is the only viable path to long-term growth and success.”
Betul Genc, the Adecco Group’s Singapore country manager, shared with Workipedia by MyCareersFuture: “With dynamic shifts in the workforce and workplace escalated by the pandemic, organisations should evolve themselves and take into consideration hiring based on skills beyond direct job descriptions.
“Human resource departments should also consider reviewing the job descriptions that they may have filed in a library – whether they are up to date with the current market, required skill set and if the job is something that the current workforce would find attractive.”
In terms of identifying talent within their organisation, Betul believes it all starts with attracting and hiring the right talent.
In general, employers identify talent within their organisation via a combination of methods such as appraisals, key performance indicators (KPIs), psychometric profiling, referrals and leadership discussions.
“Whether the methods are optimised for human resources or organisational needs depend on the goal of the organisation, as well as their approach to talent identification, management, and development.
“It is also dependent on the requirement of the role where certain skills or qualities may be prioritised over others.”
Optimising their current workers matters for SMEs
Lawrence Young, the co-founder of the Human Resources and Finance Community (Singapore and ASEAN), also shared with Workipedia by MyCareersFuture how local companies can try to maximise their current employee’s latent talents and skills to meet new and evolving operational requirements.
It isn’t easy of course, particularly for small and medium enterprise (SME) business owners. Lawrence said: “There are challenges such as limitation of resources, making it tough for them to provide employees with opportunities to expand their job scope and take on newer roles and responsibilities.
“For others, a clear lack of formal training and development programs to support employees’ career growth and development will prevent the acquisition of new skills, competencies and knowledge to take on new roles and responsibilities.”
But the most challenging will still be their mindset, Lawrence added, saying: “A strong resistance to change or preference to stay with existing processes and systems will ultimately limit opportunities for employees to grow into new roles or expand their job scopes.”
He believes that despite these challenges, many local SME employers and companies in Singapore do encourage their employees to expand their job scopes, skills and talents beyond current key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets.
Of course, this varies from SME to SME, dependent on their size, culture and resources. But what is crucial for local companies is to encourage self-development. Employers can introduce learning incentives for employees who take initiative to learn new skills and stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and best practices.
MNC human resource playbooks are changing too
Compared to SMEs, multinational companies (MNCs) tend to be more proactive in this space, looking far beyond the next two to three years and into the aspirational vision and mission of their strategies.
Firms such as CapitaLand have begun adapting to changes and aim to help improve their workers’ skills by being training centres, according to their senior executive director Manohar Khiatani, who spoke at a SkillsFuture forum in July 2022.
According to a Straits Times report, Manohar said employers should view training as an investment, rather than an unnecessary cost.
“As a real estate company, our assets under management are more than a hundred billion (dollars), but our most important resource is our people.
“If we don’t have the right people, if we don’t have the people who are continuously improving and reskilling and relearning, we will not come where we are, and we will not be able to go where we want to go.”
Which industries are evolving quickly to build up their employees?
Of course, all companies at some point in time will need to relook at how they grow their employees skillset-wise. However, there are some industries that view talent identification and management as crucial to their business and survival, especially where specific technical skills, competencies and capabilities are required to stay competitive and for success.
Some industries that came to mind for Lawrence include the fast-paced and rapidly evolving technology industries, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT).
But beyond tech, he also highlighted these industries:
- Precision engineering
- Process and manufacturing
- Supply Chain and Transport
- Energy and Utilities
These industries will be focused on not just technical skills. Local employers have expansive employability requirements which account for soft skills and competencies and capabilities below:
- Creative and design thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Communicative skills
- Problem-solving and decision-making
- Attention to detail and ability to work in a team
These will ultimately align functions across the organisation, which can include teams, departments, the business and stakeholders, as well as build loyalty and staff retention statistics, shared Lawrence.
Betul added: “Industries that have more front-facing employees such as banking and retail which have evolved due to digitalization and change in consumer behaviour. They also recognize the importance of talent development within their current workforce so that they can move their employees into other roles within their organization.”
Lawrence also cited his view of local organisations that have done extremely well in harnessing the potential of talent development, expansion and utilization in Singapore. For example, public transportation operators SMRT, SBS Transit and supermarket chain Sheng Siong.
“Much of their success is due to strategic intentions for their employees, their leadership, culture and values, and a willingness to explore and encourage possibilities, opportunities and seek solutions for their employee’s growth.
“It’s also coincidental that their names all start with the alphabet “S”, I suppose”, he quipped.
But of course, there also needs to be a balance to ensure that your employees’ work-life balance remains tenable, even with talent development in mind.
Betul shared: “Studies have consistently ranked Singapore as one of the top overworked cities with long work hours and low average annual leave (amongst the lowest in the Asia Pacific region).
“With these factors and competing commitments from home, employees may not be able to commit to after-hours training.
“Employers must be flexible in their approach to talent development via training sponsorship, offering training during work hours and engaging employees such as involving employees in development discussions to find out what training interests them.
“This not only creates a corporate culture of learning, but it also motivates employees and enhances job satisfaction,” she concluded.
So, if you’re an employer, or HR decision-maker looking to build, attract and retain talent for your business, here’s a treasure trove of stories we have to that end!