Singapore is proud of what it has achieved on its 50th year but moving forward, toward SG100, and moving the country towards its next level of economic development, may be the country’s next big challenge. With labour productivity decreasing by 0.8 percent in 2014 and the population aging due to declining birth rates, shifts in foreign labour laws and dramatically evolving skill requirements to meet future business needs, Singapore’s talent outlook is not looking promising. But then again, the picture was even more bleak 50 years ago but didn’t stop Singapore from identifying approaches to address the challenge To continue new standards and reach new heights, priority should be given to equipping the next generation of Singaporean talent, as talent quality is a core element to drive the nation forward in the next fifty years.
“Solutions which work”
Singapore has always been known for its pragmatic approach to development, focusing on finding or creating, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, “solutions which work.” And a key component of this approach is foresight; predicting scenarios and preparing for these.
Knowing that continuous learning and development is required to ensure the local workforce has the capabilities to overcome future challenges, Singapore launched SkillsFuture in October 2014, to promote lifelong learning culture in the community. But what else can be done to develop Singapore’s talent and ensure that SG100 milestones are met?
Already, the Singapore government is focusing on growing local talent by increasing spending on continuous education and training to over $1.5 million on average per year from present to 2020, according to “Singapore Budget 2015 – Developing Our People” report.
Development across ages and job levels is essential to equip the workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge to fight future challenges. Focus should be specifically placed on developing the next generation of leadership with the capabilities to seamlessly take the place of the current workforce and address Singapore’s future needs.
To ensure that talent development is an achievable priority, everyone in the community ranging from the government, employers, industry and even individuals must play their part. While it is great to see the Singapore government proactively introducing initiatives to encourage lifelong learning and upgrading of skills, industry, company management and individuals need to play a more active role.
Singapore has shown commitment in obtaining deeper involvement from industry partners through initiatives that looks into strengthening collaborations between industry unions, institutions and associations to identify future areas where skills are lacking and establishing mentoring programmes to help develop relevant skills in these areas.
Government and business managers play a large part in providing programmes and facilitating skills development but to a large extent, the onus is on the individual to commit to their own continuous learning.
Executives should be taking advantage of the government’s incentives and corporate opportunities to further develop skills in their entire workforce, from frontline sales people to the ‘C-Suite’ leadership team. For example, Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering) and YCH Group have signed A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to collaborate in various SkillsFuture initiatives, such as SkillsFuture Credit and the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme to support employees if they wish to master their skills and further develop their careers.
Fostering a learning & development culture
It is equally important that companies create an encouraging environment and provide the opportunities for employees to take a more active role in their own learning. Structured career pathing should be built to enable employees to be prepared for the promotions and leadership roles, and can be achieved by establishing “learning journeys”, which includes rungs for experience, exposure and education including formal and informal training and development.
In conjunction with structured training programmes, younger staff also need exposure to various on-the-job experience. To provide less formal learning opportunities, leaders can assign special projects to more junior staff, allowing them to step outside their routine work and gain new knowledge and skills in other roles. However, opportunities for growth should not be limited to just younger employees. Development of more senior staff and executives to identify new ways of driving businesses operations should also be a priority, as their experience is vital in guiding the next generation forward.
Managers at all levels need to be involved in cultivating a thriving learning and development culture in a company. For example, small group leadership or management best practices sessions can be conducted by respected senior staff to share the company’s values, culture and guiding principles to other members of the team.
More personalised talent development through mentoring and coaching should also be offered to those with strong potential and interest in developing their career. The personal touch provided by middle managers in sharing their own personal experiences and working closely with a more junior colleagues can be a less confronting way of developing bright talent through engaging them in discussions and activities in more natural/everyday work settings.
We should celebrate the prosperous economy that Singapore has developed over the last 50 years, but also look forward and think about how we can help future generations build upon past success and continue to thrive in an increasingly competitive world. To do this, business leaders will need to improve key skills to be innovative, risk-takers, strategic thinkers and agile in change. I believe that continuous learning, across all levels, is a key element to building solid competencies amongst Singapore’s workforce and will prepare her well to tackle future challenges, of which there will be many. Here’s to another 50 years of learning, growth and accountability in striving to better oneself!
Article is contributed by:
Cynthia Stuckey is the Asia Pacific Managing Director of The Forum Corporation. Forum is a recognised global leader in linking leadership development and sales effectiveness training to strategic business objectives. For more information, visit: www.forumasiapacific.com.sg.