The future of talent in Singapore in 2030

Singapore has enjoyed a period of impressive economic development, and the key for its sustained success lies in the talent of its people.

Singapore has enjoyed a period of impressive economic development, and the key for its sustained success lies in the talent of its people. The success of its economic and strategic policies is reflected in the consistent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth over the past few decades, the low unemployment rate and many other positive indicators Ministry of Manpower (MOM) 2016. What are the drivers influencing the context of ‘talent’ in 2030?

We used the Delphi technique and relied on the informed opinion of a panel of Singaporean and Singapore-based experts to develop a report in collaboration with the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) to understand and explore the future of talent in Singapore in 2030.

As a small city-state, Singapore has already built capability to attract and deploy talent, but it also has the opportunity to reflect on its identities, its values and the kind of nation it wishes to be, and to ‘cultivate’ the breadth, depth and quality of its people to shape that future.

During the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos at the start of this year, much was discussed and debated about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It was said that developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, genetics and biotechnology are converging towards a new world. Concurrent to this technological revolution are a set of broader socioeconomic, geopolitical and demographic developments.

A statistic now commonly quoted: 7.1 million jobs – mainly Office and administrative roles – will be lost between 2015 and 2020. In contrast, only 2 million jobs – in computer, mathematical, architecture and engineering related fields – will be created in the same time period.

“Talent is not about the ability to just deliver. It’s more about the capacity and capability to create value. Hence, innovativeness and strategic thinking are more important.” ‘Talent’ as a construct is problematic, but it materially shapes practices in people management – from employer brand and recruitment to whom you let go.

Drivers Shaping the Context of Talent in Future

According to experts, the cultural environment has a big influence on the understanding of talent. The cultural status quo in Singapore is characterised by complacency and a sense of entitlement by home-grown talent; a lower threshold to risk-taking; the high (social) cost of failure; the keen focus on academic excellence; and the highly competitive/ self-interested drive in individuals.

The benign environment in Singapore with low employment and easy access to decent jobs may lead to complacency and preference for security and conventionalism among Singaporean workforce. With the “benign environment”, risk-aversion is simply a practice of the maxim: “Do the minimum and keep your head down.”’

While nimble policies and a stable region have ensured a generally steady growth rate in Singapore, the workforce continues to age, work long hours (for a developed economy) and, more and more, productivity gains are a result of technological investments, innovation and a steady supply of foreign talent. Following established trends in other developed nations, a national minimum/ living wage is about to be implemented in 2030.

The steady exodus of baby boomers has been managed by government initiatives to raise the retirement age and by incentives that keep citizens active in the workforce for longer.

With inflation and unemployment generally low, the local workforce continues to enjoy real improvements in their material standard of living. The rapidly ageing workforce, however, remains a risk to further sustained economic growth in the years ahead.

The discussions on fairness raise debates about attitudes towards diversity and difference. The issues around xenophobia, ageism and gender equality are regularly aired. Managing employee perceptions of (un) fairness is a growing management issue. The question of fairness is growing with rising income inequality and intergenerational responsibilities.

Productivity and people development remain big concerns in organisations as competition in the region increases. Individuals must accept that learning is more than ever, a lifelong pursuit.

Disintermediation of official sources of information by a variety of formal and informal providers reflects a growing call for less censorship and more civil liberties. Organisations may have to deal with higher risks and tolerance for failure in this world of disintermediation.

For organisations seeking to attract and retain talent, HR needs to develop sophisticated learning environments with strong social networking and community-building elements. This encourages strong relationships within the community. Employers run mentoring and reverse mentoring programmes to facilitate integration, flow of knowledge and expertise.

The war for bright talent is keen and companies are increasingly sophisticated in their approach, integrating investments in their employer brand and segmenting the workforce using behavioural data to develop offers that are salient. Flexible working and pay, performance-based bonuses and training courses supported by data and analytics are used to entice and to retain talented individuals.

Flexible working is the norm. Organisations have fewer layers of command. Despite this apparent freedom, workers are subject to digital surveillance; their performance and productivity is carefully monitored. Employees are now familiar with the regular collection of data and measurement using a slew of metrics. This provides insights on the workforce, transforming the recruitment, assessment, performance management and L&D functions.

The link to business outcomes is clearer. Data analytics and risk management become core competencies of the profession in 2030. Another driver is the change of leadership in Singapore, adopting an outward view and encouraging a big-picture approach.

The traditional role of Singaporean leader is disrupted as they are encouraged to move out and engage across the region. The younger generations are more accepting of this approach and are eager to engage, creating a generational divide.

This article first appeared on HR in Asia.

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