How can Singapore SMEs transform their operations?

Without big budgets to hire the right skills, how can Singapore small and medium enterprises tap on the Singapore Government to innovate their operations?

With the Singapore Government introducing initiatives to enhance the existing working capital loan and raise the risk quantum shared by the government, a hot button issue has emerged around how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can tap on these to innovate their operations and increase productivity.

Considering that SMEs provide seven out of 10 jobs to Singaporeans and contribute to nearly half of the nation’s gross domestic product, it is crucial for such businesses to not just keep up with digital disruption, but scale up too.

Yet, without significant budgets to recruit the best people and needed expertise to tackle digital disruptions, where do SMEs even start?

Vincent Low, Director and General Manager, Business Imaging Solutions, Canon Singapore tells HRM Asia two potential areas where SMEs can equip their existing workforce with the necessary skills for effective innovation.  

Support employee transformation    

As industries transform at a relative rate to the advancements in technology, it is not enough for just business leaders to be at the forefront of this change. An organisation is only as strong as its weakest link. The threat of automation on employment surfaces the need to equip human capital with skills that cannot be replaced by these machines, but are instead complementary to them.

For innovation to be actualised in every aspect of the business, it is crucial for every single employee – from key leadership to ground staff supporting the corporate pipeline – to be equipped with the right skills and tools, not just to yield greater productivity gains for the organisation, but to develop greater resilience and adaptability for the future economy.

Businesses can partner national skills enhancement efforts such as SkillsFuture, by committing to in-house training that focuses on sharpening the expertise of workers and ensuring the applicability of these skills.

Equipping employees with the know-how of mastering and regulating the volatile characteristics of the digital economy will help companies successfully navigate upcoming disruptions.

Outsourcing certain functions

It is crucial for businesses to understand what technological disruptions mean for their core workforce and operations, and analyse the long-term impact and profitability of investing in new systems before jumping on the innovation bandwagon.

A method of efficient manpower planning is for businesses to focus on their core competencies and services, and leverage on technology efficiently through outsourcing for a greater work value. This is especially important for SMEs as it facilitates greater flexibility and allows employees to focus their energies on the activities essential to the core business.

Examples of areas in which businesses might not have in-house expertise in and could outsource services for include: data generation for bill processing, print and document management and mailroom management. This one small change can mean a major reduction in administrative hours, and allows businesses to easily scale without exacting a heavy toll on employee work hours.

Outsourcing certain services such as IT support allows SMEs to convert in-house expenses into variable costs where businesses can budget for specific services only when they need it. These savings could instead be invested into other critical areas such as employee training and development in preparation for manpower to be deployed in other higher-value functions.  

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