Staying competitive in the modern workplace
Today’s business landscape requires employees to embrace lifelong learning to maintain their competitiveness, employability, and fulfilment.
Providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities to employees is an important responsibility of employers. Aside from futureproofing their business, upskilling employees also prevents skills gaps from widening and fosters trust between employers and employees, and the broader community.
In Singapore, only 37% of businesses are prioritising upskilling and reskilling in 2021, according to the 2021 Global Talent Trends Survey by Mercer. Among these, 44% intend to expand their learning ecosystems, while 41% intend to invest more in targeted reskilling and upskilling of critical talent pools.
Considering that less than half of employers are prioritising upskilling, it is perhaps vital to encourage organisations to commit to being more agile and to provide their employees with opportunities for professional development, so they can thrive in a changing world of work.
Eugene Chang, Managing Director, Consulting, Korn Ferry Singapore, told HRM Asia, “Upskilling is imperative for employees to keep up with the pace of digitisation; if not, employees will continue to work with outdated tools and struggle to keep up with increasing workloads.”
“There are also evergreen core skills like ideating, collaborating, and working in dynamic teams; influencing and managing internal and external partners; and leading and managing change which is critical in driving growth in an innovation-focused economy. The truth is that businesses often focus on individuals and overlook the importance of building effective team-level partnerships.”
The final aspect of driving productivity is the need to return to skills mastery as many organisations neglect to develop the skills they need to lead in their core fields and instead focus on novel skills badges, he explained. “To make real gains in productivity, we need a holistic approach that encompasses reengineering jobs and processes with technology, emphasising a culture shift in how we work with others in small, robust teams, and focus on individual upskilling and mastery.”
It has also been shown that training provides “positive returns” for businesses. According to the Economic Survey of Singapore Second Quarter 2021 study by the Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (MTI), a 10 percentage-point increase in the number of local employees sponsored for training led to 0.7% higher annual revenue for firms, and the local workforce was 0.5% larger on average over four-year periods between 2010-2018. This further suggests that businesses could have expanded their operations and created more jobs, possibly by improving their employees’ efficiency and capability, through training.
To create a successful upskilling programme, especially for SMEs, Chang’s advice is to “start small, use a focused approach, and show leadership”. Next is to create a structured learning programme that provides a systematic pathway to developing deep skills, and leaders must be a part of this programme, either learning, teaching, or both, he stressed.
“Keep in mind that programmes only contribute to 10% of a person’s learning,” he added. “The real learning takes place in applying these concepts in work groups. It also occurs between teams as groups of individuals collaborate and get good at experimenting with new technology and innovative ways to get work done together.”
Driving business transformation in Singapore
In many cases, people learn more effectively in teams, and mentoring is one approach that can enhance the learning and development of new skills. Between businesses, the mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street for both businesses to identify skills gaps while providing guidance to the mentee. Moreover, partnerships can be forged during the learning process, expanding the networks of both businesses.
Leveraging this concept, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) established an initiative called the SkillsFuture Queen Bee (SFQB) network that sees industry leaders take on a leading role in championing the development of skills in organisations, particularly for SMEs. In the role of a SkillsFuture Queen Bee, leaders will mentor and conduct relevant training programmes to support businesses in identifying and acquiring the skills needed for business transformation.
Companies participating in SkillsFuture Queen Bee programmes will be given advice on resources for jobs and skills, as well as information on government schemes that complement their skills development plan. Furthermore, they will become part of a skills support network, which will allow them to share skills issues and learn from other peer companies so that they can avoid common pitfalls and strengthen their implementations.
Another initiative which SSG offers is the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC), where participating companies will receive a S$10,000 credit provided by the government to embark on their business and workforce transformation. An additional 90% funding support will be provided for eligible enterprises taking up business and/or workforce transformation initiatives.
Chang concluded, “Learning programmes are a powerful lever to bring the company together and improve teamwork. With a hybrid working environment, these learning interventions are more than a workshop or upskilling event but are part of a broader effort to build culture and deepen relational connections.
“Through these interventions, leaders must show that they are also learning with their teams, providing constant coaching and encouragement. They should not put their people through learning programmes but participate and even show leadership in shaping this aspect of their organisation and culture. Productivity will be an outcome of a well-executed holistic transformation to become a learning organisation of the future.”