Efforts must be made towards instilling a culture of digital literacy and learning in employees to successfully drive a technological workplace revolution and create a future-proof workforce.
Singapore, a country of 5.6 million, is renowned for its stunning evolution from a third to first world in a short span of just five decades. Today, it is recognised as the key economic hub of Asia.
However, the outlook for the Republic’s economy looks bleak in the near term as a result of several headwinds that threaten to derail its continued success. Singapore is expected to face a labour crunch as a result of a shrinking workforce in addition to challenges arising from an ageing population and exponentially high levels of employee disengagement.
In recognition of these headwinds, Singapore has actively promoted innovation and digitalisation as part of the national agenda in recent years, often providing government support for digital transformation and upgrading of employees’ skillsets. It would be in organisations’ best interests to adopt suitable technologies such as automation and video technology that help to maximise the potential of the existing workforce, providing them with a competitive edge and sustained economic growth despite a limited labour force.
For the first time since March 2016, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reported that the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons rose to above 1.0—an 8.5 per cent increase in December 2017 compared to March 2018. This means that there were more jobs than unemployed persons. 1
A rapidly ageing population would also account for the decrease in Singapore’s labour supply by 1.7 per cent in the decade through 2026. 2 Singapore’s competitiveness might also be hampered by other Southeast Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia that are still benefitting from younger and quickly growing populations.
On top of all these, although Singapore’s employee engagement has remained unchanged from 2017, the Philippines and Indonesia have improved by a whopping six and 15 per cent respectively. 3
Productivity and Innovation
The introduction of progressive technologies and automation into mainstream consciousness and improved connectivity are leading to a seismic shift in how we work today.
Singapore has come to the realisation that sustained economic growth cannot be achieved through manpower-led growth due to the limited size of Singapore’s labour force. Recognising this, local authorities have placed a nationwide emphasis on productivity and innovation, aimed at enabling firms to maximise their growth prospects through technology and the efficient use of limited resources.
This sentiment is not unique to Singapore, with consulting firm McKinsey having forecasted that 30 per cent of work globally could be displaced by automation by 2030. 4 To address the labour constraints, the Singapore government is encouraging local firms to adopt technology and automation while still keeping employees engaged. These initiatives could help to increase the productivity of the existing workforce and improve workflow processes.
In this aspect, Singapore is better-positioned than many of its regional counterparts, with a study by The Economist ranking the island ation as the third-most prepared country in the world for intelligent automation. 4
Connection by Voice and Sight
While naysayers have cited technology as detractors of focus and productivity in the workplace, the same set of technology, applied correctly, can be used to simplify work processes in the enterprise.
One such technology that can help increase employee engagement while simultaneously improving workflow processes is video technology. Shifting preferences towards video in the enterprise is especially evident as digital natives come of age and enter the workforce.
Video has been lauded for its ability to effectively impart information through the combined use of visual and auditory cues. Based on Kaltura’s own research, video is playing an increasingly central role within enterprises today. 5 Shifting consumer preferences have also led to the active creation and sharing of videos between individuals. These trends make video a critical new data type that any organisation will need to be able to support, giving rise to the demand for more advanced video creation functionality.
Compared to other technology upgrades, video platforms are one of the easiest to implement and adopt. Applied correctly, video can help create the following:
A more engaged workplace. Video allows management staff to reach out to employees on a more personal level. A visual glimpse into body languages can provide more transparency into communication aside from putting a visual element to the traditionally faceless management, building trust amongst employees.
More training and development opportunities. With video recording, organisations can reduce the need to fly individuals to various sites (locally or globally) to conduct training. About 37,400 international companies have their headquarters in the city-state, with more than half managing their Asia-Pacific operations from Singapore. 6
The government’s ongoing call for Singaporean firms to internationalise has translated to a large number of globally-dispersed employees. This necessitates an effective method of ensuring that employees remain aligned with their headquarters and global counterparts. The time and money saved can be channelled towards more productive areas such as business development and employee welfare. Employees will also have more flexibility to review videos resources at their own time, and not be constrained by the schedule of the trainer.
Increase in knowledge-sharing. Creating, sharing, and accessing videos today is easy with the proliferation of smartphones and video editing tools. People are often seen searching online for self-help videos, while also producing and sharing some of their own. With the proper tools and platforms in place, all employees (and not just the management) can freely participate in knowledge-sharing, a move that could benefit the rest of the company.
Driving the Next Phase of Development
Preparations are well underway in Singapore to support technology adoption within local firms, improving overall performances with higher levels of productivity.
During the 2018 Budget announcement, the Singapore government had introduced several initiatives designed to help companies in their digital transformation efforts. 1 These include Singapore’s Open Innovation Programme (OIP), a virtual crowdsourcing platform that matches the digital requirements of businesses to solutions created by infocommunications and technology firms and the National Robotics Programme (NRP) that encourages the broader use of robotics in the built environment and construction sectors.
The government has introduced the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) for companies in need of funding assistance for technological upgrading. Companies which meet the necessary criteria are eligible to access funding to defray up to 70 per cent of implementation costs.
To align the above initiatives with Singapore’s evolution in moving towards a technologically advanced economy and inclusive society, the Singapore Government has also introduced the SkillsFuture initiative, aimed at helping individuals maximise their potential by developing mastery of skillsets regardless of where one is in life. Support in the form of structured training programmes is extended to individuals wishing to upgrade their skillsets in a particular area, or to individuals undergoing a mid-career switch.
To successfully drive a technological revolution in the workplace, efforts will have to be made towards instilling a culture of digital literacy and learning within today’s employees to ensure the creation of a future-proof workforce. Ultimately, while these national initiatives are in place, enterprises are responsible for instilling an appropriate forward-looking culture within their organisations, to develop the relevant employee skills and capabilities to ensure that the workforce remains relevant and future-ready.
1 Toh EM, 13 June 2018. Retrenchments fell to a five-year low, promising market for job seekers: MOM Q1 labour market report, TODAY, Singapore, https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/retrenchments-fell-five-year-low-promising-market-job-seekers-mom-q1-labour-market-report.
2 The Straits Times, 6 September 2017. Singapore faces grim labour future as population ages rapidly: Oxford Economics study, 2017, The Straits Times, Singapore, https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/singapore-faces-a-grim-labor-future-as-population-ages-rapidly.
3 Media Outreach, 29 March 2018. 2018 Employee engagement trends: Singapore employees least engaged among major Asian markets, 2018, AsiaOne, Singapore, http://www.asiaone.com/corporate-news-media-outreach/2018-employee-engagement-trends-singapore-employees-least-engaged.
4 Hartung R, 11 August 2018. Age of ‘abrupt’ automation: Future-proof your job to work alongside robots, TODAY, Singapore, https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/age-abrupt-automation-future-proof-your-job-work-alongside-robots.
5 Rozakis R, 16 November 2017. The state of video in the enterprise 2017—Infographics Are Fun, Kaltura, United States, https://corp.kaltura.com/blog/state-video-enterprise-2017-infographics-fun/.
6 EDB Singapore, 21 June 2017. Scaling up from Singapore, EDB Singapore, Singapore, https://www.edb.gov.sg/en/news-and-resources/insights/headquarters/scaling-up-from-singapore.html.
7 Teh SN, 21 February 2018. Budget 2018: 10 changes that will affect SMEs, SGSME, Singapore, https://www.sgsme.sg/resources/budget-2018-10-changes-will-affect-smes.
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