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Keynote Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Minister of State for Health and Manpower, at the 360 Productivity Singapore 2013, 1 August 2013, 9.20am, Regent Singapore

Mr Wong Hong Kuan, Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency,

Mdm Ho Geok Choo, Chief Executive Officer, Human Capital Singapore,

Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,


  1. Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to join all of you at this inaugural 360 Productivity Singapore conference, jointly organised by Human Capital Singapore (HCS) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

    Gearing Companies Towards Productivity-Driven Growth
  2. To meet the challenges posed by global markets, our companies cannot compete based on cost, and must work on improving productivity and delivering better value. How can they do so? They can invest in innovation, technology and training, adopt better management practices, and encourage employees to come up with new ideas for better work processes.
  3. As business leaders and entrepreneurs, you are best placed to lead in addressing these challenges. The Government will continue to provide support and assistance via grants and programmes to encourage restructuring efforts. For example, we have enhanced the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme through the PIC Bonus, and also introduced the Innovation and Capability Voucher under SPRING. WDA provides specialised productivity training through the Productivity Initiatives in Services and Manufacturing (PRISM) programme. Partners such as HCS also play an important role in the sharing of best practices through conferences such as this.

    Leap in Productivity Efforts – "360 Productivity Framework"
  4. To further boost existing productivity initiatives, I am happy this morning to launch the “360 Productivity Framework” by WDA and HCS. The 360 Productivity concept encourages individuals to make productivity improvements from all angles, such as exploring both top-down and ground-up initiatives, as well as to go beyond the focus of operational efficiency to spread the message of productivity through thought-leadership both locally and globally.
  5. Today’s 360 Productivity conference kickstarts our productivity learning journey under this framework. Four Productivity Masterclasses and eight Productivity Practice Sessions (PPS) have also been lined up. The Productivity Masterclasses will see distinguished thought leaders, esteemed academics from renowned overseas institutions including Georgetown University, and Government and business leaders impart their knowledge about, and experiences in, innovative solutions and productivity applications. To complement the thought leadership, the eight PPS will enable ground-up sharing of productivity best practices from like-minded business leaders and SME bosses.
  6. To encourage companies to come on board this framework, HCS and WDA have started a new bi-annual Human Capital Productivity Breakthrough Award under the 360 Productivity Framework. The award is a private-public sector collaborative effort which honours organisations that demonstrate creative and impactful breakthroughs in achieving higher productivity. Both large companies and SMEs are encouraged to sign up for the awards. I urge SMEs to take part, as HCS consultants will analyse your business processes as part of the award process, and recommend ways in which you can make further improvements.
  7. HCS and WDA also understand the value of inculcating the productivity spirit in our young. The award process will see HCS and WDA collaborating with NUS Business students, who will provide a short write-up on the productivity journey of each participating SME. The NUS students’ experience will be enriched by their first-hand insight into how SMEs operate.
  8. Companies can further look to train ambassadors who will share their success stories. I am pleased to witness the appointment of envoys from companies for WDA’s Enterprise Training Support (ETS) scheme. ETS was launched earlier this year to support businesses in implementing progressive HR systems that will help raise the skills and productivity of their workforce. The ETS envoys have been appointed to push efforts in this area, through sharing their experiences under the Continuing Education and Training (CET) and WSQ framework in their industry sectors.
  9. One ETS envoy is Mr Tan Lee Huak, President of Science Arts Co Pte Ltd. Since its inception in 1969, Science Arts grew from a small retailer of medical equipment and disposables to one of the main players in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Singapore today.
  10. Mr Tan’s training journey started back in 2002. He firmly believed in the results that training can provide, and put in place a systematic and comprehensive HR training scheme for his company. He groomed his most valued company asset – his staff – by sending them for training in core competencies to improve productivity. With the newfound skills, his staff helped to set up IT systems to improve efficiency. For his efforts, he was awarded the People Developer Certification from SPRING Singapore.
  11. Mr Tan is a role model to other companies that may still have reservations about investing in training for their staff. As an ETS envoy, he will share his experience with his industry counterparts, and hopefully motivate more to follow his path in embracing training and the productivity concept.
  12. To complement the efforts of our ETS envoys, we have made it even easier for companies to sign up for schemes at a one-stop shop. As part of a collaboration among WDA, SPRING Singapore and the SME Centres1, SMEs can seek advice, obtain information and sign up for WDA schemes such as ETS through these SME Centres. These centres facilitate access to the SMEs in the local districts. SMEs that prefer one-to-one advice on training or manpower development can also approach the SME Centres for specific advice on how to build up their workforce’s capabilities.

    Singapore's Aging Workforce – Maximising the Value of Every Worker
  13. Besides encouraging companies to leverage the new 360 Productivity Framework, I would also like to highlight the importance of raising the skills and productivity of our older workers. Older workers are an important resource especially with today’s tight labour market. With the right management practices, they offer a wealth of experience, skills, knowledge and stability. According to a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP), which surveyed over a hundred HR professionals and key decision makers, older workers are found to possess a greater wealth of experience, better problem solving abilities, a greater sense of loyalty and commitment, and a stronger work ethic as compared to their younger counterparts. Companies which hired older workers saw reduced turnover and associated costs, as well as lower absenteeism.
  14. Clearly, with the right management practices in place to retain and maximise their potential, older workers can play a critical role in a company’s business strategy together with the younger workers. I am glad that our efforts in encouraging companies to continue tapping on older workers have made good progress. Singapore’s employment rate of workers aged 55 to 64 has increased from 56.2% in 2007 to 64% in 2012. This is higher than other Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong2, but we are still behind Japan. So, there is room for us to do better. In fact, our target is to reach an employment rate of 65% by 2015 for this group of workers.

    Managing an Ageless Workplace
  15. Managing a multi-generational workforce can, however, be challenging. Line managers play an important role in understanding the needs and preferences of each worker. One way is for the managers to tap on the strengths of each generation, and instil a cross-learning culture. Older workers can be deployed in job functions that best match their experience and skill sets, or positions that allow for mentoring opportunities. They can share their knowledge and experience with their younger colleagues, while learning new skills required in today’s high technological working environment from the latter.
  16. In addition, companies should adopt age-friendly practices and redesign jobs. Simple things like having user-friendly tools and replacing manual work with more automation reduce physical strain, minimise error, and improve productivity. Providing flexible working arrangements is another way to enable older workers to continue to contribute to the company while balancing their personal or family commitments. To support these efforts, WorkPro was launched earlier this year to help employers improve their age management practices, redesign jobs, and provide flexible work arrangements.

  17. The 360 Productivity Framework is an integrated strategy for our local enterprises to innovate and increase their productivity to remain competitive. Beyond productivity, companies need to be prepared for our aging demographics, and proactively work out strategies to harness the strengths of our mature workforce. I am sure that our companies can turn these challenges into opportunities and continue to grow not just in Singapore, but also regionally and internationally.
  18. I would like to thank WDA and HCS for organising this conference as a platform for all of us to share our experiences and best practices. This is just the beginning of the 360 Productivity Framework, and I look forward to many other initiatives coming our way.
  19. I wish all of you a fruitful conference. Thank you very much.

1 The SME Centres is an initiative managed by SPRING which was announced in Budget 2013 to beef up assistance and build a conducive environment for SMEs to grow. SME Centres provide one-stop advisory services and are a single touch point for SMEs. Currently, SMEs can seek help at any of the five SME Centres located at the Chinese, Indian and Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation. They can also approach the satellite SME Centres at the Community Development Councils (CDCs) in the heartlands.

Data from the OECD Stats Extract database showed that the employment rate of workers aged 55-64 in South Korea (2011) was 62.1, Taiwan (2010) was 42.4, Hong Kong (2010) was 45.5 and Japan was 65.1 (2011).