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Speech at Human Capital Partnership CEO Networking Event

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, Stamford ballroom, Raffles City Convention Centre

Distinguished guests,
Good Morning. 

  1. Last week, the Committee on the Future Economy outlined seven strategies for Singapore to stay ahead in the fast changing and challenging global environment.
  2. Yesterday, at the launch of SAPPHIRE, an initiative of SNEF to help companies transform by integrating productivity practices with good HR and Industrial Relations practices, we looked at our future economy from the perspective of businesses.
  3. To recap, to truly succeed in sustaining healthy and quality growth, we need to strive for “pervasive” innovation across all sectors (both export oriented and domestic bound, both hi-tech and hi-touch) as well as across all enterprises (small, medium and large). 
  4. This morning, let us look at our future economy from another important angle – from the perspective of our workers.
  5. We should always remind ourselves -- what is the purpose of sustaining growth through “pervasive” innovation, if our future economy does not lead to better jobs, better careers and better lives for our people? 
  6. As tripartite partners, we are always mindful that as we transform our future economy to become more innovative, we must at the same time make sure that our future workforce is also becoming more inclusive. 
  7. Pervasive innovation and inclusive workforce are the two sides of the same coin - the coin of Our Future Economy. 
  8. One side of the coin can only grow bigger and better if the other side does so as well. 
  9. The tripartite partners have therefore come together to launch the Human Capital Partnership (HCP for short). Today, we can see that employers value their employees to varying degrees – some more, some less.
  10. Their HR practices can be categorized as: from unlawful and unfair, to fair and progressive. For the unlawful practices, we enforce and prosecute the employers. For the unfair practices, we engage the employers and subject them to closer scrutiny. For fair practices, we treat the employers fairly too and spur them to do better. For progressive practices, we embrace the employers and urge them to share and help spread their best practices.
  11. On our journey towards the future economy, we will, of course, continue to act on unlawful and unfair practices. 
  12. But more importantly, we want to do much more to speed up the adoption of not just fair, but progressive HR practices across all sectors and all sizes of enterprises. 
  13. We announced our intention to bring together a community of progressive employers under the HCP in November last year. Response has been most positive and encouraging. 
  14. In less than three months, we have gathered the pioneer batch of more than 70 Human Capital Partners who are here today. Thank you, for coming forward to be our partners. 
  15. These partners come from all sectors and are of all sizes – manufacturing and services, MNCs and local enterprises, GLCs and SMEs, business enterprises and social enterprises.
  16. Even though their business backgrounds may differ, they all share one same commitment – value human resources as the most precious human capital. 
  17. Before I came in, I have had an informal discussion with the panelists. I have asked them what is the difference between Human Resource and Human Capital. Our conclusion is that when you talk about resources, you think about consumption and depreciation over time. On the other hand, when we talk about capital, we think about investment and appreciation. 
  18. Therefore, when we talk about Human Capital, it is about mindsets – not to look at our people as a resource for consumption which will depreciate over time, but look at them as our assets to be invested in so that they can appreciate over time, not just in terms of the value to the organisation, but also the self-worth.
  19. Broadly speaking, together with our HCP partners, we strive to achieve three key outcomes. 
  20. First, with two-third of our Singapore workforce being local manpower, we will nurture them into a strong local core in our future economy;
  21. Second, with one-third of our Singapore workforce being foreign manpower, we will strengthen the complementarity between our local and foreign manpower so that we can better meet both the manpower needs of businesses, and the career aspirations of our people; and
  22. Third, global competition for better investments and better jobs is growing stronger and faster. 
  23. To make sure that the quality of jobs in our future economy will be better, we will develop new and emerging capabilities in our local workforce, and at the same time, draw on external capabilities to add to our strengths.
  24. More importantly, we need to proactively transfer skills and know-how to nurture our promising local talents into “glocal” talents in our future economy. “Glocal” talents refer to local talents who can be nurtured into global talents.
  25. As we strive for these three outcomes under the HCP, we must get there in an inclusive way.
  26. HCP values young and inexperienced employees in their first jobs.
  27. MasterCard started a two-year graduate development program in 2014. It includes a three-month overseas assignment.
  28. Alison Ang spent 3 months in Shanghai, working on a cross-border trade initiative. She gained valuable experience working in a multi-national team, and now has a better understanding of managing business relationships in China. Today, she’s back in Singapore and has taken on higher responsibilities supporting MasterCard’s key accounts in the finance sector. On her part, Alison was willing to step out of her comfort zone to upgrade her career. 
  29. On the part of the employer, MasterCard took a chance to involve a junior officer in a major project, in order to develop a potential leader. 
  30. HCP also values mid-career employees who transit into their next careers. 
  31. At City Development Limited, or CDL, more than half of its employees joined as mid-career hires. 
  32. Lawrence Leong started out as a young officer in the public service. He decided to make a career switch and joined CDL as a project officer when he was in his mid-30s. He was given opportunities to manage various development projects which helped him accumulate diverse experience and build deep expertise in property management. Lawrence continued to progress in his career over the last two decades, taking up various roles in CDL. Last month, he volunteered to take up an international assignment and was posted to Chongqing, China, to help oversee CDL’s properties there. 
  33. By investing in a mid-career hire, CDL has managed to groom an employee as an asset to the company for the past 20 years or so. In fact, Lawrence Leong is still an asset today at the age of 61. 
  34. HCP values mature workers too.
  35. At The American Club, close to 40% of its workforce are mature workers. 
  36. Mr Gee Sey Tan is 69 years old. He has been with the club as an Executive Chef for 20 years. When he turned 62 some 7 years ago, the American Club did not just re-employ him. It went the extra mile to redesign his job, to allow him to take on a less physically taxing role. 
  37. Today, Sey Tan does less cooking, but more mentoring. His age and experience are seen as assets, not liabilities. The American Club even sponsored him for further studies. True to the spirit of life-long learning, Sey Tan now has a Professional Diploma in Leadership and People Management, which adds value to his current role. 
  38. HCP also includes companies that are globally competitive because they do not use foreign workforce as a substitute for the local workforce. 
  39. Instead, they take steps to ensure local-foreign complementarity and actively support programmes that facilitate skills transfer to the locals. 
  40. When Glaxosmithkline, or GSK, first started its factories in Jurong and Quality Road in the 1970s and 1980s, it brought in foreign employees from UK to Singapore. Back then, there were no locals with the relevant skills and expertise to manage these sites. 
  41. The foreign employees therefore complemented the local workforce, by performing functions that locals at that time could not do.
  42. From there, GSK progressively recruited and groomed local staff to take on these roles. 
  43. The foreign pioneers also put in considerable effort to transfer skills to their local successors. Today, there are more than 500 local employees running GSK’s operations. 90% of the workers on these sites are locals.
  44. Mr Lim Hock Heng, is currently a Managing Director in GSK. Before assuming his current appointment in 2011, Hock Heng was coached for 6 months by his predecessor, Mr Christopher Raymond Dobson. 
  45. The skills transfer in GSK was so successful that GSK’s Singaporean workforce now shares its expertise with other units in GSK’s global network. 
  46. HCP is for SMEs too.
  47. Jumbo, a local food company best known for their chilli crabs, is also a HC Partner. 
  48. Not many are aware that this champion of chilli crabs is also a champion in human capital development. What is Jumbo’s “secret recipe”? 
  49. Jumbo sees the development of its own employees as key to its business success. The company develops and conducts more than 40 training courses in-house, ranging from language to service courses. More than 80% of Jumbo staff have attended these courses. 
  50. Ms Cassia Liam joined Jumbo in 1989 as a waitress. Over the years, she picked up skills in areas like food safety and customer management through these in-house courses. As she upgraded her skills, the company rewarded her with higher responsibilities. She is now the restaurant manager for Jumbo Seafood Gallery outlet. 
  51. HCP creates win-win outcomes for the employers and employees.
  52. When human capital is a priority, businesses become better at what they do, and are better able to seize opportunities to transform and grow. 
  53. At the same time, employees are able to adapt and grow in their careers. 
  54. The HCP Mark
  55. As HC Partners, Jumbo, GSK, American Club, CDL, Mastercard and more than 60 other companies can now proudly display the new HCP Mark on their corporate and marketing collaterals. 
  56. This HCP Mark will help to differentiate progressive HC Partners as employers of choice. This will give them a competitive edge in attracting and retaining good people. 
  57. Job seekers will also be able to recognise employers who are committed to human capital development. 
  58. Let me briefly share the meaning behind the HCP Mark: 
  59. The red colour in the HCP Mark signifies passion, to develop our people as our precious HC. The letters “HCP” are interlinked and connected, reminding us that HCP is a partnership. Both employers and employees have roles to play. 
  60. Above all, HCP is a tripartite effort, involving the Government, Unions and Employers. 
  61. Today, we are starting with the “pioneer” batch of partners and we hope you will serve as the role models to encourage more employers to adopt progressive practices and become HC Partners in future. 
  62. We do not want HCP to be an exclusive club of employers. We want to grow it into an inclusive community of employers to ensure that the human capital partnerships of Singapore will always be an inclusive one, now and into the future. 
  63. TAFEP, the tripartite partners and the economic and sector agencies are committed to support our HC Partners. We will work with you, and walk with you in your journey to grow your human capitals. 
  64. We will help you to scale up your existing HC programmes, and speed up the introduction of new HC programmes. 
  65. You will enjoy green lane access to relevant Government schemes such as the Adapt & Grow initiatives, Lean Enterprise Development Scheme, WorkPro, SkillsFuture and other programmes. 
  66. We can even work with you to pilot new employment and employability programs which may not be available today.
  67. MOM will also provide HC Partners with a dedicated hotline, to respond to your queries and suggestions more quickly. 
  68. In closing, I would like to thank our pioneer HC Partners for your passion and commitment to help lead the development of human capital in Singapore.
  69. With more than 70 employers employing more than 100,000 local employees, we are off to a good start today. Let us build on it, and grow from an exclusive HCP community of today into an inclusive HCP community of tomorrow. 
  70. On that note, thank you Partners.