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Speech at Unveiling of the HR Industry Manpower Plan

Mrs Josephine Teo, Second Minister for Manpower, Orchid Room, Sands Expo & Convention Centre

Ms Mary Liew, President, NTUC

Ms Goh Swee Chen, Vice-President, SNEF

Ms Aileen Tan and Mr Kok Ping Soon, Co-Chairs of the Sectoral Tripartite Committee for HR

Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Thank you for inviting me to join you today for the unveiling of the HR Industry Manpower Plan (HRIMP).
  2. What exactly is the HR industry and why develop a manpower plan?
  3. Well, there are some 43,000 HR professionals in Singapore supporting more than 200,000 enterprises with a total workforce of about 3.4 million. That’s roughly one HR professional for every 80 people in the workforce.
  4. That number alone, however, does not describe the diversity of our HR landscape. 99% of our enterprises are SMEs with fewer than 200 employees each. In very small companies, there is quite often no dedicated HR person - the Administration or Office Manager double-ups as HR Manager, or the other way round. In bigger companies, depending on their philosophy or sophistication, some HR teams are not expected to do much more than routine administration. Yet others truly believe in people as a strategic asset, and require their HR teams to function as partners to the operational units, to help take the business forward. Increasingly too, many HR professionals are in businesses that have regional or even global presence, and they are expected to travel, manage trans-boundary issues and bring cohesion to multi-national workforces.
  5. Besides in-house HR teams, we also have some 2,300 HR services firms here. They provide HR consultancy, HR outsourcing, HR information systems, as well as recruitment and executive search services. In terms of contribution to the economy, their combined value-added is not small, around $2.4 billion.
  6. The HR service providers and in-house HR professionals together constitute the HR industry. They are present in every sector of the economy. More importantly, they are a key touch point between people and the businesses which employ them. Good HR helps keep people engaged and productive; business can keep growing and bosses are happy. Bad HR? They just keep my brothers and sisters in the NTUC busy for all the wrong reasons.

Strong HR can help unlock the potential of our people and businesses to adapt and transform

  1. Our HR industry is generally in good shape. But the tripartite partners agree that we haven’t reached a level where we can be fully satisfied.
  2. Specifically, there are three areas in which we can do much better. First, although HR is already an attractive profession, we need more avenues for its many practitioners to deepen their skills and advance their careers. Second, as we transit to a manpower-lean economy, businesses will need to work harder to find and keep talent. They will need more systematic HR management within the company and better access to competent service providers. Third, at the broader level, HR professionals are a valuable resource that can be mobilized to activate business and industry transformation. In other words, if we want to unlock the potential of businesses and industries to transform and grow, and equally, for their people to adapt and grow, we should strengthen the pool of HR professionals and uplift their capabilities.
  3. There is urgency to do so. This is because our plans to transform the economy is ambitious. We stand a much better chance of succeeding if we can effectively mobilise the HR industry in this effort.
  4. That is why two years ago, Minister for Manpower Mr Lim Swee Say announced that a HR Industry Manpower Plan (HRIMP) would be developed alongside the 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs).
  5. Many of you are familiar with the ITMs, which describe the strategies to prepare our key industries for future growth. Like all ITMs, the HRIMP was developed by a Sectoral Tripartite Committee, which consulted extensively with more than 700 HR professionals and business leaders.
  6. The result is the plan we are unveiling today. It is a plan to strengthen the HR industry in Singapore. Our vision? A Singapore where HR is a key that effectively unlocks the potential of our people and businesses to adapt and transform.
  7. It is a vision that captures the spirit of our time, where disruption is pervasive and people, businesses, industries and whole economies must all be ready to adapt and transform. To realize this vision, the HRIMP proposes to focus on 3 key thrusts:
  • Strengthen the HR profession;
  • Enhance HR support for employers; and
  • Nurture a vibrant HR services sector and HR eco-system
  1. Let me briefly outline our plans in each thrust.

Thrust 1: Strengthen the HR profession

IHRP Certification

  1. To strengthen the HR profession, we have developed a national HR certification regime. It is essentially a framework that tells us what good HR is about. That means the competencies (what you need to know), mindsets (how you need to think) and behaviours (how you need to act), that HR professionals must have to deliver positive impact for their organisations and the people they employ. Of course, there is also a pathway for deepening skills as they advance, which tells them how to become better in the HR role.
  2. We have concluded a successful pilot run with 88 HR professionals certified, and have appointed the Institute for HR Professionals (IHRP) to administer the certification. With the pilot completed, we can get down to business.
  3. From today, HR professionals can register for the first 2 levels to be a Certified Professional or Senior Professional. Over the next 5 years, we hope to increase the pool of certified HR professionals to 5,000.
  4. Certification also applies to HR pinnacle roles. Chief HR Officers can be nominated by tripartite leaders and their industry peers to be assessed as Master Professionals, the highest level of attainment.
  5. In fact, we have a pioneer batch of 3 Master Professionals today. They are:
  • Ms Aileen Tan, Group CHRO, Singtel;
  • Ms Carmen Wee, Global VP HR, Software Business, Schneider Electric; and
  • Ms Low Peck Kem, CHRO and Senior Director (Business Partnerships), Singapore Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office
  1. I look forward to them championing the HR profession as we position it for bigger things.

Industry-Relevant PET and CET

  1. Besides certification, there are many other programmes to develop aspiring and existing HR professionals. These include the SkillsFuture Earn & Learn Programme, SkillsFuture Study Awards, Professional Conversion Programme, and a HR Leaders Programme. You can find out more about these programmes at the Showcase.

Thrust 2: Enhance HR Support for Employers

  1. Having competent HR professionals alone is not enough. They can’t do much if the employers are not prepared to invest in HR and become more systematic in HR management.
  2. Sadly, there are still too many companies stuck with the old mindset that HR is nothing more than a cost centre. But some are more enlightened, like Saladstop!, a company that is less than 10 years old and which stands out for its refreshing emphasis on good HR. The business was on a fast track and going places, but the management believed a stronger HR foundation would take them further in the longer run. SPRING helped them go through the HR Diagnostic Tool, which is like a doctor giving a check-up. Through this tool, SaladStop was able to identify its HR gaps, and decided it needed someone experienced to help. That came in the form of a SkillsFuture SME Mentor who coached their managers to conduct on-the-job training for frontline staff. The training is now more standardised – everyone learns the same things - and operations are now smoother than before.

Enhanced HR Resource Portal

  1. Besides the HR Diagnostic Tool and SME Mentor, one other practical initiative is to enhance the self-help HR resource portal which businesses can access on their own. SPRING Singapore, in collaboration with NTUC Learning Hub and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, have put out a sample video walk-through of the portal which you can check out at the Showcase. Let them have your feedback before the full version is made available later this year.

Pool of Volunteer HR Directors to Expand

  1. We also have wonderful pilot programme where SMEs looking to scale up their HR capabilities can call on Volunteer HR Directors for know-how and advice. Most good things are not free but this one is. At this stage, the pool of Volunteer HR Directors is still small and just about 20 SMEs have tried it. The results are promising and SPRING wants to expand it.
  2. Through providing practical help, the tripartite partners will enhance the support to more employers to improve their HR capabilities.

Thrust 3: Nurture a Vibrant HR Services Sector and Eco-system

Support for SMEs to Use HR Shared Services

  1. Many HR teams are lean, and will not be able to perform all HR functions in-house efficiently. They need competent service providers.
  2. Under SPRING’s HR Shared Services pilot, more than 20 HR services providers have been identified to help SMEs improve and optimise HR operational efficiency.
  3. Take local SME, Teo Garments, for example. It saved more than 30 man-days in the first year after switching to HR shared services. Time previously spent on administrative tasks in recruitment and selection, is now used for more strategic HR matters such as manpower planning to support the company’s international expansion plans. 
  4. There is also a growing number of local HR tech start-ups with useful products that improve HR outcomes for organisations. One of them is EngageRocket, which uses mobile technology for its employee pulse survey product. The surveys are simple to set up, customize, and deploy. As a result, even small companies can improve employee engagement and talent retention in a cost-effective way.
  5. In fact, technology is changing the way HR services are being delivered. Affordable cloud-based software enables HR professionals and organisations to easily access real-time employee data, and use this data to make better people decisions. Nimble HR tech start-ups are offering customisable, scalable products at a fraction of the cost.
  6. We will enhance the HR Shared Services scheme to take full advantage of these opportunities and raise HR service delivery.


  1. Ladies and Gentlemen, the HR Industry Manpower Plan has laid out a multi-pronged approach to
  • strengthen the HR profession,
  • enhance HR support for employers, and
  • nurture a vibrant HR services sector and eco-system.
  1. Together, the programmes and initiatives under these three key thrusts will mobilise the HR industry to effectively support our economic transformation.
  2. If we are successful, two groups will be the biggest beneficiaries. The first is employers. It will help them build up their HR systematically and improve access to quality HR services. The businesses can keep transforming to stay competitive, and keep seizing new opportunities to grow. Their employees too will benefit. With the right people policies and HR support, employees at all levels and across all functions will have every opportunity to keep adapting and growing.
  3. This is an exciting opportunity for all of us.
  4. Let us work together to strengthen HR and unlock the potential of our people to adapt and grow, and for our businesses and industries to transform and grow.
  5. Thank you.