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Opening address at The Singapore HR Awards 2019

Minister of State for Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Resorts World Sentosa

Ms. Low Peck Kem, President SHRI

SHRI Council members, SHRI Academy and Corporation Board of Directors

Mr Eddie Lee, Executive Director SHRI.

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen


1.       Good evening. I am happy to join you for the 14th Singapore HR Awards Presentation Gala organised by the Singapore Human Resources Institute.


2.       This year’s theme of “Honouring Human Capital. Driving Business Excellence” is a timely reminder that investing in our people, and developing a workforce that is productive and continually improving to stay relevant is no longer a “good-to-have”, but a “must-have” for companies.


Companies benefit from the expertise and experience of older workers


3.       One segment of the workforce that has a lot to offer are older workers.


4.       At the National Day Rally last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government has accepted in full the recommendations of the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, including to raise the Retirement Age and Re-Employment Age. Not only will this support older workers’ aspirations to continue working for as long as they are able and willing to, it will also enable companies to draw from a larger pool of manpower, and turn our ageing workforce into an opportunity for growth.


5.       To realise this opportunity requires a joint effort. Not only must older workers adopt an open mindset to reskill and take on new responsibilities. Businesses must redesign their jobs and careers around the abilities of older workers.


6.       HR teams can support businesses to do so. First, by providing older workers with structured career planning sessions to help them with career development and prepare for re-employment. Older workers are keen to reskill in the future economy, but they are also more likely to look to employers to signal what training they should undertake.


7.       Second, by providing more part-time opportunities for older workers. Many of them have much experience to share and would like to continue contributing to their companies. At the same time, they prefer to work less intensely. Employers can stand to benefit if they can retain these experienced workers who may otherwise retire prematurely.


8.       Third, by adopting a more transformational redesign of jobs that will raise the age ceiling of more workers, rather than just task-specific job redesign that benefits only a few older workers at a time.


9.       The Government will support employers and older workers in these efforts.


10.     I am glad that there are award winners today that value their older workers and actively invest in their development.


11.     One such company is SATS, who is receiving 11 awards this year, including one for leading practices in Learning & Development. SATS is committed to constantly upskilling its 14,000-strong workforce, which enables them to take on higher skilled and redesigned jobs that support evolving business needs. In 2018, SATS launched the SATS Academy to consolidate all their training courses, and accelerate the development of all employees. To date, SATS Academy has trained over 6,200 employees, of which more than a quarter are aged 50 and above.


12.     One such employee is 58 year-old Ms Maimunah Bte Sudin, who has worked in SATS Security Services for 39 years. She joined the company as a frontline auxiliary police officer, and is now a trainer. Having picked up new skills in using technology to augment her job, she now conducts virtual reality training sessions for new recruits and auxiliary police officers. It is a win-win outcome for both SATS and its employees. Ms Maimunah can better share her experience in dealing with different security scenarios in more realistic settings, while new employees benefit from a better training experience that allows them to perform well in their new jobs.


13.     SATS Academy is stepping up efforts to upskill older workers, and has piloted a course on “Accelerating Change for a Digital Workplace” in November 2018 to help them embrace technology to take on better jobs. To date, more than 140 employees above the age of 50 have attended this course.


14.     I am also happy to note that SATS’ Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Alex Hungate and Senior Vice President of Human Capital, Ms. Lilian Tan, are receiving the Leading CEO and Leading HR Leader awards respectively. It demonstrates the important partnering needed between business and HR leaders to achieve workforce outcomes that benefit the business and workers.


Technology helps build capacity and capability of HR teams

15.     It is also important that companies HR professionals can tap on tech to identify skills gaps and propose ways to develop the workforce in line with business needs, and also introduce initiatives that better engage the workforce and build a stronger organisational culture. invest in developing their HR professionals. HR technology solutions, in particular, can free up HR professionals from more transactional tasks, and build up HR teams’ capacity to improve workforce outcomes. For example, HR professionals can tap on tech to identify skills gaps and propose ways to develop the workforce in line with business needs, and also introduce initiatives that better engage the workforce and build a stronger organizational culture.


16.     One award winner that has tapped on HR tech solutions to do so is GEX Ventures, a business consultancy and real estate firm. GEX has won 6 awards, including an award for leading practices in employee engagement, alignment and workplace harmony.


17.     GEX’s HR team continuously seeks new and effective ways to engage their employees and build a strong workplace culture. This year, they introduced a well-being app from Virgin Pulse to all its employees, to foster a more cohesive and healthy workplace. Through the app, staff receive individualised well-being tips and targets, not just on exercise, but also on better focus and work-life balance. The app has allowed GEX to consolidate all ad-hoc well-being activities, and they now give out monthly rewards to the best performing staff in the in-app exercise challenge. The initiative has been well received thus far, with 100% of staff actively taking part in the exercise challenge. In fact, some of the most active participants are their older employees, with half of the top 10 participants above the age of 45!


18.     This initiative has led to a healthier, more active and engaged workforce, with improved satisfaction and retention levels. GEX has shown that it is important for employers and HR professionals to leverage technology to augment their work, and to equip themselves with the skills and mindset to tap on relevant tech solutions. 


19.     On the Government’s part, we will continue to support the adoption of HR tech solutions among companies through schemes such as SME Go Digital, and Enterprise Singapore’s Productivity Solutions Grant that offers pre-scoped HR tech solutions.


SHRI plays a key role in our HR ecosystem


20.     While the Government continues to support companies in their workforce transformation efforts, a strong HR ecosystem has an important role to play in guiding companies on emergent workforce and HR trends, and providing company-specific advice. This comprises a vibrant HR services sector that provides relevant training and solutions to HR professionals and companies.


21.     SHRI has a continuing, key role to play in this ecosystem. First, as a HR training provider, SHRI can provide HR training courses in line with emergent needs and skills required of HR professionals.


22.     Secondly, SHRI will also continue to bring the HR community together to share perspectives on key HR trends and issues through their headline events such as the SHRI Outlook.


23.     SHRI is also forging stronger relations with local and regional HR bodies such as the tripartite Institute for HR Professionals, to ensure closer synergies among the different stakeholders in the HR ecosystem. I look forward to such closer collaborations, for the benefit of the HR community.




24.     In closing, it is important that companies continue to invest in their human capital to drive business excellence. Only then, can companies truly reap the full successes of their business transformation.


25.     I wish you a pleasant evening ahead, and my heartiest congratulations to all award winners. Thank you.