Keynote Address at UOB #Better Future of Work Festival
Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you at today’s #Better Future of Work Festival. I would first like to extend my congratulations to UOB on the launch of the UOB Employee Clubhouse. I am also glad to see UOB’s commitment to prepare itself for the future of work through its “#Better Strategy”.
2. The strategy has three main pillars that are aligned with the Government’s ongoing efforts to develop a stronger workforce and workplace. These are also the three key points that I want to cover today:
a. First, giving employees the opportunities to reskill and upskill, especially for our mature and senior workers, to develop a resilient and competitive workforce;
b. Second, fostering an enabling workplace culture through adoption of technology, job redesign and business transformation to strengthen competitiveness; and
c. Third, supporting the well-being of our workers, including developing their mental resilience and ensuring work-life harmony, to retain talent and improve work productivity.
Developing a Resilient Workforce
3. COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of transformation across our businesses. I agree with Deputy Chairman and CEO Mr Wee’s point that change is not constant; it is accelerating. To prepare our workforce for the future economy, new business models will emerge, and our workers will need to adapt. Business that are able to upskill and reskill their workers with in-demand skills as well as future-ready capabilities will be able to gain a competitive advantage on the global stage and continue to succeed.
4. To build a future-ready workforce will require a shift in mindset and HR management approach. I am encouraged to see more businesses moving beyond the ‘fire-and-hire’ approach and, when hiring, moving beyond ‘plug-and-play’. These businesses recognise the value of the industry and product experience that existing workers have, and work hard to retain and equip them with new skills even as the business direction changes. When hiring, these businesses recognise the transferable skills that mid-career workers can bring, and provide them with a skills top-up so that they can excel at the job. As the war for talent continues to intensify, and our workforce continues to age, these are not just good practices but, indeed, sound business strategies.
5. The Government will walk this journey with our businesses and Singaporean workers. We have launched Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) to re-skill mid-career professionals into roles where there are skills gaps. This takes more effort on the part of businesses and workers, but it does pay dividends. Employers have found that people recruited through the CCPs are a good fit. About nine in 10 individuals placed through CCPs remained employed after 24 months, and seven in 10 earned more than their last drawn salaries. This reflects the improvement of their human capital and ability to value-add to their employers.
a. One example of our programmes is the Technology in Finance Immersion Programme (TFIP), which equips mid-career professionals with skills to take on tech jobs and expand our local tech talent pool.
i. Since 2019, more than 20 financial institutions have taken in over 260 local trainees for tech jobs such as cloud computing, data analytics, and cybersecurity. While many employers may lament the shortage of talent for these difficult-to-fill roles, more enlightened businesses have taken steps to make sure they stay one step ahead of others.
ii. This year, TFIP was expanded to include more tech roles, such as agile IT project management, business analytics, and UX design. More than 500 traineeship places have been made available.
6. UOB is one such savvy employer, who has been investing in its people. ‘Better U’, one of UOB’s flagship training programmes, trains employees in practical, applied skills such as project management and data analytics. With this training, employees are able to take on new, expanded job roles and make further progress in their careers with the bank.
a. One of your colleagues, Christina Leow, has tapped on various training programmes during her two-decade-long career at UOB. She had participated in a Redeployment CCP in 2018, and picked up skills in design thinking and problem solving to help her perform better at her job. I am glad to note that Christina’s commitment to learning and efforts have paid off. She is now an Assistant Branch Manager at the UOB Wealth Banking Centre.
7. Given our demographic trends, we need to view our senior workers as an asset and harness an ageing but more experienced workforce as a positive driver for growth. In Mandarin we say “姜越老越辣”. Many seniors in Singapore are keen to continue working and are prepared to reskill, upskill and adapt themselves. Even those who decide to “retire” may subsequently take on new roles, perhaps with lighter responsibilities, shorter hours and more flexibility. As such, the Government and employers should work together to enable our seniors to remain economically active and contribute meaningfully to our businesses, should they want to continue to do so.
a. Today, UOB is launching a new programme for retired employees to return to the workforce on a flexible basis. I am encouraged by UOB’s efforts to boost its workforce strategy by tapping on the experience and expertise of retired workers in a meaningful way.
8. On the Government’s part, we took heed of tripartite partners’ recommendation to increase the Retirement and Re-employment ages, so that senior workers who wish to continue working for longer can do so. To help employers adjust to higher Retirement and Re-employment ages, the Government introduced the Senior Worker Support Package in 2020, with a budget of $1.5 billion over three years. The package helps employers in hiring and retaining senior workers. In addition, the Government introduced the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support package last year to help mature and senior workers upskill and reskill, so that their skills remain relevant.
9. There is an additional critical role that employers can play. As businesses transform in the face of evolving trends, workforce transformation must go hand in hand, and a key aspect of this is putting in place systematic process for skills and career conversations with mature and senior workers. These conversations help employers identify skills needs and training roadmaps for such workers. They should take place earlier and be a regular process for all companies. Beyond training, these conversations can also point to possible job or even systems-level redesign, to better harness experienced and well-trained workers.
Fostering an Enabling Workplace Culture
10. As digitalisation accelerates, the future of work and workplace is going to look drastically different from today. As such, we encourage companies to foster an enabling workplace culture to realise the fullest potential of their human assets. The UOB Employee Clubhouse is a fine example of this. I hope that employers will rethink their business model and operations, redesign jobs and exploit technology and innovation to enable you and your employees to conduct business more efficiently and effectively.
a. One example is KMS Lines, a freight forwarding service, which took the opportunity during this period to migrate their system from an on-premise server to the Cloud. Supported by the Productivity Solutions Grant, they also adopted other digital solutions, which included cybersecurity tools, allowing them to work remotely and process payments with peace of mind.
b. As a result of their foresight and willingness to adapt, they enjoyed a 50% increase in productivity and cost savings of 20%.
11. Flexible work arrangements such as these are no longer ‘good-to-have’, but essential. Our recent survey indicated that 84% of employers that currently adopt flexible work arrangements are likely to continue offering them post-COVID; around 80% felt that it improved retention and productivity. There are high expectations among employees for hybrid work to stay and businesses will need to transform how they conduct their business, design workspaces and appraise staff to attract and retain talent in order to stay competitive. After all, human talent is our most valuable resource.
12. This is echoed by the recent UOB ASEAN Consumer Sentiment Study, which found that flexible work arrangements are critical to achieving work-life harmony as part of new working norms post-COVID-19. Cultivating a hybrid workplace that balances productivity with the flexibility for employees to work from where they choose will be key in helping employees achieve long-term work-life harmony.
Supporting workers’ well-being
13. As the workplaces evolve, organisations must psychologically prepare their employees for change. This includes placing greater emphasis on recognising and supporting employees’ work-life needs and mental wellness. Take care of your employers, and in turn the employees will take care of the business.
14. Take the finance sector as an example, you have a diverse workforce across a variety of roles, including but not limited to office, retail and service-based occupations. Being in the finance sector, I think you will know that it is in employers’ interests to ensure that employees’ well-being are well taken care of, so that the sector can sustain its productivity and remain an attractive industry for jobseekers to join.
a. I am heartened by UOB’s enhancement of your in-house mental wellness programme to offer a range of activities focusing on holistic wellness, such as virtual courses on building mental resilience and access to dedicated helplines.
b. Today’s launch of the UOB Employee Clubhouse is further testament to UOB’s commitment to employee well-being. By providing employees with a recreational space to take part in activities, such as table tennis and yoga, it gives employees a chance to get moving, and clear their minds of stress. On top of that, such activities help to foster better teamwork and camaraderie, and create a more cohesive work environment. We hope more employers will do likewise.
15. The Government has also established several initiatives to support the mental well-being of our workforce. In November 2020, the tripartite partners, in consultation with HR practitioners and social agency partners, jointly released the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces, which we hope will kickstart more pervasive adoption of the recommended measures.
16. In addition, organisations may also tap on the available support measures, on a co-funding basis, to strengthen workplace mental well-being support. This includes the Total Workplace Safety and Health Programme which guides employers on how they can manage safety and health, including mental well-being, at workplaces.
17. The Government will continue to work with employers on implementing measures to support the work-life harmony and mental well-being of their employees.
18. As we navigate through the COVID-19 situation, we must continue to remain vigilant and not lose sight of our longer-term vision. The Government will continue to leave no stone unturned in helping all locals who need our support.
19. We will continue to work with businesses to ensure adequate reskilling opportunities, develop flexible and innovative working environments and prepare our workforce for the future, so that we can emerge stronger together.