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Opening Address at HR Tech Festival Asia Live 2022

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Manpower, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

1. Ladies and gentlemen

2. Good morning. I am happy to join all of you here today at the HR Tech Festival Asia Live.

3. With the return of physical large-scale events, it is an encouraging sign that we have moved towards living with COVID-19.

4. The theme for this year’s event is aptly set as “RETURN, REFRESH and REIMAGINE”. Now, as we step out from the pandemic, there is no better time to refresh and reimagine HR strategies as employees return to a redefined workplace. As firms rehire in tandem with the economic recovery, and I know many of you HR professionals are busy at this point doing this, this is also a time to strategise and reimagine the talent and skills needed to meet new business demands in the immediate term and for the future. Amidst this backdrop, let me share my thoughts, starting with the “Refresh” theme.

“Refresh”: Updates to MOM’s Workforce Policies

5. Under “Refresh”, we continue to strengthen the complementarity of our foreign workforce. This year, at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Committee of Supply debate, we announced a refreshed and a clear roadmap for our foreign workforce policy.

6. At the Employment Pass (EP) level, Singapore is committed to being open to global talents with valuable skills, networks and expertise to complement our local workforce.

7. If there is one takeaway from this, it is that Singapore is open for business in attracting top global talents. We continue not to impose any quotas or levies, and instead focus on regulating our quality of EPs to help businesses build the best team of talents, comprising locals and foreigners. 

8. Thus, we are setting a benchmark for EP holders to be at the top one-third of our local PMET workforce. This will ensure that EP holders are of good calibre and are not hired simply because they are cheaper than locals. In addition, we have introduced COMPASS, what we call the Complementarity Assessment Framework. It is a transparent points-based system to holistically evaluate an EP candidate’s complementarity. COMPASS also gives companies greater transparency over the qualification criteria and how their potential candidates will score to qualify for their EP. For our local workforce, COMPASS also provides assurance on creating a more diverse talent pool of EPs that can complement our workforce so that we can compete globally.

9. At the S Pass and Work Permit levels, MOM has quotas and levies in place to regulate numbers. Over the past decade, MOM has been tightening quotas to reduce businesses’ reliance on foreign workforce, and to spur industry transformation. This is where HR has a very important role to help companies transform, build in productivity tools and help grow as the economy recovers. These changes are consistent with our ambition to move up the value chain and be competitive globally.

Equipping HR to adjust workforce strategies to adapt to policy changes. 

10. The newly announced COMPASS provides businesses and the HR community greater certainty and clarity on what to expect for future foreign workforce policy adjustments, and plan their workforce strategies well ahead.

11. HR professionals like you play an increasingly critical role in supporting business success through building a diverse, sustainable and resilient workforce. With COMPASS, HR professionals would be the expert practitioners to advise senior management on building a strong local core and maintaining a diverse foreign workforce. By doing so, businesses will improve their COMPASS score, and in turn, their HR practices and workforce profiles.

12. MOM is committed to ensuring that the HR community is well prepared to support their companies. We will work with the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) and the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) on advisories and workshops to familiarise the HR community with COMPASS and the various assessment tools that you can use. More details will be released in the coming months.

“Return”: IHRP’s continued support for the HR community – IHRP Playbook Knowledge Bank

13. We move on to the second theme, “Return”. Next, employees are returning to a redefined workplace. The implementation of Flexible Work Arrangements such as remote and hybrid work, staggered hours and flexi-loads has accelerated over the past two years due to COVID-19. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, we call on HR to sustain progressive work practices that can balance employees’ new needs and expectations while achieving business goals.

14. MOM has been partnering IHRP to support the HR community in implementing best people-practices. An example is the Hybrid Workplaces playbook which explores the impact of hybrid work on human capital practices, and this guides HR on validated approaches. The playbook includes successful case studies from various companies including Nikko Asset Management Asia, which implemented work arrangements that balance both employee and company interests.

15. In addition to the Hybrid Workplaces playbook, IHRP has launched three other playbooks since September last year. They are the Food Services, the Work Transformation and the Digital Transformation playbooks.

16. A new IHRP Playbook Knowledge Bank will serve as a one-stop portal to access the various resources that are being developed and curated by IHRP and industry experts. These would include HR advisories, the IHRP playbooks, toolkits, templates as well as HR best practices and references. The IHRP Playbook Knowledge Bank is a growing repository. In the coming year, for those in the Financial Services and Precision Engineering sectors, you can look forward to IHRP’s newly developed playbooks.

17. I strongly encourage employers and HR practitioners to explore the rich resources available to address your business and people challenges. Think of all these resources to help empower the HR community, to help you be the strategic advisor to your managements and boards. So therefore, what’s important is that you take the time to share them with your management teams and your colleagues so that they can benefit and better understand how we can strengthen your organisation’s human capital.

"Reimagine”: HR Transformation through CCP for HC and HRTTP

18. Lastly, we talk about “Reimagine”. As businesses transit and transform to meet a new set of organisational and environmental needs, we should then also reimagine HR’s role as a strategic business partner and advisor. That’s why we are all here today to see how we can empower you to transform, and transform the company. HR must evolve and embrace new opportunities brought on by changing business needs, from digitalisation to strategic workforce planning and even employee mental well-being. That’s one hot topic as well during this COVID-19 pandemic.

19. Today, I am happy to announce that Workforce Singapore (WSG) will launch the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for Human Capital Professionals. This will be done in June 2022 with the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and NTUC LearningHub as the appointed programme managers, and IHRP as the appointed knowledge partner. 

20. The CCP for Human Capital is a follow-up measure from the HR Jobs Transformation Map which studied the impact of technology and mapped out HR’s shift to deliver higher value work. It aims to reskill existing HR professionals for more strategic roles such as HR data analyst and People Strategist. It also supports mid-career conversions into the HR profession. Trainees will be equipped with emerging skills and competencies including HR analytics, strategic workforce planning and knowledge in HR technology. As of April this year, over 80 companies have expressed interest to place about 150 individuals in the CCP. These companies include Union AirFreight, OCBC Bank and the Singtel Group.

21. HR digitalisation is also a key enabler to achieving higher productivity, improving business agility and supporting better data-driven business decisions.

22. Companies looking to adopt HR tech solutions and redesign HR roles can join WSG’s HR Tech Transformation Programme (HRTTP) launched last year and tap on the Support for Job Redesign under the Productivity Solutions Grant. There is available funding from the Government, should you be keen to explore this. This is where we want to support you to upgrade and upskill with new technologies that will make a difference in your profession. Let me share how two companies have benefited from the pilot run of the HRTTP.

23. First, Dragnet Smartech Security implemented Xone, a HR Management System, and digitised its recruitment processes and integrated chatbot functions for employees to retrieve HR information readily. This contributed to a seamless employee experience. Dragnet also redesigned its HR Business Partner and Talent Acquisition Specialist roles. With the automation, 30%-time savings were channelled into strategic HR work like building a stronger employer brand, analysing HR data and formulating hiring strategies. So you’ve moved on from answering all the basic questions — you get employees asking basic information, like where can I find this, where can I find this policy — to using chatbots that has made a difference in terms of freeing HR’s time and thinking to go about doing new, higher value work.

24. Another example I’d like to share is Keystone Cable. The company generated 65%-time savings from automating its manual appraisal processes like data collection and compilation using Excel Visual Basic for Applications. Keystone Cable redesigned the HR Manager’s role to focus on higher value tasks like HR data analytics and ensuring the alignment of divisions’ goals to company’s targets for executives. This transformation improved access to performance management data for HR and business leaders, which helped derive insights to better support employees’ growth.

25. For employers who wish to self-help in re-designing HR roles, the HR Job Redesign Toolkit is available at the Singapore National Employers Federation’s website. It offers support in the HR job re-design methodology, provides templates for change management, and helps employers better understand the application of HR technology in various HR functions.


26. Ladies and gentlemen, the theme today, “RETURN, REFRESH and REIMAGINE”, has given us a lot to think about HR’s role especially in this current economic landscape, and where HR can make a difference as human capital strategists in your organisations.

27. Therefore, I urge HR leaders and professionals to embrace the opportunities and challenges as you refresh and rethink workforce and workplace strategies to better support your businesses. In this journey of change, the role of HR itself will be reimagined, transformed and elevated. Let us all work together to champion and drive business and workforce transformation.

28. I wish all of you a fruitful day ahead and have an exciting HR Tech Festival ahead. Thank you very much and I look forward to seeing all of you again.