Speech by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Dr Koh Poh Koon at SCP Guide Launch
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, SNEF HQ
Mr John Ng, Vice President of SNEF,
Mr Heng Chee How, Deputy Secretary General of NTUC,
Ladies and gentlemen,
- Good morning. I am very happy to be here with everyone for the launch of SNEF’s Structured Career Planning Guide.
- The Structured Career Planning Guide developed by SNEF is a key enabler in our efforts to support both businesses and workers to transform themselves, not only to meet the challenges ahead, but also to seize new growth opportunities.
- As you know, our birth-rate is one of the lowest in the world, and by the end of this decade, by 2030, the growth in our resident workforce is expected to slow down. Today, around 1 in 4 of our resident workers is aged 55 and above, and this proportion will only grow. Within a tight labour market, employers who wish to fully optimise their human capital cannot afford to neglect upskilling and reskilling their mature and senior workers.
- The good news is that health adjusted life expectancy is also increasing. This means that more of us will live longer and have healthier lives. This also means that we should have more productive longevity and live meaningfully. We can therefore look forward to having more time to build a fulfilling career. In fact, given the pace of technological and economic change, we must be prepared to have several careers throughout our entire working life.
- But how can employers and workers better ride these waves of change? Employers know that to be globally competitive, we must constantly adapt, transform our business models and redesign jobs. And this must be done in tandem with workforce transformation; otherwise, without the right talent and skills, business transformation cannot happen. This is why tripartite partners have been working together to ensure that our resident workforce can upskill and reskill, to support business transformation.
- Workers too have key role to play. We must move away from the mindset of having a single career throughout our working lives, and instead be open and ready to pivot to new job roles as they emerge. We will continue to make sure that those who wish to keep working can do so, and we have taken the first step by raising the retirement and re-employment ages to 63 and 68 respectively since 1 Jul 2022. The goal is to raise them to 65 and 70 by 2030.
- But raising the retirement and re-employment ages alone is not enough. If we look at a worker who starts working in his early 20s, and retires at 65 years old, by the time he is a mature worker at 45 years old, he is only halfway through his career! So the real challenge is not in raising the retirement age, but in making sure that our workers continue to reskill themselves, in order to remain relevant to business and industry needs.
- The best way to do so is for employers to sit down with employees at regular points in their careers, to map out future business needs and help mature and senior workers develop the skills they need to pivot together with the company. Having this structured career planning process is therefore win-win, because employees are better prepared to respond to new business needs, and employers can continue to harness the experience of their mature and senior workers to grow their businesses. The two are very much inter-related.
- The Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers therefore recommended that all employers and employees engage in Structured Career Planning. The Guide that SNEF has developed in consultation with employees, business leaders, HR practitioners, line managers, career coaches and academia, will help employers to do this. Employers will be guided on how to start conversations with their mature and senior employees on their career expectations and skills needs.
- In developing the guide, SNEF has collaborated with several companies to pilot it and I have heard positive feedback that it has been very useful. For example, a HR manager shared that the adoption of structured career planning and resources such as career assessment exercises not only helped the company better understand their mature and senior employees’ motivations, expectations and career interests; it also helped them identify their skills and training gaps. This in turn allowed HR to have a longer planning horizon for manpower deployment to prepare both employees and the company for any possible changes in job roles, for example, due to job redesign as the company transforms. As a doctor, you don’t expect to see a patient just once and send them away. You want the patient to come back on a regular basis and tailor the treatment to their needs. In the same way, that is what the role of HR ought to be. To look at the abilities, strengths and weaknesses of workers and help them understand their gaps and aspirations.
- A mature employee who participated in the pilot also shared that structured career planning helped him identify steps he can take as part of his transition into retirement. He hopes to train the ‘next generation’ of employees in technical skills such as in safety and security by being a mentor for them, even as he steps back to take on fewer work responsibilities to have more time for rest and his family. His company is supportive and intends to enable him to take on this new role with training related to leadership and coaching. In return, the company benefits from better succession planning. This employee can continue to contribute his years of expertise to help groom the younger ones in the company.
- These companies that participated in SNEF’s pilot are keen to continue structured career planning in the workplace, so that they can upskill and develop their mature and senior workforce. The structured career planning process has also encouraged employees to adopt a growth mindset and to take ownership of their own career development. As a worker today, if you want a fulfilling career, you cannot just be passive and wait for things to happen; you have to take ownership as well. It is this joint initiative taken by both employers and employees that will be our secret ingredient for success as the economy transforms and businesses pivot into new growth sectors.
- I therefore urge all employers to make full use of the Structured Career Planning Guide to engage employees at certain milestones. A good guide is to start the career conversations when workers turn 45 years old, so that you can retain and groom workers as they transit into different phases of their careers.
- MOM and our tripartite partners will work with employers to adopt structured career planning. There is much synergy with the mission of the Company Training Committees (CTCs), which is to drive business and workforce transformation. MOM is therefore working with NTUC to increase the number of CTCs that carry out structured career planning.
- When employers embark on business and workforce transformation, they can also consider redesigning jobs to make the workplace age-friendly. In this post-pandemic era, people are coming back to work and looking at adopting more flexible work arrangements. That requires job redesign and conversations between employers and employees. In this process, please do not forget our mature and senior workers. They can also offer part-time opportunities and other flexible work arrangements, which will go a long way to attract and retain senior workers. And we will support employers who do so.
- For example, the Support for Job Redesign under Productivity Solutions Grant administered by SNEF offers funding support for employers to work with job redesign consultants. The Part-Time Re-employment Grant administered by SNEF and e2i also provides funding support for employers that commit to a part-time re-employment policy for their senior workers.
- In conclusion, reskilling and upskilling our mature workforce will improve productivity, reduce reliance on foreign workforce and strengthen competitiveness for businesses. So it is up to all of us know to work together and make the workplace a better one for our mature and senior workers and build a future-ready workforce. Thank you.