Opening Address at Launch of Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) and Jobs-Skills Integrator (JSIT) for the Retail Industry
Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower, Sands Expo & Convention Centre
Dr Robert Yap,
President, Singapore National Employers Federation
Mr Desmond Tan,
Deputy Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good morning. Thank you for joining us. We are delighted to see so many representatives from the retail industry.
2. Let me share with you two very new and exciting product offerings – the Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) and the Jobs-Skills Integrator (JSIT) for the retail industry. Together, the JTM and JSIT will help your businesses transform, grow stronger for the future, and help us make shopping in Singapore the greatest experience, as Robert from SNEF had so aptly put it.
3. Before I go into more details about the two products, I am sure all of you would agree with me that the key to a successful sales pitch is not only just about expounding on the benefits of your product, but to also generate that demand, that need, and to convince your audience that they need to urgently act on it. So, let me speak about how the retail industry has evolved significantly over the past few years.
a. First, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies amongst retailers, with many more venturing into e-commerce to expand revenue streams.
i. The modalities of sales have become significantly more varied, and they have also become infinitely more sophisticated. E-commerce is no longer limited to just setting up shop online and offering the same products. We see many retailers, even small neighbourhood, heartland shops doing Facebook live streams which combine sales and entertainment. Many of our retailers today are also tapping on such informal networks, sometimes coming together to do “group buys” through WhatsApp and Telegram chats to boost sales.
ii. What does this exhort all the retailers to do? The exhortation is that if you do not move with the times, you will definitely be left behind – you will be disrupted to the extent that you cannot keep up.
b. The second point is that consumers’ preferences have shifted over the years. The new generation of consumers, for whom online shopping is the norm, is accustomed to having the whole marketplace literally at their fingertips.
i. They prefer a more personalised and bespoke experience. But they also expect greater cost savings and much better efficiency. They are also more socially and environmentally conscious.
ii. So, retailers will have to make that additional special effort to engage with and appeal to them.
c. The third point is that consumer demand in Singapore in the near term could potentially slow down, due to more cautious discretionary spending amid elevated inflation pressures. The industry will also continue to grapple with manpower constraints or challenges, because we are unlikely to see a significant increase in the number of workers joining the industry as a result of the tight labour market.
i. Therefore, retailers cannot afford to operate as though it is business as usual. It is imperative for all retailers to continue to innovate, to continue to be more productive, because if you do not do so, you will certainly see an impact on your bottom lines.
4. But it is not doom and gloom. Notwithstanding the headwinds, there are many exciting opportunities ahead.
a. The growing middle class is a very rapidly growing segment, particularly in our region, and they present untapped opportunities and markets for those who dare to venture beyond our shores.
b. The shifts in consumer preferences and changing lifestyle patterns which I mentioned earlier will bring about increased consumer demand for sustainability, for more bespoke, personalised products and services, and if you can think of increased convenience, you can practically win the world and turn it to your favour.
c. Novel technologies like AI, virtual reality and 3D printing can also provide immense possibilities for retailers to engage and create value for your customers.
5. Companies must therefore act quickly to transform their businesses and workforce to seize these opportunities. To this end, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) for the retail industry.
a. Jointly developed by Enterprise Singapore and Workforce Singapore, and supported by SkillsFuture Singapore and the Ministry of Manpower, the JTM provides detailed insights on the key technologies and trends that are driving change in the retail industry and what potential positive impact they could have on job roles.
b. It sets out how retailers can redesign job roles to support business growth while meeting the aspirations, needs and expectations of workers.
c. Critical skill sets and skills levels for each role will be clearly identified for the easy reference of employers, HR managers and jobseekers.
6. We are all familiar with the role of a sales associate, so let me use this as an anecdotal example to give everyone a small taste of how it can be transformed.
a. Traditionally, sales associates serve customers on the retail floor. They recommend products and services and perform transactional tasks such as cashiering.
b. With omni-channel retailing platforms becoming commonplace, customers now have the option of discovering products online and they would only visit a physical store if they have some in-depth questions or wish to interact with some specialist regarding the product and the use of the product.
c. To be ready for the future, the role of the sales associate must therefore be redesigned to manage both online and offline channels, and they must be ready to deliver the personalised experiences that customers have now come to expect.
d. Just like what Commune Lifestyle has done. With support from the Career Conversion Programme (CCP), the furniture retailer reskilled its retail associates and customer service associates. The company’s retail associates are now able to use a cloud-based omni-channel platform to view customer data and obtain insights from the customer’s online browsing behaviours and purchase history, to personalise recommendations for their customers when they visit the store. The platform also streamlines operational tasks such as inventory checking and delivery scheduling, allowing the staff to focus their efforts on enhancing the customer experience and increasing brand loyalty.
7. New roles such as sustainability specialists have also emerged. These specialists will drive initiatives that integrate sales with positive environmental and social impact to appeal to consumers who want to “do good through goods”.
a. Companies can refer to the Retail JTM to understand the key skills required for these new roles. They can tap on WSG’s Career Conversion Programme (CCP) or SSG’s SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme (SCTP)1, just like Commune Lifestyle has done, to use these initiatives to reskill existing workers, uplift existing job roles, or recruit mid-career individuals to take on these redesigned or newly emerging roles.
8. For the many small and micro retailers, the JTM also has a bite-sized guide, which is specially tailored for you on how some of the evolved roles may be merged, so that you can bring it up to a different level with multitasking abilities and alleviate your shortage.
a. For instance, it does not make sense for a small retail outfit to have a dedicated store manager, e-commerce manager and merchandising executive – three job roles. These roles in effect have multiple adjacencies and could potentially be merged into a single role of a retail manager who is responsible not just for store operations, but also managing e-commerce operations and development of merchandising strategies based on past sales data. Such a job could certainly be more fulfilling and rewarding, because you also can potentially see how you can harness the multiple roles by increasing the compensation package to this single person. At the same time, you can leverage the company on economies of scale, so you can achieve the objective of better meeting the aspirations of existing retail workers who are looking for greater challenges.
9. Embarking on transformation can seem daunting in the beginning. At Budget 2023, DPM Wong had announced the JSIT initiative for three sectors - precision engineering, retail, and wholesale trade.
a. We appreciate that these sectors have higher concentrations of mature workers who generally find it harder to land a job, and SMEs who have shared that they face challenges finding relevant training for their workers and hiring workers with the right skillsets. Many SMEs just want to have the plug-and-play mindset when it comes to hiring, because they feel that they do not have the kind of lead time nor the latitude to place and train them.
10. So today, I am very happy to announce that SNEF, in partnership with NTUC, has been appointed as the Jobs-Skills Integrator (or JSIT) for the retail industry.
a. The JSIT will function as a one-stop advisory service or “customer service centre” for retailers keen to embark on their transformation journey.
i. In tandem with other efforts, such as the Progressive Wage Model, we hope to see more workers in better, more productive jobs, with higher wages in the retail sector.
11. In addition to navigating individual retailers through the Jobs Transformation Map, the JSIT will also link retailers up with relevant programmes for funding support. This includes WSG’s Job Redesign Productivity Solutions Grant, which provides up to 70% funding for companies to engage pre-approved consultants to redesign work processes, tasks, and responsibilities.
a. The JSIT will also recommend relevant training courses for retailers to equip their workers with the skills to take on these new roles. Where there are gaps in existing training offerings, the JSIT will aggregate the industry’s skills needs, and work with training providers and Institutes of Higher Learning to curate existing training programmes or develop new ones to meet these needs.
b. What we are effectively doing through this JSIT is to smoothen out the pot-holes so that the entire process of integration, from the skills required in the jobs to making sure that the process of plug and play, attach and play, train and play, becomes shortened to the minimum that efficiency can move on, and that leveraging and identification of the opportunity for multitasking can be brought to a different level.
c. Many retailers have also given feedback that they find it hard to fill job vacancies. This JSIT initiative will raise awareness of enhanced job roles and career progression opportunities in the industry, and work with partners such as Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (or e2i), and employment agencies to facilitate job matching into redesigned job roles at an accelerated pace.
12. I am very happy that SNEF, in partnership with NTUC, have both agreed to step up to this important role to link together the various players in this industry. I want to thank our key retail trade associations, including the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) and the Singapore Fashion Council (SFC) for committing their support toward the JSIT and implementation of this Jobs Transformation Map.
13. To conclude, I want to stress again that we cannot be running our businesses as usual. I strongly call for the buy in of all retailers, starting with all of you here today, to work with us to transform, pivot and innovate your businesses. Do a detailed study of what the JTM findings are. For those of you who require more support or advice, please approach the JSIT where we will offer personalised after sales service. We will journey with you. We will walk every step with you. Together, I look forward to achieving our vision of a strong and vibrant retail ecosystem, with excellent jobs for our fellow Singaporeans.
14. Thank you very much.