Digital transformation has been accelerated like never before since 2020, thanks to the pandemic. The definition of digital transformation has a slightly different meaning for each business sector and practices and processes will depend on the industry and its circumstances. However, regardless of the sector one operates in, the business has become increasingly competitive, and the current global pandemic has only intensified this.
Against this backdrop, Workforce Singapore (WSG) has a range of programmes that cater to support companies across different sectors in Singapore. Here’s a quick look at some of these initiatives-
Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI)
To help manufacturing companies strengthen their strategic Human Resource (HR) planning, workforce development and job redesign capabilities to augment the implementation of Industry 4.0 (i4.0) solutions in a sustainable manner, WSG, in partnership with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) launched the Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI).
Under this programme, companies will go through the IHCI Enabler Programme, a unique 8-week hands-on programme that helps companies understand what it takes to successfully adopt Industry 4.0 and the relevant human capital practices. Participating companies can also tap on appointed consultants from McKinsey & Company and Ernst & Young to holistically build and deepen digital and human capital transformation capabilities while gaining access to an exclusive community of like-minded business leaders for both networking and continuous learning that would catalyse transformation efforts in the coming years. Upon completion, companies will receive a personalised company-level transformation roadmap.
Take for instance, the case of Watson EP Industries. Being in the Precision Engineering sector with a history spanning over 40 years, Watson EP Industries is a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) that has a relatively mature workforce, with many of its employees having joined since its formative days in 1977.
When COVID-19 first hit, despite a potential drop in production output, Watson EP decided to take its first plunge in addressing some of its pertinent pain points by leveraging digital technologies and solutions (e.g. digital performance dashboard, sensorising of legacy equipment and machines) to capture live performance data and translating it into a prediction model to increase production standards and operational efficiency while equipping its staff to become more digitally savvy; as well as redesigning their job roles to ensure that they can contribute in a work environment augmented by digitalisation.
Through the IHCI Enabler Programme, Watson EP looks forward to a potential reduction of its quality defect rate by 44% on the targeted production line and having staff with expanded skill sets that allow them to collect and analyse data from its machines.
WSG’s Job Redesign Reskilling Programmes
As companies see the increased need to accelerate their business transformation and digitalization efforts to combat the impact of the COVID-19 situation, employers can consider reskilling their workforce through various job redesign efforts.
Take the Hotel, Retail and Food Services industry for example. These sectors have been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. But taking on a proactive view of the situation, many companies have seized this downtime to reskill their employees, whom are at risk of redundancy due to the transformation, and take on new job roles within the same company.
• Hotel Industry
One good example is WSG’s Job Redesign Place-and-Train Programme for Hotel Industry that was introduced in November 2019 to help hoteliers train and upskill workers to take on redesigned and enhanced job roles as the hotels undergo transformation. Through the programme, the hotels can improve productivity, enhance employee engagement, create higher-value-added job roles, optimise manpower and minimize redundancy, and contribute to the overall improvement to the sector’s image.
One example is RC Hotels, which implemented automated check-in/out kiosks to reduce administrative tasks, and effectively transformed their Front Office staff from transactional to service-focused roles. Staff not only has a heightened sense of job fulfilment with the redefined multi-integrated job scope with more opportunities for guest interaction, they also developed additional skills sets and received wage increments to commensurate the expanded responsibilities.
Thus hoteliers, pushing ahead with their digital transformation as they adapt to the new normal shaped by COVID19, now have more targeted support.
In March 2021, Workforce Singapore (WSG), Singapore Hotel Association (SHA), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU) have revamped and enhanced the Job Redesign Reskilling (JRR) Programme for the Hotel Industry under the Professional Conversion Programme to continue their support of job redesign projects rolled out in tandem with hotels’ adoption of technology. As a start, 200 existing hotel workers can look forward to taking on better careers in the hotel industry through the enhanced programme.
• Retail Industry
Another example of transformation in the retail sector is All Watches Private Limited, which was mentioned by then-Minister of State for Manpower, Mr Zaqy Mohamad during the Supplementary Budget Debate 2020, All Watches Private Limited has been reskilling their workers for enhanced job roles to support their digital transformation plans. They are ramping up their online e-commerce platform given the shift in consumer behaviour increase in demand for e-commerce.
Through WSG’s Job Redesign Reskilling Programme for the Retail Industry, 11 workers are gaining relevant digital skills. For instance, their retail team leaders will gain skills to understand online and offline customer behaviour, and to develop and implement offline-to-online strategies in enhanced Customer Service Leader roles.
• Food Services Industry
Employers in the food services sector are also transforming and adapting to the post-COVID business norms, adopting digital solutions such as self-ordering solutions, cashless payment systems and automation for food preparation to enhance customer engagement and increase productivity.
Take homegrown food services provider Select Group for example. The company has been a consistently strong supporter of manpower-lean initiatives and believes in complementing these initiatives with employee development. In 2020, they tapped on WSG’s Job Redesign Reskilling (JRR) Programme for the Food Services Industry to prepare their workers for the post COVID economy. Automation of tasks such as order-taking and payment processing helped to raise productivity. This paved the way for job redesign and enhanced the job scopes.
Through the programme, Select Group was able to equip close to 120 employees with new skills that allow them to better adopt and embrace digitalisation at the workplace. For example, outlet managers trained in data analytics can now draw insights from the digital systems to launch proactive marketing activities and improve customers’ satisfaction.
To encourage more employers in food services to uplift the jobs of their frontline and operational workers in tandem with their digital transformation, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Productivity Centre (SGPC), with support from Enterprise Singapore (ESG), revamped the JRR Programme for Food Services Industry under the Career Conversion Programme in April 2021. 400 existing frontline and operational workers are expected to be upskilled to take on enhanced jobs through the programme over the next two years.
HR Tech Transformation Programme
Although digital transformation is heavily centred on technology, it is just as much about people as it is about the technology. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic and technological advancement has placed an increasing demand for HR professionals to take advantage of these technologies to improve their work. They now need to redefine themselves to be strategic partners to their business leaders and play an active role in executing business transformation and change management. The HR professionals need to demonstrate its value to the business, and to align their workforce in order for the transformation to be successful.
Across SMEs in particular, the HR function is often pre-occupied with manual HR admin and processes to partner the business in planning the workforce for the future. To this end, WSG developed the HR Tech Transformation Programme in January 2020 and appointed Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) to run a pilot programme to help companies to adopt HR technology, streamline HR operations so that HR can focus on strategic HR functions like workforce planning. Besides redesigning selected HR processes through the adoption of HR technology, this programme also aims to give the HR professionals foundational knowledge of strategic HR and business acumen.
Workforce Singapore will continue to encourage businesses to keep the longer-term view in mind, and to look for opportunities to transform their business models and workforce and to be post-pandemic ready when the economy recovers. If the employers are unsure how to do so, we are happy to work with them and to guide them through the business and workforce transformation journey. Similarly, jobseekers are encouraged to deepen and refresh their skills during this time to stay relevant during this period, so that they can take advantage of new opportunities to access good jobs or new job roles when the eventual recovery happens. Each of us must adapt and learn fast to turn challenges into opportunities and be ready for the Future of Work.