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More ‘must be done’ to manage, develop workers: Lim Swee Say

TODAY reports: “If the economy runs faster than the development of our human capital, we end up having structural mismatch, and things won’t work,” says Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

SINGAPORE: For the longest time, organisations here have, by and large, not given enough attention to managing and developing their people.

But this has to change as Singapore moves towards a manpower-lean economy where human resources (HR) become the most valuable capital, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

To that end, the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore Human Resources Institute and SPRING Singapore are coming together to establish a professional framework for HR management here, Mr Lim said in an interview with TODAY earlier this week.

Last month, SPRING launched the Human Capital Movement to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) attract and retain talent.

Under the initiative, SPRING would build a community of advocates who will share with SMEs the best HR practices and facilitate peer-learning activities.

It would also provide SMEs access to HR expertise through the appointment of a pool of volunteer HR directors. An HR diagnostic tool has also been developed for these companies.

“What is important is to ensure that our HR community can also be prepared for the future,” Mr Lim said.

Tracing the development of Singapore over the decades, Mr Lim noted how the Republic’s economy had started off by being labour-intensive, where sheer numbers were the most important.

The next stage was a capital-intensive one that saw companies bring in equipment and machinery.

Then, in the 1980s, the buzzwords were “office automation” and “computer-integrated manufacturing”.

“I would say that in the future, as we move towards becoming a manpower-lean economy, human capital will become the most important asset of the economy,” Mr Lim said.

“In other words, how we are able to bring the best out of everyone, and in a way, that will also give them the best in return for giving their best. I would say that that becomes a key factor for us to build on.”

Mr Lim stressed that it would be critical for the development of human capital to be in tandem with economic restructuring. If one moves faster than the other, the outcome would not be optimal.

“If the economy runs faster than the development of our human capital, we end up having structural mismatch, and things won’t work,” he said.

“On the other hand, if the development of human capital runs much ahead of the restructuring of our economy, we are going to have Singaporeans (who are) well trained, well qualified, well equipped, but they cannot find the kind of quality jobs, quality careers in Singapore. They will go elsewhere.”

Having said that, Mr Lim noted that it is not necessarily a bad thing for Singaporeans to venture overseas at some point in their careers as part of their development towards becoming what he called “global-oriented PMEs (professionals, managers and executives)”.

To ensure that the two moving parts are in sync, industry leaders are setting the pace under the sectoral manpower plans that are being drawn up as part of the nationwide SkillsFuture initiative.

Mr Lim is under no illusions about the size of the tasks ahead.

“The world is changing so fast. The competition is running so fast … we need to run as fast as we can on both fronts.

“And yet, at the same time, knowing that if the two (developing human capital and restructuring the economy) are not harmonised, we are going to create the kind of outcomes that are not what we strive for.”

This is why, he said, the alignment of people’s mindsets and efforts by industry and the Government is crucial to ensure that the country moves ahead together.

There are reasons for optimism, Mr Lim said. Already, the alignment of the twin thrusts is “a lot stronger” in Singapore compared with other countries.

“That gives me the confidence that we stand a much better chance than anybody else of arriving at this future (that Singapore is working towards),” he said.


Read the original TODAY story here.