SINGAPORE: A new award was launched on Wednesday (Oct 3) to recognise local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are trying to adapt to a world where technology is increasingly disrupting businesses.
Jointly launched by NTUC U SME and United Overseas Bank (UOB), the SME Digital Leap Awards are said to be the first and only award here that acknowledges SMEs for their digitalisation efforts.
The companies will be assessed in three areas, namely digital enablement, employee development and leadership direction.
There will be three categories for SMEs: Micro-SMEs with 30 or fewer employees, companies with up to 100 employees and larger firms with not more than 200 workers.
Employees who have played key roles in their companies' digitalisation efforts will also be recognised in a separate category.
Speaking at the award launch, NTUC’s deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How said the emergence of digital technologies in recent years has disrupted businesses and even how people go about their daily lives.
But while digitalisation is a tool for businesses to enhance operations, he stressed that employers must take the right steps to "get workers' buy-in from the start".
This can include investing in training to reduce the learning curve, as well as good communication to help allay fears that workers will be replaced by machines.
In fact, digitalisation, in particular artificial intelligence, can enhance job satisfaction due to the elimination of mundane tasks, said Mr Heng. One example is how UOB has introduced software "robots" to take over data-entry tasks and free up employees for more challenging roles, he added.
READ: Fast and no need for coffee breaks: ‘Robots’ take over mundane tasks at Singapore banks
Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, assistant director-general and director of NTUC U SME, acknowledged the difficulties that SMEs may face when it comes to going digital.
"Some of them are keen but are unsure of how they can move forward, while others are still trying to see the value of digitalisation.
"We hope that the SME Digital Leap Awards will help to showcase early successes among our SMEs, especially on how workers can also participate in the SME transformation journey," he said.
Echoing that, Mr Mervyn Koh, UOB’s managing director and country head of business banking in Singapore, said successful digitalisation requires a right business solution and adequate management support.
"From our experience, we understand the dedication, time and resources that these businesses put in to achieve such outcomes and we want to create an opportunity to recognise and to celebrate their achievements.”
The award will be open to SMEs with at least 30 per cent local shareholding, group annual sales turnover of less than S$100 million or group employment size of not more than 200 employees.
SMEs that qualify can submit their entries from Nov 19, 2018 to Feb 15, 2019.