The Singapore government has launched a program to encourage sharing of skills across internal agencies. The plan is to get employees to explore freelance opportunities – within their own company. Could this work for you?
A few months ago – for a charity drive – each member of our workplace auctioned off their skills, airtasker-style, for a fee. For example, our marketing guru (who it turns out is an instagram-famous food blogger) posted a dessert-making class. And the head of video offered his freelance handyman know-how to anyone desperate to clean their gutters, or put a fresh lick of paint on their living room.
Now, imagine if you could mine your workmates across various departments, not for French lessons, but for the project you have due next week?
One public sector workplace is attempting to do just this, in a move that aims to not only reduce reliance on outsourcing, but increase connectivity and innovation across departments.
The initiative, christened #ShareYourSkills, is hosted on Workforce by Facebook and allows agencies to post ads for specific talents they may require. Officers are then matched to relevant jobs; ranging from document translations, to organisational development, to video production.
The program allows officers to “seek fulfillment” in their passions and skills “beyond their immediate job scope”, says Charlene Chang, Senior Director of Development of Singapore’s PS21 Office.
While they won’t get paid any extra, Chang is betting that the desire to spend time developing talents outside their immediate, day-to-day activities will be intrinsically fulfilling – as well as providing employees the opportunity to develop new skills on the job.
Why hire an external agency to develop a social media strategy, for example, when your colleague in the art department already works freelance as a social media manager on weekends?
It’s a new approach to an old conundrum: how do you maintain an entrepreneurial spirit in a big company? In a similar process to the Singapore government, innovative manufacturing company 3M encourages its workers to feed their curiosity while on the clock. In order to promote personal freedom, its 8000 researchers are sanctioned to spend 15 per cent of their time working on an idea without approval from management.
Management at 3M found that those who are sufficiently engrossed in their regular work simply continue on with their tasks, while those with brilliant new ideas take time to explore them. It’s a program that has produced inventions such as the Post-It-Note, which was developed by an 3M employee-led team in the 1970s. It’s not about forcing new work on people, Chang explains, but uncovering opportunities for connection that may be hiding in plain sight.
“We feel that increasingly, with the workforce of the future, that’s going to be key. People say this a lot about millennials.” But, she adds, increasingly older workers are also adopting a mindset that embraces the diversification of skills.
What are the benefits of #ShareYourSkills?
- It allows employees to seek fulfilment in interests that lie beyond their immediate job scope.
- It maximises resources in the public sector. In the long term, this could potentially cut the need for the Singapore government to rely on recruiters and external suppliers.
- It helps officers gain insight into the work of other agencies, providing an alternative to cross-agency committees (which add to government bureaucracy) and it reduces workforce silos.
While #ShareYourSkills is still in its beta stage, having begun testing this past October, Chang considers its very existence a win for the public sector, which she believes must behave more like private companies to succeed in a rapidly changing world.