We speak to Chief HR Officer at the Singapore Government and speaker at the upcoming AHRI National Convention, Peck Kem Low, about why our Asia Pacific neighbour is investing heavily in HR talent.
On Monday at an event held in the bustling Singapore CBD, Singapore’s Manpower Minister, Mrs Josephine Teo, officially launched the national certification program as a benchmark for good HR. Called the National Human Resource Professional Certification Framework, the program bears similarities to AHRI’s certification pathways.
Peck Kem Low, CHRO and Senior Director (Workforce Development), Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office, attended the event and was thrilled to see the government initiative take off. That the scheme is being spearheaded by the National Human Resources Certification Task Force, made up of private sector, government and unions, makes it all the more exceptional.
It’s more than that, says Low, it’s necessary. From her perspective, and the perspective of the government, a professionalised HR sector is essential to facing the challenges of the future.
Earlier this year, Singapore was ranked first in the Asia Pacific region and second globally by the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) 2017, ahead of Australia (which ranked sixth), New Zealand (ranked 14th), and Japan (22nd). This annual benchmarking report, which measures the ability of countries to compete for talent globally, attests to the nation’s agile and innovative approach to human capital.
So, what can we learn from workforce management practices in Singapore? We asked Low about that, and more.
HRM: What are the specific challenges facing Singapore’s workforce in the future?
PKL: Many challenges Singapore faces are similar to those facing other countries – namely how can we make sure HR people are of a certain calibre and capability that can help the business.
We’re also faced with a situation where we want to continue to build the country’s GDP growth by three to four per cent a year, but we are limited by our human resources.
Right now, a third of our workforce is foreign talent. We are doing all that we can to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies! But if the citizen population continues to drop, we will flip that percentage and there will be more foreign workers than native. We don’t want that for our country and we don’t think that’s sustainable. Another challenge is that many small to medium enterprises – who have the most need for good HR – don’t have the capabilities to deliver good HR to their people.
Tell us about the Singapore Government’s initiatives to develop the HR sector?
We have challenges unique to Singapore – we also have uniquely Singaporean approaches to solving them.
The public sector is the single-biggest employer in Singapore. We have 145 thousand public officers. We are not only the largest employer, we also have to be an employer of choice. We have to make sure that our people practices and our technological advances are progressive and on par with what’s happening in the market. We take it upon ourselves to be a role model and a catalyst for change.
We do a lot of things with a long-term view. We’ve set up the Committee of Future Economy, where we identified 26 sectors to invest and focus on – and HR is one of them. We’ve created the HR certification program and launched it on a national level. In my opinion, this is a true mark of long-term planning for success. Where else would you see a government seriously look to the future and identify the skills that need to be developed? And by extension, leading the charge for certification.
How do you see digital technology disrupting the job market in Singapore?
If you go to Singapore, from the time you get off the plane, to getting your bags and leaving; that will take about 20 minutes! Already in Singapore so much is automated, cashless and streamlined by technology.
We are cognisant of the fact that if you want to survive, you have to get prepared. You don’t have a choice but to keep up with the technology. And for a country that is so short of resources, and doesn’t really have enough people, we are diving headfirst into asking “how can we use technology to be more productive and more effective”?
Why is certification important to you, and to Singapore?
I’ve been telling people this is a golden era for HR in Singapore. Not only are organisations seeing HR’s value to business success, and the country’s success, the government is supporting it. We’re trying to build an ecosystem to make sure HR is a profession of choice.
Being an HR professional is like being an architect; you are creating an environment where people will invest their lives, their time and their talent, to contribute to the success of the organisation. And the organisation is nothing without its people.
I think it’s about time that we had certification and recognition in Singapore. You want to make sure you are contributing to your key stakeholders: that the CEO, the CFO all see good HR in what you bring to the table – so much so that they engage with you upfront when they are doing their business plans and their workforce plans.
Hear Peck Kem Low speak at the AHRI National Convention and Exhibition in Sydney (21−23 August). Registration closes 11 August.
And, to get ahead in your HR career, visit AHRI. Find the best certification pathway for you and start your certification journey today.