Automation- A buzzword of the modern economy that could command both fear and wonder in equal proportions. With technology disrupting every industry at a breath-taking pace, it is imperative for businesses to prepare its employees and equip them with the necessary skills to stay relevant in the modern-day workplace.
In many ways, automation frees up human labour that is previously expended towards endeavours better served or achieved through automation. Take for example, Alibaba’s robot-run smart warehouse:
With automation, human labour is dramatically reduced by 70%, and throughput or productivity is multiplied by an amazing 3 fold. The intrinsic economic advantages only serve to reinforce the fact that businesses that harness technology to drive and sustain their competitive advantages will likely emerge as the winners in the new economy.
Why You Should Invest to Help Your Employees Grow
Employers are often reluctant to invest in training staff for fear that the trained staff would then leave for competing firms, taking with them the new knowledge and skillsets that they have attained through the re-training. Instead of fearing that the employees would make a dash for the exit after they get trained, the bigger worry that employers should really focus on, is what happens if the workforce are untrained and they remain in the organization; How would they be able to help the organization grow and stay ahead of the game?
“It is better to train and have them leave than not to train and have them stay.”
- Gail Jackson, United Technologies
The Key Trait to Staying Employable
In a candid interview with Harvard Business Review, Jonathan Rosenberg, former Google's SVP of products echoed the concept and mantra of recruiting and retaining “Learning Animals”:
"I think that people don’t realize that, fundamentally, we’re focused on learning animals or generalists as opposed to specialists. And the main reason is that when you’rein a dynamic industry where the conditions are changing so fast, then things like experience and the way you’ve done a role before isn’t nearly as important as your ability to think."
- Jonathan Rosenberg, former Google's SVP of products
What is underscored in the interview is that against a backdrop of dynamic change, employees need to keep up and be open to learning, re-learning and upskilling. This is indeed, an era of generalists, and being able to keep an open mind and embrace change would be a valuable quality for future employability.
Helping Employees to Stay Employable
Regardless of the specificity of the jobs in your organization, the single common denominator would boil down to what are the skillsets that humans would have comparative advantage over their robotic counterparts? In the arena of routine, job-specific tasks which tend to be repetitive and labour-intensive, the machines clearly have the upper hand as compared to humans. It is in skillsets such as problem-solving, creativity and social skills that perhaps humans can have a winning edge. Therefore, it would be prudent to invest in training of skillsets in areas where humans have comparative advantage in.
Skills Frameworks and Career Pathways
In 2016, the government of Singapore led an initiative to bring about transformation to key industries and developed industry transformation maps with valuable inputs from Employers, Industry Associations and Unions for the Singapore workforce.
The Skills Framework aims to create a common skills language for individuals, employers and training providers. This further helps to facilitate skills recognition and support the design of training programmes for skills and career development. The Skills Framework is also developed with the objectives to build deep skills for a lean workforce, enhance business competitiveness and support employment and employability.
Employers can use the skills framework relevant to their industry to:
Identify emerging skills and build new capabilities
Develop occupational/job profiles
Create comprehensive competency framework as well as training roadmaps for the company
Strengthen organisational capability to develop staff for improved performance
Enhance talent attraction, management and retention
Funding Support and Schemes for Retraining of Employees
Keen to offer retraining of your employees but are worried about the costs? Here are some initiatives and funding support scheme to help allay some of associated costs of retraining:
TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) is a framework of initiatives for professional development for current information and communications technology (ICT) professionals and non-ICT professionals to upgrade and acquire new skills and domain knowledge that are in demand, and to stay competitive and meet the challenges of a fast-moving digital landscape. Employers in ICT and non-ICT companies can leverage on TeSA’s programmes to attract fresh or mid-career professionals to their companies, or to equip existing employees with the relevant ICT skills.
The SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace programme aims to prepare the workforce with the right skills and mindset to take advantage of the opportunities in the future economy.
SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative (Learn More)
The SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) aims to develop the next generation of business leaders by helping aspiring Singaporeans to acquire leadership competencies and critical experiences. This initiative will be implemented through increased collaborations with employers and training providers on company-centric and sector-specific leadership development programmes respectively, for promising Singaporeans.