Article: Think of talent as a continuum, and adapt flexible approaches to buy, build and borrow talent: SUTD CHRO Jaclyn Lee

HR Analytics

Think of talent as a continuum, and adapt flexible approaches to buy, build and borrow talent: SUTD CHRO Jaclyn Lee

Jaclyn Lee, CHRO, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) brings into focus the skills of now and the future.
Think of talent as a continuum, and adapt flexible approaches to buy, build and borrow talent: SUTD CHRO Jaclyn Lee

In the rapidly changing business landscape, organisations face a constant challenge of building and maintaining a skilled workforce that can adapt to continuous disruptions. The debate between the ‘build versus buy’ strategy for acquiring talent is ongoing, but regardless of the approach, the end goal remains the same: to ensure sustainable growth. To achieve this goal, it is essential to have a keen understanding of the evolving skills demand and be ready to reinvent and innovate the organisation's L&D infrastructure. This will help strengthen the internal skills marketplace and keep employees up-to-date with the latest industry trends. 

In an exclusive interview ahead of People Matters L&D Singapore, we delve deeper into the strategies for skilling a sustainable and competitive workforce with Jaclyn Lee, CHRO at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). With her extensive experience at the intersection of culture and digital transformation, she shares how the two are intertwined and what leaders can do today. The author of two invaluable books, ‘Accelerating Organisation Culture Change’ and ‘Managing People, Data and Culture in the Modern Organisation’, she is a seasoned speaker in HR Tech, analytics, and culture, who doles out expert insights into the future of skills, the build versus buy talent dilemma, and the role of technology and analytics in amplifying sustainable growth and success.

Excerpts from the interview:

Given the continuous disruptions in the current business climate, what is your take on how it is impacting the current skills demand? What are some skill sets that you believe are rising in importance?

The world is moving at a great speed, especially after the pandemic. Digital acceleration has permeated every aspect of our lives, particularly in organisations and workplaces. As a result, there is an urgent need to upskill digital competencies where there is a huge gap right now in Asia Pacific. As business processes become rapidly digitised and the use of big data becomes imperative, advanced digital skills in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and cybersecurity becomes even more important. Another area of skills will pertain to green talent as the world focuses on the topic of ‘Sustainability.’ Other new skills rising in importance are digital marketing and design thinking as new innovation in products and services will require different design cycles and iterations before they are launched.

As the build versus buying talent debate takes on a new urgency, which strategy is bound to give more successful results in the long term?

In order to be successful, you need to have a plethora of approaches in order to capture the full talent spectrum. A combination of build, buy and borrow approach is required for organisations. As a case in point, at SUTD where I work, we use all three approaches to build a talent pipeline. We buy talent when such skill sets do not exist. We also look for top talent in the marketplace who can help propel our organisational strategy. In the area of build, it is essential to have proper workforce planning to project the skills needed for the years to come and shore up the skills gap through upskilling, mentoring and coaching. The last strategy of borrowing is when you only need a particular skill set for a short period of time or project. You can engage a freelancer or collaborate with other organisations to provide the talent through secondment and exchange programs.

Keeping a pulse on the changing skills demand becomes critical for companies today. What is the role of tech and analytics in this area?

Analytics gives you a global view of the current skill sets existing in your workforce and helps point out areas of strengths and weaknesses. When you have data like this, it helps to better plan for the future. There are also quite sophisticated analytical tools and engines today that do a live mapping of the global skills landscape for each job and helps each employee plan for their own career by identifying their individual skills gaps against the database.

Having specialised in the intersection of culture and digital transformation, what is the impact of learning solutions on the corporate learning culture today?

Culture and digital transformation are intertwined. In order to drive digital transformation, leaders need to have a good understanding of the digital market and a visionary mindset to manage digital disruptions. This includes setting a foresight for the future and championing and promoting buy-in for change by listening to the views of teams and working alongside them in the change process. Learning solutions can help foster a learning culture by adapting to each individual learner and helping them track their progress. These platforms have analytics to predict learner’s performance, providing them with a personalised experience, increasing retention rate of learners, improving course planning and boosting efficiency.

With the theme of our People Matters L&D Singapore Conference being ‘Leading Off: Built for Disruption’, what is one piece of advice you would give to our community on strengthening a sustainable talent marketplace?

It is important to think of talent as a continuum, and to adapt flexible approaches to buy, build or borrow talent in a dynamic talent marketplace. This will require careful workforce planning to understand the skills needed for now and for the future.

Jaclyn Lee will be a part of a panel discussion titled 'The Sustainable Workforce: Built For Disruption, Success, & Growth' with Alvin Goh and Lisa Askwith at People Matters L&D Singapore tomorrow, April 13 at Fairmont. So, don't forget to join us. Register now!

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Topics: HR Analytics, Learning Technology, Learning & Development, HR Technology, #PMLnDSG

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