Article: HR’s role in putting ASEAN workforce to work

Strategic HR

HR’s role in putting ASEAN workforce to work

The ASEAN workforce is one of the fastest-growing ones in the world. For HR professionals, the future holds great potential. But only if they begin now and begin right.
HR’s role in putting ASEAN workforce to work

The way companies work today bears little resemblance to the workplaces of the past. This holds not only for tech companies that often find themselves at the edge of technological change but is slowly becoming a reality for other more traditional sectors as well. And nowhere has the impact of such change been felt more than in the case of the rising relevance of the HR function.

The ASEAN markets are a prime example of this. HR professionals across this diverse and demographically varied economic region have found themselves adapting to rapid market changes. The widespread use of digital technologies—one that has got a significant boost from rising digital natives in the region—and an ever-increasing number of people looking for jobs, mark the state of labor markets across ASEAN. For companies to find the right talent and be able to drive up their productivity, HR professionals will have to pay close attention to reforming their labor practices and building a future-ready workforce.  

Making use of government initiatives

HR professionals in need to meet their firms growing demand for digitally skilled talent have found comfort in the many government initiatives across the region. National-level initiatives across ASEAN members have become a crucial driving workforce for readiness and governments and policymakers are recognizing their relevance. For example, in Singapore, the national-level SkillsFuture initiative seeks to drive life-long learning, with the government and the private sector working together to ensure that the local workforce, through reskilling, evolves to acquire, deepen, and accelerate the right digital skill sets. Similarly, over in Thailand, the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) recently announced that they aim to attract 1 million teenagers to join the e-commerce workforce and 200,000 micro-SMEs to go online this year to boost the online economy. The Malaysian government too has begun providing low-income communities with IT skills training to connect citizens with job opportunities.

HR professionals would face the need to leverage the benefits of such initiatives.

Bridging talent gaps

A recent report by the consultancy firm Accenture notes that by 2020, 55 percent of ASEAN’s working-age population will be between 20 and 39 years old. And they would require keen attention or employers might soon be losing them. The report notes that candidates from this age-group are markedly different from prior generations of workers. With many being digital natives, they find comfort in technology and are often empowered by its use. Attracting and retaining this growing demographic of young people in the region, will remain an important HR priority going into the new decade. With technological disruption fast replacing job roles and changing skill considerations the growing working population has come as a boon to the region.  ASEAN’s companies will also build increasingly culturally diverse teams by bringing regional and global workers together.

But still, HR professionals across the region are faced with major talent gaps, especially when it comes to those possessing digital skills. This would reflect both in HR’s ability to hire and train the right people. When it comes to hiring new people, the report notes that digital tools to tap into a much wider spectrum of talent—including previously underused workforce segments such as rural and low-income workers is only going to rise. With skilling initiatives becoming a major area of focus, the effectiveness of the HR function would depend on establishing the right talent connections. The report also notes that companies in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, in particular, will also tap into their diaspora to provide virtual advice, skills training, and development back home.

A focus on holistic skill building

The changing nature of work doesn’t just put a skewed focus on building digital skills but also on other more holistic skill needs. Digital skills are just one dimension for future employees to master. Horizontal or ‘soft’ skills, such as adaptability, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving, will also be invaluable in future workplaces. Today, both companies and educational institutions are revamping their existing methodologies to cater to this business need.

With access to better HR tech and learning methodologies, many would find it necessary to redefine their function using these tools to make their reskilling and training programs more effective. The future and the relevance of the function would hinge on evolving HR practices and mindsets to unlock much of the productivity and innovation potential of the future economy.

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Topics: Strategic HR, #MyNextCurve

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