Navigating the future of work is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. The use of automation in the workplace in Singapore has nearly doubled – from 7 percent three years ago to 14 percent currently, according to advisory and broking firm Willis Towers Watson. A study by McKinsey says that 42 percent of workplace activities – not jobs – can theoretically be automated by technology. Addressing this changing context, Aileen Tan, Group Chief, HR Officer, Singtel spoke about Singapore’s agenda of building smart nation and the role of 140-year old Singtel, a telecommunications business founded in the city-state.
Tan pointed out that the role of businesses and HR leaders in the new era of work is focused on “capabilities”. As the demand for jobs arise, building long-term capabilities needs to be on the top of the mind for business leaders. For example: In Singapore, there is a need to build a qualified talent poll for cybersecurity, which calls for private investment and a close collaboration between the government and Singapore’s institutes of higher learning.
Need for digital citizens
“One of the key models we really live by at Singtel is that all employees need to be digital citizens,” said Tan, adding, “You must live and breathe digital.”
Tan shared how employees at Singtel participated in a two-day course for all employees to learn about a wide range of digital related topics – including Internet of Things (IoT), the concept of smart nation, Fintech, how to leverage digital capabilities in today’s world, etc. “For employees, it is important to have domain knowledge. But at the same time, it is important to embrace digitalization,” she said.
Apart from digital skills, in a VUCA world, Tan believes that employees need to be equipped with skills to ideate. She recommended using design thinking techniques to help ideate, experiment and come up with new ideas and to learn from one’s mistakes.
Importance of experience
Getting employees to experience technology is a major part of Singtel’s journey to digital preparedness. “It is when employees experience technologies that they become convinced and own the digital journey.” For example: When the company addressed elements of Fintech, they made sure that employees experience mobile payments even if they didn’t have smartphones.
The company also went on to create a 5000 sq feet area, which is created as a collaborative space with smart technology. The space showcased technology related to virtual reality, Internet of Things and so on. Another example of how the company integrated digitized experience is through the office cafeteria. Employees don’t have to pay cash and can use a mobile wallet. The goal with the training programs is also to map experience, added Tan.
From a wider industry perspective, Singtel partners with various businesses to show how the latest technologies can be used to power their business. Another way to build this agenda is to partner with higher learning institutes to ensure that the R&D departments are aligned to the smart nation agenda.