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What talents will a future Singapore need?
THE talents possessed by the Singapore workforce today may be completely irrelevant in the near future, depending on the kind of Singapore in existence then - and businesses ought to be prepared.
Singapore in 2030 could be a nation in which technology has transformed nearly every relationship, where borrowers no longer need banks, and traditional media is replaced by networks of individuals creating and sharing their own content.
Traditional skills would then fall by the wayside.
Or it could be a nation besieged by external, technological and financial security threats - and the best talent would then be mobilised to man the country's defence, surveillance, domestic intelligence and internal security forces.
These are some of the possibilities examined in a new research report, The future of talent in Singapore 2030. The study was undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a not-for- profit professional body for human resources and people development, and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI), a strategic alliance between Singapore's Manpower Ministry, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Singapore Management University (SMU).
The report looks at four possible scenarios of life in Singapore in 2030, to help businesses think about their future strategy and the talents they will need.
"These scenarios are not predictions but they do set out possible ways Singapore may develop in the future, based on choices made today," said Wilson Wong, head of Insight and Futures at CIPD. "The talents needed for Singapore to succeed in the future may be very different from those required in the past and even today. One theme that is consistent across all scenarios is that old jobs will be destroyed or redefined and new ones will emerge, forcing individuals to seek out opportunities for their skills, and in many cases to reskill."
The first scenario examined was a baseline scenario - "Steady As She Goes" - where 2030 is recognisably a projection of the present. The People's Action Party (PAP) remains in power, Singapore enjoys full employment, and business continues to rely on foreign employees.
The workforce would expect their employer to provide increasingly better work conditions, and academic qualifications would still be seen as an indicator of an individual's talent.
The second scenario - "No One Is An Island" - sees technology removing the middle person, such as banks and the media, and old business models making way for new ones. This "disintermediation" will result in value chains being redrawn, and new skills and ways of deriving value emerging.
While some may thrive, many with traditional skills will fall through the cracks. Traditional industries such as finance, logistics and energy - used to regarding talent as high performance - will experience lower demand for their skills. Individuals will need a bigger risk appetite and the resourcefulness to retrain quickly. Businesses will have to manage their human resources fairly, while developing sophisticated learning environments to attract the right talent.
The third scenario - "Fortress Singapore" - envisions life in Singapore driven by external, technological and financial security threats. In this conception, the failure of governance is widespread in South-east Asia and corruption is the norm in many parts of the region. Xenophobia and distrust are rife. Organisations would need to focus on cyber-security and data security, while risk assessments of doing business in the region will be the norm. Attracting foreign talent to Singapore could also be more difficult.
For the individual, the situation offers several advantages. There is a sustained investment in security and a high demand for a range of specialists. There would be more opportunities in traditional professions and sectors, and fewer opportunities in areas such as media and the arts.
Finally, the last scenario examined was "Bless Thy Neighbour". After a period of environmental disasters and food shortages, Singapore - having emerged as a stable and prosperous nation - is invited by its neighbours to lead the regional recovery.
Businesses would be motivated by not just profit, but by delivering sustainable value to society. They would be concerned with not just developing employees for tasks at hand, but seeing value in human development. They would constantly look to technological innovations to address the bigger issues.
This scenario would provide considerable challenge and opportunities for the personal development of individuals. They would have considerable choice in what, where and how each of their talents and potential are directed.
Wong Su-Yen, CEO of HCLI, commented: "Personally, what stood out for me is that, across these scenarios, we need to constantly cultivate our learning agility, adaptability and resilience. Such traits will stand us in good stead even as jobs will be made obsolete. To add to that, we must continue to be open and inclusive."
CIPD's Dr Wong says Singapore businesses and organisations can take steps now to build their capability for the potential challenges outlined in the report. These include: building resilience into national and organisational strategies by scanning the horizon for obstacles and risks; taking a longer-term view so that future opportunities are not inadvertently shut off; consciously increasing the range and diversity in one's workforce, and actively supporting alternate voices and ways of thinking; and supporting and encouraging employees to not fear risk but to understand and appreciate the opportunities these challenges bring.
"Whatever the future brings, the compact between state and citizen has to evolve with implications for the role of organisations and the nature of Singapore society," Dr Wong says.