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Relook training, job design, to address workers' Covid-19 stresses: DPM

Pandemic has sped up digital push, putting more strain on workers; bosses should think beyond bottomline, he says

At the 35th Singapore Business Awards panel were (from left) Christopher Ong, managing director, DHL Express Singapore; DPM Heng; and BT editor Wong Wei Kong.


SINGAPORE business leaders will need to focus on redesigning jobs and reskilling their workforce to help prepare for the future of work, particularly as workers come under the "stresses and strains" of the Covid-19 pandemic, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday.

Mr Heng was speaking at a panel as part of the Singapore Business Awards (SBA), organised by The Business Times and logistics firm DHL Express Singapore.

Held at the Singapore Press Holdings auditorium, the event was attended by nearly 50 guests, with safe-entry and safe-distancing measures.

"Covid has also accelerated trends which were going on, in particular, digitisation. What it means is that changes are going to be faster, and the stresses and strains on people will be even greater - in particular, the stresses and strains on workers, because (of) having to cope with all these changes," Mr Heng said.

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At the national level, the government has been addressing the economic and social issues thrown up by the pandemic through Budget measures such as the Jobs Support Scheme, noted Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Minister for Finance.

At the company level, business leaders also have a key role to play.

"I think the stress on the workers in having to adapt to this change will be very significant. So it's important for us, as business leaders, not to just think of our own bottomline, but how do you take care of our workers, how to bring the workers along.

"The redesign of jobs and the retraining (and) reskilling of workers will be a critical part of this. And I hope that we can do all this together well. And this is how we can emerge stronger, because Covid is going to change the landscape significantly."

Businesses that began preparing for digital transformation earlier are now better equipped to deal with the impact of the pandemic, he observed.

Citing robotics and AI as two major forces that will change jobs, Mr Heng said: "I have seen... companies which have been able to change their work practices to make the best combination of man and machines... As they take care of their bottomlines, they are also taking care of their workers, and that is what we must strive for."

Separately, Mr Heng also addressed the uncertain global climate. On the recent US election outcome, he said that while President-elect Joe Biden could shape a new course, the "fundamental uncertainties" articulated by President Donald Trump remain.

But overall, he reiterated the importance for Singapore to stay adapatable. "Risk management would have to be a major part of our vocabulary," Mr Heng said.

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