Staying responsive to members’ needs key to SBF’s continued relevance: CEO

Published Thu, Jun 23, 2022 · 05:50 AM

FELDA CHAY

THE Singapore Business Federation (SBF) must remain responsive to the changing needs and priorities of its members to stay relevant, says Lam Yi Young, its chief executive officer.

The organisation, which was formed on Apr 1, 2002 following the passing of the Singapore Business Federation Act, requires all Singapore-registered companies with a paid-up capital of at least S$500,000 to be statutory members. Back then, the intent of setting up the SBF was to create an apex business chamber that would champion the interests of the Singapore business community in the areas of trade, investment and industrial relations, both locally and overseas.

Today, it prides itself in playing the roles of bridge, facilitator, and enabler for the business community – focusing on helping businesses grow through internationalisation, and digitalisation and transformation.

With manpower being a challenge for many a business, SBF also tries to support businesses in talent development, workforce upskilling, and the management of manpower challenges. It does this through the SBF Business Institute and programmes like the Career Conversion Programme for Internationalisation Professionals (CCP-I). It also manages the SGUnited Traineeships & Mid-Career Pathways Programmes.

It tries to build collaborations among businesses to increase the competitiveness of Singapore businesses. At the same time, to help firms here address policy-related challenges, it also acts as a bridge to connect the business community and trade associations with the government, to promote a better understanding of business concerns and government policies.

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These are not easy tasks, and Mr Lam acknowledges that often, SBF has to partner other key stakeholders to see through its initiatives. And this is where he feels SBF can do more. “We cannot do this alone and must continue to strengthen partnerships with fellow trade associations and chambers, with companies and with government agencies, to enable a strong business ecosystem that supports the growth of businesses in Singapore,” says Mr Lam.

To understand the needs of its members, SBF holds regular dialogues with them, and conducts company visits and surveys for a better sensing of the key areas that they require more support in. “We also work closely with government agencies such as Workforce Singapore (WSG) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to implement programmes… to support our businesses in digitalisation, training and internationalisation,” points out Mr Lam.

This continued – and perhaps became even more important – during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of its initiatives launched during the pandemic include the Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative (IHCI), which equips companies with people management and job redesign skills required for successful Industry 4.0 transformation and involves multiple government agencies that include WSG, ESG, the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre, JTC Corporation and SkillsFuture Singapore.

Through the IHCI, businesses can join the 8-week-long IHCI Enabler Programme. The programme counts McKinsey and Ernst & Young as its anchor partners that participating firms can tap expertise from, and get a taste of successful Industry 4.0 implementation in a low-cost and risk-free environment. Launched in March 2020, the Enabler programme has helped more than 130 companies in the manufacturing and related sectors tackle various priority areas such as asset efficiency, labour productivity, planning, and inventory management and quality.

“SBF is glad to have received good responses from our members and the wider business community for our events and activities,” says Mr Lam. In 2021, the business chamber organised close to 800 events that attracted about 35,500 participants.

In March this year, it also organised the inaugural Singapore Apex Business Summit, which attracted more than 4,000 business leaders and senior government officials from 60 countries and economies. “We actively gather feedback from our members and participants on our events, and on the new areas that they would like to work with us on,” explains Mr Lam.

Programmes that are popular among businesses include GlobalConnect@SBF, which the SBF launched in November 2019 in partnership with ESG to help firms expand overseas. As at end-May, it had provided close to 5,600 business advisories and successfully facilitated about 160 projects.

Mr Lam adds: “SBF’s programmes aim to help companies broaden and deepen their knowledge and skills, build new capabilities, develop their workforce and capture opportunities for expansion and growth.

“Through these programmes, we also aim to build a strong business ecosystem and forge new partnerships, so that companies can benefit from these networks and support one another to seize new business opportunities.”

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