Top Stories


    Apr 09, 2014

    Inflexible workforce hurts bottom line

    MANY employees here are so set in their ways that they cannot, or are not willing, to move to wherever their skills are best suited.

    And this is costing the Singapore economy $280 million in lost productivity, according to a recent study.

    The study, conducted by professional services network PwC and commissioned by online professional network LinkedIn, looks at the economic impact of not having the right people in the right jobs.

    It also found that with a more adaptable labour force, Singapore could potentially avoid incurring $80 million in recruitment costs.

    But adaptability is a two-sided equation, noted Ms Feon Ang, regional director for LinkedIn Talent Solutions in Asia-Pacific.

    While employees are not prepared to embrace change and apply their skills somewhere new, employers, too, are not doing enough to "look differently at sources of talent", she said.

    "This means investigating new geographies and sectors as sources of new talent, as well as investing in existing employees, equipping them with the necessary skills and motivating them to adapt to meet new challenges."

    Still, the study showed that Singapore is not faring too badly on the talent adaptability ladder across the 11 Asia-Pacific labour markets surveyed. It was ranked fourth alongside the United States, though coming behind the Netherlands, which topped the list.

    This is due in part to Singapore's position as "a regional hub for many international companies, with strong growth aspirations in various industries", explained Mr Alywin Teh, partner and consulting leader at PwC Singapore.

    China, assessed to be the least adaptable, was found to be bleeding as much as US$65.6 billion (S$82 billion) in lost productivity.

    But there is "always room for improvement", stressed Mr Teh, when it comes to boosting talent adaptability and, in turn, improving productivity and competitive success.

    He told My Paper that companies in Singapore could do more to "identify the hard and soft skills that are central to the business strategy" in meeting future demands.

    "This means stepping away from solely focusing on skills that are required to progress in one's functional area of expertise, and looking at softer skills from a more holistic expertise," he said.

    Recruitment expert Michael Smith, country director of Randstad Singapore, pointed out that "finding the right talent to fill key skill gaps remains a challenge" for many companies here, given the country's ongoing low unemployment rate and tight labour market.

    "Therefore, some employers may need to hire job seekers that do not tick all of the boxes," he explained.

    "Under these circumstances, it is important for companies to offer robust training programmes and up-skilling opportunities to existing staff to ensure they have the right skills for the roles they fill, and also for new staff who come on board."

    For employees, the lack of adaptability in skills may cost them better prospects and their "competitive edge", noted Ms Ang.

    "With the knowledge-based economies of today becoming more dependent on talent than ever, employees should all the more be prepared to respond to shifts in market demand," she said.

    "Professionals can leverage on online professional networks..., which has been cited by recruiters as a top source for key quality hires."