SINGAPORE - Companies can now tap on a new initiative by the the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) to transform the way they work and hone workers' skills.
Five new consultancy programmes covering areas such as integrating older workers, encouraging lifelong learning and implementing technology will be offered by the SNEF Agency for Productivity Practices, Human Resource and Industrial Relations (Sapphire).
The outfit, launched by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Thursday (Feb 16) and supported by Workforce Singapore, will also organise masterclasses, seminars and conferences. So far 20 companies have signed up, and SNEF aims to have 100 on board within the first year.
This comes on the back of the recent recommendations by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) to help smaller companies transform and scale up, and help workers learn and use skills in their jobs.
Mr Lim said Singapore can learn from the Silicon Valley mindset of innovating repeatedly - using technology to constantly come up with useful products and services and delivering them to customers in borderless markets.
As an export-oriented economy, Singapore faces a greater risk of losing its competitive advantage if competitors make better and faster use technology and open markets, he told some 560 employers at a forum at Marina Bay Sands.
"Internally, with a workforce that is growing slower, we face a greater risk of running out of growth capacity, if we are not able to break our manpower bottleneck with pervasive innovation," he added.
SNEF president Robert Yap said a recent SNEF survey found that employers saw the ageing workforce, the lack of an organisational culture of work excellence, and employees' difficulty in adapting to redesigned jobs and work processes as challenges in their efforts to become more productive.
"I urge companies to set ambitious productivity targets, consider radical yet realistic changes and transform pre-emptively," he said, adding that Sapphire was also a response to the CFE's call for business associations to play a bigger role in helping companies transform.
After a 70 per cent subsidy from Workforce Singapore the cost of one of the Sapphire consultancy programmes for companies will be $3,210, including GST, for up to 100 hours. Interested companies can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
During the forum on Thursday afternoon, a panel of business leaders shared how they had transformed their companies over the years.
For example, CYC International managing director Dan Chua introduced robots to do his company's chemical and oil tank cleaning work, allowing workers that used to do the dangerous job to be redeployed to safer and more productive roles.
Fellow panellist Hans-Paul Burkner, chairman of The Boston Consulting Group, said companies that fail to transform often have bosses do not have the courage to make major changes or, especially if they are doing well, deny the need to change their business model.
In fact, small- and medium-sized enterprises can try things which big companies say cannot be done, he said.
"Small little companies can be much faster, you have more constraints, have to push harder, but you are also more flexible," he said.