Both employers and workers play a role in developing talent: Experts

(from left) Toh Yong Chuan, Ms Selena Huynh, Ms Merle Chen, Mr Kenneth Wong, Mr Russell Tham, Ms Cham Hui Fong, Ms Julia Yeo and Mr Krishnakumar Rajan, at Grand Hyatt Singapore on Sept 11, 2017.

SINGAPORE - As good talent is hard to find, developing the workforce is a crucial task that both employers and employees have a part to play in.

Companies, for their part, need to focus on building talent from within the organisation, said panellists said at a roundtable discussion on human capital development on Monday (Sept 11).

The Straits Times-organised session was moderated by the newspaper's manpower correspondent, Mr Toh Yong Chuan.

Mr Kenneth Wong, director for Workforce Singapore's creative and professional services division, and one of the seven panellists, said bosses sometimes approach the statutory board needing urgent help to find skilled workers.

"It's important for human resources (professionals) to help business leaders understand the options and solutions, instead of just plug and play or just hiring for the short term, but actually planning for the long term," he added.

Mr Russell Tham, regional president for semiconductor equipment manufacturer Applied Materials South-East Asia, listed three principles of training his company follows: providing content for staff to build skills and form their own training plans; encouraging mobility within the company; and supporting staff ownership of their career development.

Mr Rajan Krishnakumar, Mastercard's Asia-Pacific vice-president for talent, said his company nurtures Singaporean staff by providing them with international exposure and rotation programmes.

Although smaller companies may not have the resources or overseas offices to give all staff foreign rotations, they can do their part to make training accessible to local employees, said Ms Merle Chen, chief talent officer at hospitality company The Lo & Behold Group.

The company, which runs The Warehouse Hotel and restaurants and bars such as Odette and Loof, has "snackable" courses that can be conducted in individual outlets. It also has a scheme that funds experiences such as meals overseas for staff to get inspired by "best in class" outlets.

Ms Selena Huynh, deputy chief executive of the Institute for Human Resource Professionals, said developing human capital makes sense because "business thrives on the productivity of the workforce". Workers are better able to contribute when they have the necessary skills and feel engaged.

Meanwhile, workers should also be wary of getting too comfortable in their roles and should look out for skills gaps they need to plug.

Providing them with more information on how their jobs will change due to automation and digitalisation could help instill a sense of uncertainty, "so they know things will not always be the same" but at the same time are not frightened of the future, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said.

Ms Julia Yeo, Mastercard's vice-president for Asia-Pacific franchise development, addressed the issue from an employee's perspective, and agreed that this approach encourages continuous learning.

"You have to grow with the company, change with the company, think about what's the next thing the company needs and put yourself in the shoes of the company, to make yourself a valuable employee," she said.

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