Firms not investing enough in workers, poll shows

The continued challenge of getting workers with digital skills in 2018 reflects the focus on innovation, which is increasingly a top priority among local businesses.
The continued challenge of getting workers with digital skills in 2018 reflects the focus on innovation, which is increasingly a top priority among local businesses.PHOTO: ST FILE

SBF chairman urges businesses to invest in continual training, keep pace with technology

Most companies in Singapore are not investing enough in their workers, with only 12 per cent putting money on better training for their employees, according to a survey.

At the same time, almost one-third of them say the task of training their workers in digital skills is a major concern, topped by the lack of suitable manpower with technological expertise, a shortage highlighted by about 40 per cent of the companies.

But the No. 1 challenge they face is getting people with the right skills and attitude, with almost two-thirds of large companies as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) saying so.

These findings, released yesterday, are from the latest National Business Survey involving 705 local and foreign companies, of which 88 per cent are SMEs.

It was done from September to December last year for the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).

Responding to the findings, SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng, who runs Pacific International Lines, urged businesses to invest more resources in continual training so that employees can deepen their skills and keep pace with fast-changing technologies.

The continued challenge of getting workers with digital skills last year reflects the focus on innovation, which is increasingly a top priority among local businesses. About one-third of the firms say they are using a greater number of new technologies while more than half have implemented innovations.

 
 

Companies see innovation as crucial across all aspects of business, including customer experience (88 per cent), operational processes (88 per cent) business models (87 per cent) and new products or services (85 per cent). Hence, developing digital business capabilities is a key priority this year.

To bolster their innovation drive, almost two-thirds of them want this year's national Budget to offer support to access new and critical technologies.

About half also said they want support for digital adoption and transformation.

Mr Teo, noting the ongoing impact of technological disruption, said the Government can "play an important and deeper role in boosting innovation and building capabilities through advice and funding support, especially in today's challenging environment".

The disruption, when coupled with the uncertain global geopolitical environment, also requires companies to continue to innovate to sharpen their competitive advantage, he added.

The survey shows that worries about the world economy, stoked by US-China trade tensions, may have reduced overseas expansion by companies. About 80 per cent expanded their global footprint in 2017, but only 71 per cent did so last year, largely due to SMEs (81 per cent in 2017 versus 68 per cent last year).

Also, around half of the companies believe the business climate here will stay unchanged, while two in five expect conditions to worsen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2019, with the headline 'Firms not investing enough in workers, poll shows'. Print Edition | Subscribe