Design jobs with millennial employee in mind: Minister

Mr Heng, flanked by National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew and Dr Robert Yap, SNEF's president, stressed the importance of tapping the idealism of the millennial workforce for the future economy.
Mr Heng, flanked by National Trades Union Congress president Mary Liew and Dr Robert Yap, SNEF's president, stressed the importance of tapping the idealism of the millennial workforce for the future economy. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Many see jobs as more than a way to pay bills and seek firms that develop staff, he says

Firms need to design jobs with the employee in mind - especially the millennial employee - said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

Addressing a Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) forum, he stressed the importance of tapping the idealism of the millennial workforce - the new generation of employees born in the 1990s - for the future economy.

He said: "They have grown up in a First World Singapore and many see jobs as more than a way to pay their bills, as a purpose or a life mission."

He added that in the face of slowing workforce growth, programmes such as the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn scheme are meant to help companies redesign jobs to maximise workers' opportunities.

Earn and Learn programmes attach fresh graduates to firms where they can gain relevant hands-on experience while furthering their studies at the same time.

Mr Heng said: "Students look towards organisations that have plans to develop them. They do not want dead-end jobs."

However, he added: "Even organisations that conscientiously train and develop people may be at risk if their business models do not keep up with change.

"While it is important to train staff on managing current tasks well, it is equally important for employers to think of developing capabilities to innovate and adapt business models to changing trends. People development and corporate development need to go hand in hand."

Over 700 chief executives, senior management representatives and human resource professionals attended the SNEF BeyondSG50 forum, held at the Capitol Theatre to discuss how companies can prepare themselves for the future economy.

Business leaders at the forum said Mr Heng's message about people development and motivating the millennial workforce resonated with them. Ms Susan Chong, chief executive of sustainable packaging company Greenpac, said: "Millennials are very different and we have to align with their ways in order to attract and retain them."

For instance, she said, they are highly dependent on technology and enjoy mobility, so firms should support their ability to work on the go by paying for their data roaming.

Mr Douglas Foo, chairman of sushi chain Sakae Holdings, said employers could consider offering more part-time work arrangements.

He said: "Employers have to have that flexibility. But at the same time, employees have to continue playing their part in contributing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Design jobs with millennial employee in mind: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe