A lesson in workforce transformation: Roll with the punches

The next wave of transformation looms overhead in our workforce. Over the last two years, the pandemic heightened job security concerns and resignations. Organisations and business leaders have faced immense disruption across industries with lockdowns and closures. More importantly, some of these organisations had found themselves struggling with problems beyond their temporarily closed structure – a permanent shortage of skilled workers.

As the pandemic unfolded, we gradually saw organisational shifts and attempts to adapt to a more flexible workplace. Due to the unpredicted and unprecedented change, several problems arose. From huge turnover rates to inadequate digital infrastructure and inflexible working arrangements, companies had to rethink their business models and employment policies. Organisations that quickly adapted to the paradigm shift – even to the extent of appreciating the sudden change – became the leaders, while the rest that did not manage to adapt, fell on the wayside.

Analysing what made the companies remain resilient and what enabled them to navigate through the pandemic-induced problems, a key factor that stood out was flexibility.

Transforming our workforce to be flexible through empowerment

In our conversations with customers across the globe, we have seen businesses across different industries seek out new competitive advantages through technological innovations and flexible working arrangements to provide a tip-top working environment for its workforce, and in turn, this has also helped to widen the capability gap between themselves and their competitors.

With the Great Resignation upon us, flexibility remains the key takeaway in talent retention and gaining a competitive edge, in terms of human capital.

It is pertinent for the organisations of today to prepare our workforce for the future. To achieve a future-ready and resilient workforce, organisations must be willing to take the risk and ditch traditional methods of increasing employees’ skill sets and explore dynamic ways to invest in professional growth opportunities to attract and develop strong workers. Today, many organisations leverage learning technologies to create engaging content and courses for employees or learners to advance their abilities in curated skills and competency paths. The flexibility to personalise will be critical to truly elevate employee skills.

Companies in Singapore could potentially explore some of the initiatives championed in the higher learning sector. Just last year, we worked with six Institutes of Higher Education to develop an end-to-end system to enable a seamless service journey for learners pursuing their continuing professional development (CPD). It tailors productivity into a business process design that alleviates the administrative burden of registrars, finance, CPD and information technology administrators, allowing the institutions to deliver quality learning to a larger reach of learners. The ability to help working professionals upskill while considering each individual’s personal digital learning portfolio and their respective desired skill tracks is key to aligning their growth with the needs of the industry.

As Singapore relooks to change up our workforce and extend beyond equipping our workers with rudimentary working knowledge of the norm, organisations can and should double down on their commitments to develop a culture of continued growth and learning, to spur their employees to upskill and train themselves so they can adapt in the face of constant change.

A “no-one-left-behind” approach to the future of work

If the pandemic has reaffirmed anything, it is that humans are highly adaptive, and as such, companies seeking to employ must have the same ability to adapt. The way forward for the possibility of cloud offices or organisations with flexible working arrangements has been paved. Now, more than ever, we should start to rethink and change the ways in which we work, to achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce together.

Using technology, people are now able to work from anywhere and at any time. We are also now able to be trained or taught online, and even through virtual reality. Organisations in Singapore have long started to look into employing foreign talents to increase the workforce pool, but with a growing but ageing population, it is time for organisations to weave in increased flexibility into their workforce and its arrangements – through the employment of more diverse groups such as our seniors, those with special needs, back-to-work mothers, and those with caregiving responsibilities.

For instance, at the beginning of the pandemic, primary caregivers like mothers, felt like they were being pulled in two different directions to meet the expectations from both their caregiving duties and work, which may be detrimental to their mental well-being. As organisations continue to transform, the adoption of technologies to increase flexibility in work arrangements and employee development with the help of intuitive platforms will be crucial to ensure sufficient support is given to each employee.

Flexible work now goes beyond simply having the option to work remotely, or being required to go into the office only a third or half the time. Flexibility means having the freedom to incorporate work into life. Such flexibility not only demonstrates the business’s ability to adapt, but also highlights the company’s willingness to help every employee realise their latent potential amid individual challenges, as well as the determination to work towards an efficient yet empathetic workforce. This also ties in closely with the government agenda of moulding inclusive and harmonious workplaces that appreciate the diversity of workers and maximise every employee’s potential.

Technology remains a key driver to continuous and flexible transformation

The pandemic has reinforced our conviction that technology and flexible working arrangements are heavily intertwined, and it is integral for organisations to capture the full value of technologies to maximise human capital in today’s working world.

To sustain the longevity of flexible working arrangements for the future of work as the pandemic gradually subsides, employers must look for a scalable, flexible, and customisable solution that meets the intricacies of their business to blend people and technology in the most dynamic business environments.

In an ever-changing world facing unprecedented global events and crises, it is paramount that companies be open to changes and work towards a sustainable working environment that endures through the work of tomorrow. Be it upgrading the workforce to be resilient in times of change, introducing a flexible working environment to include different walks of life, or investing in technology to bring the conversation of tomorrow’s workforce forward, only companies that remain adaptable will stand the test of time.