hrtechoutlook

Singapore Public Service -Blending High Touch and High Tech

By Low Peck Kem, Chief Human Resources Officer & Senior Director, Public Service Division

Low Peck Kem, Chief Human Resources Officer & Senior Director, Public Service Division

Public Sector is Transforming: We need to be Future-ready

We are in uncertain and challenging times today. What worked before, or continues to work now, may no longer work in the future. The Public Service needs to constantly innovate and ready ourselves for the challenges ahead. Our survival is dependent upon our ability to turn these challenges into opportunities.

As the public sector embarks on our transformation efforts to prepare ourselves for the future, we recognize we need to be lean, agile, and digital. We need to embrace new ways of thinking of how we can work better, build new capabilities and serve the public better. We have to transform the way we serve—enabled by technology, yet retaining that human touch and designing solutions around customers’ journey and experience.

Tech Disruption: The Future of Work

Disruption is real and coming in fast and furious and at an accelerating pace. In line with Singapore’s Smart Nation agenda, the Public Service has embraced technology to push the Public Service to be digitally savvy with different tiers of digital skills.

"As the Public Sector embarks on our transformation efforts to prepare ourselves for the future, we recognize we need to be resilient, lean, agile, and digital"

Advances in technology are transforming how organizations engage staff and attract new talent. In the Public Service, technology is now an enabler in the way public officers collaborate, communicate and learn. Take for example our Learn app, a one-stop digital learning platform that allows public officers to learn on the go. Digital Workplace is a whole-of-government initiative comprising a suite of productivity tools designed to create a borderless, seamless and collaborative working environment for public officers. One such digital enabler is Form.sg, a platform for easy and responsive digital form building. There is also an app allowing public officers to perform common corporate and employee functions such as room bookings, booking a taxi or consulting with a doctor through telemedicine.

Growing Need for Adaptive Skills: The Future Workforce

As the single largest employer in Singapore, there are ample opportunities for officers who are willing to learn and adapt. Our workforce is constantly evolving and adapting, acquiring relevant skills to build agility and future ready competencies into our workforce.

We recognize we need to be a flexible, adaptable, and future-ready workforce and increase our agility in meeting capability needs and evolving business objectives. We have started to look into how we can better fractionalize work to tap on the skills of the growing contingent workforce with a diverse range of specialized skills from across the globe, i.e., gig economy.

We are moving towards a skills and competency-based HR Management system that requires us to relook at our people management approaches and assumptions. With a focus towards targets and outcomes achieved, we find ourselves riding the wave of technologies and digital platforms that have redefined connectivity to allow public officers the flexibility to work and collaborate with others, regardless of their location. This has allowed us to increase our employee value proposition to provide for telecommuting and remote working as an option, where the job nature permits.

Innovation is another key feature of our transformation journey. We encourage our officers to be more innovative and take calculated risks to come up with creative solutions, i.e. act fast, fail fast. We want people who know how to engage others and co-create solutions and can use design-thinking concepts to journey the last mile in our customers’ shoes. One such project we embarked on was the Moments of Life (MOL) initiative, which represents the Government’s first step towards delivering integrated services and information that citizens need, all through a single platform across agencies according to citizens’ needs. Based on insights gathered through engagement sessions with citizens (such as on-ground surveys, ethnographic interviews, concept, and prototype testing), we developed an MOL mobile application with features relevant for families with young children. The app has since been extended to other citizen segments, including Active Agers, with a similar citizen-centric approach and iterative enhancements to the app.

Lifelong employment to lifelong employability: The Future Workplace

Gone are the days when people, especially the younger generation, look for lifelong employment. So what does this mean for organizations interms of talent attraction and retention?

It is imperative for us to shift gears and focus on life cycle employability instead of lifelong employment. To remain as an employer of choice, we should ensure that employees have adequate career opportunities and flexible work practices that complement their various life stages to achieve work-life integration.

With the support of our union partners, we are establishing progressive people practices such as focusing on the importance of protecting workers rather than jobs and promoting skills upgrading as the best insurance to ensure life-long employability. Also, academic qualifications now serve only as a proxy in recruitment, while competencies, skills, and professional accreditation take precedence in the selection of candidates. Employee experience at the workplace is also critical and similar to how we journey a mile in the shoes of our customers, we must do so for our employees to enable them to be more effective and efficient contributors.

Purpose and values: Evergreen Principles

In spite of the pervasiveness of technology, it is only an enabler. There is a need to balance the need to be tech-enabled and yet still be human and citizen-centric. Apart from technical skills, public officers are motivated by the higher calling to serve the Singapore public, operate with trust and integrity and do so with empathy and excellence.

Weekly Brief