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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Anthony Thompson

People powered future: Why we all need to champion tomorrow's talent

BY ANTHONY THOMPSON

Singapore is facing an inherent 30% talent shortage, particularly in the industries of Fintech, where the government set the goal of adding 1,000 jobs per year and pledged to invest S$225 million over five years, and manufacturing, as the development of smart technologies demands an evolving skill set from engineers.

Singapore has the potential to handle these shortages. According to IMD World Competitiveness Reports, it ranks second in talent readiness, second in overall digital competitiveness and third in overall world competitiveness. The Singapore government has taken a pragmatic approach to solving the problem, investing in large-scale programmes to help educate and upskill its workforce. Initiatives such as SkillsFuture and Workforce SG’s Adapt & Grow and the Capability and Transfer Programme aim to develop current employees, rather than replace them.

As the conversation around talent shifts to include buzzwords like robotics, automation and AI, it’s important for businesses in Singapore to remember: in order to fulfil their vast potential, people will still power the future of work and we should continue to encourage and champion human talent.

High potential talent is the key to success
One of the things I enjoy over a career path like mine is having a hunch confirmed about potential. One moment, you’re recommending a potential recruit to a company head. You’ll know the type of candidate right away: during the interview, there’s this special ingredient that you just can’t ignore. The attention is super-fixed and a range of small micro-movements are providing sure signs that your candidate realises what you too can see – that this role will fit them like a glove.

Fast-forward to several years later. Your phone rings from that same company. And this time, your sure-bet recruit is the one calling you about a role – yet now she’s running the entire division. And now she’s searching for another gut-instinct pick in tomorrow’s talent race.

This is a composite of a 20-year career where patterns emerge that lend you deeper insights into the ‘high potentials’ of our talent world – who research suggests can deliver 400% to 800% more impact to you than the average hire.

Making talent a priority
Because of this large impact and as a result of a shortage of actual talent, recruiting, developing and retention of top talent remains the key priority for our Human Resources community.

According to Mercer’s HR Talent Management Priorities 2018, the five top surveyed priorities for HR leaders this year are: Developing Leaders for succession (41%); Building skills across the workforce (40%); Attracting top talent externally (39%); Supporting employees’ career growth (38%); and Identifying high potentials (36%).

We are still about people power
Powered by a youthful, educated demographic wave, the advances coming out of the Asia Pacific region are truly mind-blowing. Our nations are literally changing the map when it comes to new business and market potential: meaning that we live in very exciting times.

And yet, we still read a growingly alarmist narrative in the media about technological advances – be it artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, automation, big data, blockchain, driverless cars or space travel. According to this script, we face the prospect of these advances potentially catching up to, or perhaps even overtaking the need for human-powered work.

However, we’ve experienced many waves of industrial and technological advancements in the past: and while these new advances are exciting, many things stay the same. People-driven soft skills like intuition, influencing, foresight, mindset or earned loyalty rely on time-intensive and personalised service. The ideal situation is to enable these person-to-person elements of business to improve – backed by the brilliance of backend advances in planning, data mining, prediction and organisation.

Welcome to the talent race
We have to continue to run our companies by people and for them. Regardless of financial imperatives, any company that aims to bypass its community’s interests and our fundamentals of culture, ethics or morality, surely won’t be in business for too long.

Ignore the talent race, and you face the prospect of your best and brightest in Singapore being tempted away to other organisations or growth regions: ones where they have made the supply of highly-trained, market-ready talent the strategic priority that it should be. In the talent race, it’s about use it or lose it – it’s really that simple. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Anthony Thompson

Anthony Thompson

Anthony moved from South Australia to commence his Michael Page career in Hong Kong in 2001. He managed and established several disciplines and brands in Hong Kong and China and was appointed Managing Director, Hong Kong and Southern China in 2006. In 2012, he was appointed Regional Managing Director for Greater China with several offices established across China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In 2015, Anthony moved to Singapore with additional responsibility for PageGroup in South East Asia which now encompasses offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. In 2016 he also became responsible for India. Anthony is currently responsible for PageGroup's operations in Greater China, South East Asia and India.

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