by Lim Zhi Rong
I first wrote about Building a Strong Local Core in Your Workforce in Feb 2016, where I shared my views on the need for MNCs to engage local authorities - Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to justify the need for foreign talents AND also to demonstrate the plans of building a strong local core.
Recently, MOM announced measures to refine the Employment Pass (EP) application process, putting in place stricter measures and closer scrutiny on 'Triple Weak' companies: Weak Singaporean core, Weak committment to build a strong local core, Weak relevance to the economy of Singapore.
This shouldn't come as a surprise. Initiatives such as the Fair Consideration Framework, SkillsFuture, Wage Credit Scheme are efforts by the government to help companies build a strong local core in their workforce in Singapore.
The Minister of Manpower, Mr. Lim Swee Say shared some statistics - growth in EP has slowed down - from 32,000 in 2011 to just 9000 in 2015. And it will continue to get tighter. On top of assessing individual related critera such as the qualification, experience and salary of the applicant, companies will be assessed on company related factors. This includes:
How strong the Singaporean core is in the companyWhether companies with a weak Singaporean core have a commitment to nurture and strengthen the core in futureAnd how relevant these companies are to Singapore's economy and society
This article seeks to share relevant practial steps that Business & HR Leaders can take to ensure the company is committed to respecting and operating within the expectations laid out by MOM, and staying relevant to Singapore's economy and society.
1. Setting Up a New Organization, Center or Strategy?
What do I mean here? For example, you could be setting up an innovation center in Singapore and need to relocate a team of 9 international talents from your Global HQ and other countries to Singapore.
Due to the change in the business strategy, you have 3 talents coming from New York, 3 from London and 3 from Dubai. Clearly, you'll need EPs for them.
In the past, you probably will present your business case to EDB and MOM, explain the investments made in Singapore and the EPs may be granted.
Today, you will still need to present your business case, but you should also demonstrate what is the plan on transferring the know-how to local talents. Out of the 9 international talents relocating, how many of them can transfer their know-how to local talents, groom and develop locals to take their roles in the next e.g. 12 - 24 months?
Initially, the EP may be approved because MOM recognises the gap in our local workforce and your business need to relocate talent to fill that gap. But the important point to address is - Is your company serious about imparting that knowledge to the local workforce? Is there a structure plan to do so?
Don't get me wrong - it is NOT about 'milking' the international talents and then send them home after downloading their knowledge to the locals. The talents who relocated to Singapore can continue to stay. They could become senior mentors to groom more local talents, take on a bigger, new or different role with the company.
The key here is there must be a plan to transfer that know-how because when companies do so, they are contributing to close the skill-gap for Singapore, contribute to the Human Capital Development for the nation and staying relevant to Singapore's economy.
Companies can look at structured training, coaching and mentoring programs in a reasonable 12 - 24 months timeframe to ensure there is a systematic approach towards local capabilty building with international talents.
2. Recruitment Process
HR is the moral conscious of the company and we need to hold our hiring managers accountable.
- Do you have roles that are often vacant due to high attrition?
- What are the 'nationality trends' of the hirings made?
- Do you have a hiring manager who could be bias?
Sit down with your hiring manager and do an 'internal audit'. Review the CVs together. If the local CVs didn't meet the hiring requirements and a non-local CV was a more suitable profile, it's okay. Understand what was missing in the local CVs and record their feedbacks.
Overtime, you will build a library of feedbacks and armed with that, you can do 2 important things
- If talent with that required skillset doesn't exist, maybe it's about coming up with alternative profiles with transferable skills for the role you're looking to hire?
- Initiate a dialogue with MOM and EDB, pro-actively share with them the feedbacks. It is valuable for MOM to hear it directly from you, the industry. MOM can review your feedback internally, and they could also recognise your company as a reponsible insitution that is committed and fair in in your recruitment process.
3. Ratio of Local Core
Many people has asked me - 'What is the ideal ratio to avoid getting into the Watchlist? Is it 50% local : 50% foreign talent?'
I don't have the answer because it is also dependent on the sector.
Some sectors like the F&B and Retail have a stronger need for foreign talent and MOM understands. Some sectors don't. It is not about number crunching - it is about understanding your sector, why and how you can have a reasonable ratio in a responsible way.
*** Epilogue ***
At the end of the day, helping the nation in this agenda is a win-win situation for all. The stakes are high - Get it right, you'll have an ideal workforce with an optimal overhead costs. Get it wrong, you risk alienating either group (local or foreign talent group) and you risk weak cohesion & unity in your workforce.
I hope this has sparked an interest for companies to approach this agenda in a responsible way. Reach out proactively to the EDB's Human Capital Division for your sector - they can support you in this journey. Collaborate with the MOM's Foreign Workforce Policy Division and contribute to the country. Partner this changing employment landscape together.
Be 'Triple Strong', not 'Triple Weak'. Grow with Singapore...
This article first appeared on LinkedIn.