Each month, the British Chamber asks for member company comments on a specific topic, for publication in the Orient magazine. Comments below may be re-published only with the Chamber's consent and quotation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
This month the Chamber is taking a closer look at the conversations we have started over the past year under the umbrella of our Future of Work initiative. Thinking of this broad topic, what does the Future of Work look like for you, and what would you recommend that businesses be doing now to prepare?
John Bittleston, Founder, Mentor & Executive Chair, Terrific Mentors International Pte Ltd
Relationships between Authority and those who are expected to comply with authority are changing. This arises from speed of transmission of information, access to data, lowering of social barriers and better education of employees. To prepare for the major changes thus caused management needs to promote (rather than resist) transparency, to abolish all useless procedures that are predicated on the assumption that employees will cheat or sabotage the organisation, to engage employees more meaningfully, giving them scope to participate as much as possible in the business. When I built Cerebos Pacific, I saw that all employees’ wages, bonuses, stock options and terms (including mine) were displayed. Employees appreciated this transparency. Formal meeting times were strictly limited, and employees were helped to feel that our company was a family. This is not soft, touchy-feely rubbish. It is practical management. I know because I have done it. Successfully.
Nick Freeman, General Manager, PizzaExpress Singapore
Cost pressures are driving change in the restaurant sector, with an increasing need to automate processes to save on manpower. Equally, real concerns about the environment have led to innovations in the realm of “Food 2.0”, with plant-based proteins introduced to reduce meat consumption and a growth in vertical farming to minimize impact on the land. A restaurant experience could look very different in 10 years. Customers may select a dish on a mobile phone, sending the order directly to the kitchen, where a robot prepares the food. This seems hard to conceive – and a little impersonal – but some companies have already opened semi-automated restaurants. I see this becoming the norm. Menus will change too, containing less meat than today as meat becomes costly and more diners adopt a flexitarian diet. We are embracing these changes at PizzaExpress, undertaking the “Future Express” project to guide us into the future of food.
Ian Kloss, Head of Region (Southeast Asia) & CEO Singapore, Old Mutual International
Old Mutual International (OMI) has always been a huge believer of innovation. Only with innovation can we, as an organisation, continuously deliver good client outcomes and value to our shareholders. In the past year, OMI Singapore has adopted an open innovation approach in which the organisation taps into external networks to collaborate and co-create new solutions and services. A good example was when OMI partnered with a regional bank’s expertise and resources to co-create a bespoke offering for high net worth clients. The new product taps into OMI’s expertise in offering cross-border insurance solutions and the regional bank’s expertise in discretionary investment portfolio management. OMI is also looking to upgrade to a more robust knowledge management system. Knowledge is often overlooked as a resource and being a global company, inadvertently sometimes knowledge does not get shared or passed on, causing ineffective allocation of resources. Hence, to future proof the organisation and increase operational efficiency, knowledge management should be a key business strategy.
Dr Paul Bell, Founder & Clinical Director, The Osteopathic Centre
The allied health industry in Singapore has huge potential for growth but there are some major challenges to be faced, especially for SME's that are relatively resource poor compared to larger healthcare organisations. Recognition and regulation still requires a lot of development when compared to countries such as the U.K. and Australia. Only a small proportion of professions are currently regulated by the ministry of health. Without regulation it is sometimes difficult to raise awareness within the broader Singapore population, with many of the community stakeholders unsure of how to implement these professions and unaware of the potential benefits they may provide. In addition, recruitment can also be challenging as these professions often require non-Singaporean practitioners due to a lack of suitably trained and skilled local talent. To address this shortfall the educational development of these allied health specialities needs to be progressed within South East Asia.
Lee Tze Shiong, Director, Transformation and Quality & Principal, Assurance, Nexia TS
Digitalisation and business transformation are the way forward as the firm forms new core team to move the needle! On the digital front, upgrading of IT systems is vital for businesses to integrate work processes and facilitate efficiency from resource management, tracking of recovery to billings. The firm is in the process of adopting electronic work papers fully thus eradicating hard copy documents. With changing expectations of the millennials, menial tasks are no longer the work scope which they aspire to perform. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are emerging tools to streamline processes and maximise productivity, in our instance, the application of Data Analytics, and potentially AI, in audit methodology. As a mid-tier accounting firm, we need to reinvent our value proposition to stay relevant. In our recent partnership with leading home-grown technology company that builds business solutions powered by blockchain, our clients can now transact safely and efficiently with technologies.
Kevin Coppel, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Knight Frank
As the nature of work shifts, so will our workspaces alter irrevocably. For businesses, real estate should be viewed as more than a cost – it is also a strategic option that can drive productivity and growth, giving them a real edge. As the battle for a skilled workforce intensifies, businesses must quickly adopt workspaces that help to attract and retain talent and which encourage collaboration. These workspaces are generally located close to talent pools, have ample amenities, have up-to-date technology and infrastructure, and offer a variety of workspaces which appeal to a diverse and multi-generational workforce. For landlords, the evolution of work means that space is viewed as a business service, rather than a product. Increasingly, they are expected to provide soft services, offer opportunities for community building and sharpen their focus on the occupiers’ well-being.
A few years ago, the future of our industry looked bleak. Technology was disrupting the working environment and the demand for office spaces was reduced as companies embraced co-working spaces and remote work. We had to review our core business model if we wanted to sustain in the face of disruption. The business shifted from being quantitative to qualitative. The team mindset had to change to focus on service delivery and like our clients, we embraced technology with a centralized CRM system and we partnered up with Proptech companies for lead generation. As the nature of work continues to evolve, technology created new business opportunities. The centralised CRM enabled us to reduce our turnaround time, to remain nimble and provide faster quality data to our customers. The key to sustainability remains to offer a personalized service that would differentiate us from generic automation.
Mark Stuart, Head Trainer, Anagram Group, winners of the Chamber’s Future of Work award at last year’s 19th Annual Business Awards
The future of work for Anagram Group is not about how we operate, but more about how we help our clients prepare for it. We view the future of work as one that requires greater transparency and collaboration, sharing and optimum usage of data, and empowering employees to help drive change. It’s about taking advantage of digital opportunities and equipping your staff with the necessary tools and skills. For businesses to meet these future demands, they can’t stand still and wait for it to happen naturally. Firstly, the company needs to take action, and it needs to come from top management to ensure buy-in from across the company. Secondly, it needs a strategic plan to implement a culture change, otherwise focus tends to drift and it becomes an afterthought. If a company successfully implements these, then it stands a chance of leading the race in the future of work.
Chris Burton, Managing Director, Vistra Singapore
The corporate services industry is highly fragmented. It consists of a few global players; some larger, regional businesses; those operating from a small number of countries; and finally, single jurisdiction businesses. Even the largest players do not have the critical mass of other financial service businesses yet have thousands of staff spread across multiple jurisdictions dealing with different regulations. Some local practices still require manual interventions. The industry lacks the substantive scale required to invest heavily in technology across different, sometimes exotic, markets, hence is responding very slowly to technological change. But disruptors are emerging, usually in single jurisdictions where there is a deeper technological DNA, such as Singapore. Incumbents are eyeing disruptors with some nervousness. Large scale operations are difficult to change quickly where administrative practices are entrenched, and staff do not always envisage the potential of technology solutions. This is further complicated by frequent acquisitions that bring together different working practices. Vistra is investing heavily in a Digital Lab, using external business analysts to break down and standardise common workflows, then deploying business process management software to slicken processes. This will improve the client experience through more automation and accessibility and drive internal efficiencies. It is a long journey, but we are making good progress.
Graham Silverthorne, Head, UWCSEA East
The future of schooling is a hot topic. We have been using the same basic model for well over a century and disruption is coming; indeed it is already here. There are many views of what might and what should happen. My view is that our industry will fragment at the margins around the school leaving age. I believe that there will be a very blurred line between senior high school and undergraduate learning within the next 30 years, unrelated to a learner's age, and a move away from place-based institutional learning. The drivers here are technology, cost, market competition and demographics. There is too much resource tied up in school buildings that are unused for significant periods of time and more evidence available that there are effective ways of ‘bypassing’ traditional schooling and higher education routes without penalty to the learner. Increasingly, traditional linear pathways do not meet the needs of our time, nor will they meet the needs of our future workers or their employers.
Stephen McNulty, President, APJ, Micro Focus
As mobile, big data and cloud continue to impact the modern enterprise, the gaps in the skills required continues to be a significant constraint towards businesses’ growth. Moving forward, companies will need a degree of workforce flexibility in their strategy – in the form of upskilled current staff or new hires trained with the requisite skills. In areas such as cybersecurity, which face a skills shortage, an adequate level of foundational knowledge can help employees to adapt to a variety of different job roles and functions. It’s key that both multinational corporations (MNCs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have equal opportunities to find efficient and innovative ways of attracting and retaining talents while accelerating training to uplift skillsets and reduce costs. Government initiatives must also remain committed to giving SMEs an added boost in embracing digitisation to ensure Singapore continues advancing towards its Smart Nation goals. As an African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Richard Warburton, Executive Director at Arcadis Singapore
Digital transformation is changing the business landscape, especially in terms of the required skill-set, ways of working and building a community. This requires everyone to re-think their business strategy and invest in their people and the workplace. For Arcadis, these are three critical areas that have been considered:
1. In construction, digital will improve productivity and enhance efficiency. Technologies such as BIM, drones, AI and data analytics not only requires project application, but investment in people. At Arcadis, we actively train and develop our people and now have four certified drone pilots to conduct façade inspections, site and volumetric surveys.
2. The workplace of the future is about embracing new ways of working, promoting a culture of collaboration, wellbeing and delivering sustainability in everything it does – this is embodied by our new Singapore office.
3 Community is essential to success. When done well it can enhance learning, elevate innovation and creativity, and enable people to be responsive to challenges. With more break-out and collaboration spaces for staff, internal initiatives that promote a sense of belonging and diversity, our new office space creates an open and inclusive environment that showcases the future of work.