Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology - Opening Address Transforming HRM Conference, Suntec Singapore

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology - Opening Address
Transforming HRM Conference, Suntec Singapore
Singapore, 15 February 2001

Mr Stephen Lee, President, Singapore National Employers Federation
Dr Tan Chin Nam, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Manpower
Ms Lim Soo Hoon, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Community Development and Sports
Distinguished Speakers, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning

Transforming Human Resource Management for the New Economy

1 Our human resource is our only natural resource. For more than 30 years, we did very well in developing and managing our human resource. We succeeded in turning it into our key source of competitive advantage. Because we were productive and competitive, we were rewarded with sustained economic growth and full employment for quite some time.

2 Looking ahead, there is no doubt that our economy will need to go through even faster change because of the twin forces of technology and globalisation. As we reposition ourselves to play a greater role in the Knowledge Based Economy, we face two fundamental challenges.

- First, we need to reinvent our economy, industry and corporations as quickly as possible. This is the only way for us to sustain our competitiveness in the global community. If we are unable to do so, we will end up with rising unemployment.

- Second, re-inventing our economy quickly alone is not good enough. We also need to upgrade our workforce and help as many Singaporeans as possible to remain employable, so that our economic progress will not be achieved at the expense of social cohesion. Otherwise, we will end up with rising structural unemployment as well as a growing digital divide in our community.

3 There is therefore an urgent need for all of us here in this room - CEOs and HRM practitioners - to work together, to realign HRM practices here in Singapore to meet the new demands of the New Economy.

4 What are the new demands of the New Economy? How should we re-align the current thrusts of HRM practices in response to these new demands? How can IT help?

5 These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers either. Through a process of experience, sharing and exchange of views and ideas, such as today's event, we can certainly learn from each other, and together do a better job in this brave new world of the New Economy.

6 Since I am the first speaker, I would like to start off your discussion today by touching on three obvious issues, and leave the more complex issues to the expert speakers.

7 The first obvious issue in HRM in the New Economy is that the employee-employer relationship will be very different from that of the past. Instead of life-long employment and steady career advancement, employers want to have greater flexibility in hiring and termination of service, whereas employees are attracted by more responsive rewards.

8 If we are not careful, there is a danger that we could end up with a situation where employees cannot trust their employers to invest in their skill and knowledge upgrading, while employers cannot trust their employees to give their very best to the organisation. This is a no-win situation. We should not allow this to happen. It is important for the HRM community to find ways to strengthen mutual trust between employees and employers in the New Economy.

9 The second obvious issue in HRM in the New Economy is that it is no longer good enough to be good at just value adding. We must learn to be good at value creation as well. This includes the development of new technologies and applications, growing of new markets, responsiveness through mass customisation etc.

10 In short, we need to pursue structural change in the concept of productivity and quality, through innovation.

11 The third obvious issue in HRM in the New Economy is that the Knowledge Workers of tomorrow will have much higher expectations, and more needs and wants too. Increasingly, we can expect more working adults to want to strike a balance between total dedication of all their time to their work, versus spending some time to pursue their personal passions and having the flexibility to take time off to attend to their aged parents and young children. This is unavoidable, as a result of a higher standard of living, smaller family size and ageing population.

12 Based on these three obvious issues alone, there is already much we can do to re-align HRM practices to create a HR environment that is

- pro-learning so as to enhance the employability of the individuals,
- pro-family so as to strengthen the core foundation of our society and community, and
- pro-innovation to create a quantum leap in our ability to compete as a KBE.

13 IT can certainly help contribute to the transformation of HRM in Singapore. For example, with the development of broadband Internet and wireless Internet, it has become more attractive and viable for companies and organisations to implement concepts such as e-Learning, tele-commuting and creative invention. The potential is tremendous. I hope you will deliberate on the future role of IT in transforming HRM and enhancing HR capabilities. I also urge you to try out some of these promising ideas through a series of pilot projects, conducted at individual company or at industry levels.

14 In conclusion, human capital is the single most important asset of any knowledge based enterprise. At the same time, technology is the most powerful tool of any innovation driven enterprise. HRM in the New Economy therefore ought to be Human Centric with a strong Technology Focus. We need to leverage on emerging technologies to better satisfy the wants and needs of the knowledge workers, and in the process, build a competitive advantage that lasts.

15 I wish all participants a fruitful and successful conference.

Thank you.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023