Comment: Incentives for HR to do its job?

While the Human Capital Partnership Programme epitomises the Government’s resolute intent to develop and build a more robust and skilled Singaporean workforce, should private firms – and HR by extension – really need further incentives to train the local workforce?

The fact that the Human Capital Partnership Programme, announced by Singapore’s Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say last week, is required suggests that firms aren’t doing what should be in their best interests.

Crafted by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, the Human Capital Partnership programme reaffirms the Government’s unwavering commitment towards fostering a strong Singaporean core within the national workforce.

Its chief goals are to ensure that Singaporean employees are not being sidelined by unjust employment practices, and to cultivate a strong local talent pipeline equipped with the skillsets necessary to thrive in today’s volatile and disruptive working world.

Organisations which are part of this programme must display a favourable track record of developing employees of all ages and levels, hiring foreign staff that supplement (not replace) local employees, and actively transferring knowledge and skills from foreign professionals to locals.

Firms that showcase these best practices will be offered incentives under the programme which is slated to be launched by early next year.

For instance, they will gain access to a dedicated hotline and priority processing for transactions such as work pass applications with MOM, and be afforded a one-stop advisory service to link them to grants and schemes they can utilise for employee development, provided by TAFEP.

Are incentives the right strategy?

While the programme’s intentions are admirable, should these sorts of incentives really be thrown into the mix?

There is the concern that these sorts of dangling carrots could lead organisations to take a short-term view of local employee development, just so they can gain access to the accelerated processing for work pass applications.

There is a need to eradicate the mindset whereby organisations feel entitled to gain access to incentives, simply for fulfilling certain criteria of a particular initiative.

Rather, cultivating a stronger Singaporean core and constantly upgrading the skillsets of local staff should be a core priority of all firms, regardless of whether incentives are offered.  Companies should already be devising their own initiatives and strategies to grow their local talent pipelines.

Likewise, foreign professionals, managers, and executives should be actively passing on their skills to the next generation of Singaporean workers. Those that aren’t represent an expensive and unsustainable solution to the talent crisis that will almost certainly last longer than their tenures.

This should be a matter of self-preservation and economic investment – without local talent development, Singapore-based firms face a short life span.

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