This article was first published by Kerry Consulting on 30/08/2022
A skilled labour force has always been one of Singapore’s key drivers of success or even, survival. This is no mean feat given the population constraints of a city state. As such, the development of a sustainable, sizeable and relevant workforce has always been top of mind for policy-makers. In the Covid years, the talent market in Singapore was particularly challenging. In this article, I share my observations around why there is a talent crunch for technology talent in Singapore and how management teams have sought to tackle this problem.
Why Is There a Talent Crunch for Technology in Singapore?
Stiff Competition for Talent
Singapore has always been attractive to global companies looking to set up APAC or international operations, due to the political and economic stability. During the pandemic where uncertainties were aplenty, Singapore proved to be the choice of location for many organisations. In most cases, these companies hire significant numbers in Technology and Digital functions, driving up the competition.
Furthermore, the competition is no longer confined to Singapore shores. One phenomenon that has arose due to the pandemic is a shift in the way of working. Technology talent know they can work from anywhere, and many crave that flexibility. As such, we are also competing with technology hubs such as San Francisco, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, London, Dublin, Shanghai, Bengaluru, and New York, for a talent who may very well be sitting here in Singapore.
Reduced Global Mobility
While the border controls have somewhat eased in 2022, many candidates have had shifts in their priorities in the last two years. I observed candidates moving back to their home countries to be closer to families. While it is true they can work remotely in most cases, issues around tax legislations, company policies, travel costs are significant complications to consider.
Heightened Urgency and Pace of Digitalisation Across All Industries
The pandemic resulted in the need for companies to reinvent themselves to adapt to the new norm. In many instances, businesses had to find new ways to reach their customers digitally with greater pace and efficacy. New applications were built, APIs were formed, and new data points were gathered and analysed. Internally, management also had to ensure that their employees were able to work remotely or in a hybrid manner for the foreseeable future. Cloud adoption, architecture review, automated sales leads, digital workspaces all needed to be reevaluated against the new backdrop.
What Measures Can We Take To Mitigate the Effects of the Shortage?
Understanding the Gap in Skillsets
Astute hiring teams pay great attention to the gaps of their current technology and digital workforce, and prioritise the hiring needs according to the organisation’s short-mid-long term goals. This way, they run a lower risk of hiring only for the present without consideration of what they will do with the talent in the long run. This also reduces frustration and disappointment from the candidate’s perspective. Many organisations have turned to consulting firms to help with developing Target Operating Models for the Technology and Digital departments. The management teams will need to invest time with these consulting firms to ensure that the solutions are indeed well-tailored and customized against the needs of the organisations.
Candidate Experience During Interviews
Candidate experience is extremely important in the hiring process. In most instances, candidates are getting to know more about the organisation and the hiring team through the interview process. It is imperative to note that candidates have chosen to halt the interview processes because of the poor experience. Proper thought should be given to the interview process (who are the interviewers, what questions should they be asking and why are these questions relevant).
Stakeholders who are asked to screen candidates should be trained in how to interview effectively. They should be properly briefed of the interview process, so they can avoid duplication in the questions and also be accurate in pitching the role or the organisation to the candidates.
I have also observed that candidates appreciate organisations with clear and consistent Employee Value Propositions (“EVP”). Interviewers need to understand their differentiating factors against the rest of the competition and be able to articulate these clearly during the interview process.
Invest in Staff
After the COVID-19 pandemic many employees’ life priorities have changed. Prospective staff members want to know how the organisations will invest in them and genuinely foster their growth. This investment, via regular training, educational opportunities, resource groups and internal mobility, should provide a platform for the staff and help them to make meaningful steps forward in their career.
Existing staff, including the hiring managers, should also be encouraged to pick up the new technologies. While organisations are looking to add on new technologies or digital skillsets, some candidates have rejected roles when they feel that their prospective managers lack the awareness or know-how themselves.
Invest in Technology
Many candidates are drawn to forward-thinking outfits that invest in their own technology and rely less on third-party integrations. For technology candidates, being a part of “something bigger” is on top of the priority list and working on proprietary technology can be a huge draw. When pitching the organisation’s vision, make sure that it is clear to candidates where you are headed with your own technology, and outline how they will be able to contribute if they are given the role.
Speed Up Deliberations
You should never underestimate the power of pace in the current technology recruitment market. Deciding on a candidate before your competitor could be the difference between hiring quality talent and completely missing out. In this current candidate-driven market, being decisive is key.
On the surface, the solution to acquiring and retaining talent in Singapore may seem simple. “Just pay more” echoes in the offices of hiring managers every day. While this may ring true in some instances, I have observed that deeper insights on the full recruitment cycle usually drive better results in the long term. Paying more helps to acquire staff but it does not necessarily make them stick around. There are compound benefits and expectations that employers must acknowledge in their value proposition. Hopefully this article has provided insights for securing and, more importantly, retaining talent amid highly competitive conditions.
Axer Goh is a Senior Director in Kerry Consulting’s Technology Practice, focusing on Tech Leadership, Digital and Transformation. Axer specialises in the technology domain across industries and functional areas such as Digital, Innovation, Data and Cloud. Her original background was in technology sales and she holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from the University of Bradford.