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Skills-based assessment the way to go in hiring the right people

Government, employers and individuals must collaborate for workforce transformation

Singapore's workforce transformation must be a tripartite enterprise. At its core is skills-building where a "skills lens" should apply to all decisions, whether it is a company's talent strategy or personal career roadmap.

Ensuring that Singaporeans have deep skills for the future and are inspired to learn throughout their lives has emerged as a key nation-building effort in recent times, following the recommendations by the Committee on the Future Economy.

To that end, various Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs), which aim to foster synergies across industries by leveraging skills adjacencies to support the provision of skilled manpower, are now set in motion.

The Skills Framework, which is an integral part of each ITM, was established to provide a common skills repository for individuals, employers and training providers as well as support skills acquisition through training programmes to enhance individual employability and career development.

But mechanisms must be grounded in right implementation or risk being impressive only on paper. For the Skills Framework to be effective, it requires the collaborative tripartite efforts of the Government, employers and individuals.

SKILLS-BASED ASSESSMENT

For example, government agencies today offer various schemes and grants to employers and employees, typically targeted at improving organisational excellence and enhancing the technical skills and capabilities of locals who are involved in high-impact research and development and solution development initiatives.

Companies need to engage with the authorities to discuss how their manpower development plans can lead to both the growth of their organisations and the overall sector.

Companies should also review how their business strategies and execution plans compare against the ITMs so that the industry ecosystem in Singapore moves as one under the strategic guidance and support from the Government.

The success of any organisation lies in having the right people with the right skills at the right time and at the right price to contribute to the company's growth.

Manpower planning entails getting the optimal number of workforce and type of profiles required.

Skills-based manpower planning is carried out by taking stock of existing competencies and abilities and projecting the manpower needs.

Instead of viewing training as a short-term cost, employee development should be regarded as a long-term investment that allows staff to add value to their roles and take up expanded job scopes.

A gap analysis considers the required workforce strength, how job requirements will evolve over time, steps to be taken to train employees and the types of skills and competencies needed.

This preparatory step is crucial for the development and implementation of programmes that will assist the organisation in meeting its human resources needs optimally.

Many employers may fail to recognise that hiring today requires a breakaway from traditional practices. Recruiters should now consider using skills-based interviews - a concept that links the three parameters of knowledge, attitude and competencies.

In a skills-based interview, the core assessment is based on a candidate's skills, experiences and fit with the organisation's culture and values.

The interview process replicates the work environment as much as possible and questions would focus on assessing the candidate's strengths and weaknesses in the key competencies that they are expected to contribute.

Such a forward-looking system rewards employees based on the depth of specialised skills, breadth in range of skills as well as self-management skills such as planning and budgeting.

EMPLOYEE TRAINING

There is also a pressing need for significant employer involvement and partnerships required for skills formation. For example, employers should co-invest in and provide access to relevant training programmes.

Very often, employers tend to fear that the benefits of investing in training are lost when employees leave. Instead of viewing training as a short-term cost, employee development should be regarded as a long-term investment that allows staff to add value to their roles and take up expanded job scopes.

The better employees become at their jobs, the easier it is for organisations to attain the level of productivity projected.

Lastly, the responsibility for skills development and acquisition does not reside solely with the employer nor the Government. Individuals must have a learning mindset in the course of their careers so as to remain relevant and productive.

Employees should take ownership of their career and employability and consider how willing they are in investing in developing their own intellectual and professional capital.

Embedding a culture of lifelong learning will help to ensure that Singaporeans are constantly upgrading, innovating and reinventing themselves.

The writers are partners of People Advisory Services and Business Incentives Advisory, Tax Services respectively at Ernst & Young Solutions LLP. This article appeared in The Business Times yesterday.

BUSINESS & FINANCE