A report shows that Singapore is lacking in entrepreneurial potential despite its growth as an international business hub.
On 9 June 2023 (Friday), Alliance for Action (AfA) on Business Leadership Development, led by Lisa Liaw as Chairman, launched the AfA business leadership development insights report, supported by Singapore Business Federation (SBF). The launch was attended by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat.
The report highlights areas of improvements in Singapore’s business leadership development and suggests recommendations stakeholders can take to close these gaps. We’ve summarised the findings, that are applicable to the nation’s employers, HR leaders and people managers, below.
Opportunities and gaps
#1 Growing Singapore’s appetite for innovation & entrepreneurship
The report notes that Singapore has put in large investments in research and development (R&D), prioritising the commercialisation of original ideas and solutions as a key pillar of the nation’s economic strategy.
However, it falls short in global entrepreneurship indices – as such, institutional strength in supporting entrepreneurship outpaces the ability to develop entrepreneurship acumen in the local talent pool. This points to an opportunity to better match innovation and entrepreneurship output to R&D investment input.
#2 Positioning local talents for global business leadership
As Southeast Asian and Asian economies remain the fasting growing, despite setbacks from the pandemic, Singapore has become a reputable global and regional hub. However, Asians are still under-represented in corporate leadership roles.
This trend reflects a need to develop Asian leaders, as firms increasingly look to Asia for business growth. This growth will allow for Singapore to not only drive economic growth and employment, but also to position Singapore talents for leadership roles in global firms.
#3 Synergising existing training & mentorship efforts
As Singapore has placed great emphasis on lifelong learning and upskilling, leadership training and mentorship programmes are readily available for Singapore talents of all experience levels. Apart from government provided courses, in-company programmes and industry-led mentorship programmes for corporates have become popular.w
To engender greater synergies across existing programmes, there is scope for talents and decision-makers across diverse sectors, professional domains, and spheres of influence to amplify transformational thinking around leadership and innovation, self-advocacy in the workplace, and taking calculated risks for professional growth and exposure.
Recommendations for stakeholder action
#1 Individuals to proactively stretch their leadership ‘muscles’
Through taking risks and stepping out of their personal comfort zones to develop capabilities and accumulate international experience, individuals can grow to become global corporate leaders.
Individuals need to purposefully look for opportunities consistently and ensure they have employers that are supporting these career moves for human capital development. This can be done by actively pursuing opportunities both locally and internationally for greater exposure, expanding personal and professional networks through participation in community platforms and workgroups, attending directorship training, and looking to sit on advisory boards.
#2 Companies to develop local talents into anchors for local, regional & global growth
The report first suggests companies to have an intentional roadmap for attracting, retaining, and enabling local talents with international experience, to sustain robust growth.
MNCs with hub operations in Singapore can identify and develop high-potential Singaporeans for senior C-level roles through bilateral exchanges across regional offices which allows for richer learning of business practices. This could be conducted through overseas internships performed remotely or longer term in-country deployments.
Meanwhile, local enterprises headquartered in Singapore could encourage local talents to fulfil international postings by supporting their familial needs. For instance, HR & mobility teams could cover accompanying spouses of Singaporeans posted overseas.
DPM Heng shared: “Therefore there is a great opportunity for us to develop more Singaporeans to take on regional and global leadership roles. We must do our best to develop Singaporeans to their fullest potential. Singaporeans, growing up in a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, as well as a very cosmopolitan global city, can build on their strengths to build relationships across a diverse and complex Asia. We can play our part to deepening the Global-Asia connection.”
Secondly, findings suggest that companies which have been primary beneficiaries of good talents through government support schemes should put in more effort to multiply local talent development efforts. Firms should consistently offer upskilling opportunities to high potential employees, conduct succession planning to groom Singaporeans to take on leadership roles, and develop HR capability to oversee a global workforce and manage overseas postings.
#3 Industry aggregators to bring together networks of talents
Industry aggregators are urged to bring together networks of talents to encourage collaboration, innovation, and cross-pollination of new ideas.
Researchers could learn to take on a commercial perspective through interactions with corporate leaders, which could in turn inspire Singapore start-up founders to innovate novel solutions for emerging industry challenges. Furthermore, mentoring networks would facilitate richer learning in high potential employees as they build confidence for their professional development.
#4 Government to advance local talent development by Singapore-based companies
Government efforts to spur Singapore-based companies to develop local talent can be done in two ways.
Firstly, the government should step up support for reintegrating spouses and children of Singaporeans based overseas back to the local system. In terms of supporting accompanying spouses, the government can consider handing out incentives to encourage companies to give employment support and training for employees’ spouses as part of the overseas relocation package. Children of relocated employees could utilise the existing Ministry of Education (MOE) immersion programme and the government can organise cohort engagement activities, sorted by time zones and age groups, to connect overseas-based Singaporean children with local students and teachers online regularly.
Secondly, it should incentivise companies to track, manage and increase the representation of Singapore talents in senior corporate leadership roles. This could be done through expanding eligibility criteria for talent development, extending to mid-career local talents with more than three years of working experience.
The inclusion of local talent development plan and progress based on metrics, such as number of Singaporeans in C-level positions and investment in employee training and development, as part of assessment criteria for continued access to incentives and support schemes could encourage more companies to advance their local talent.
Another way to achieve this is through commissioning an industry-led flagship Singapore Human Capital Mobility Index (SgHCMI) to measure progressive leadership development practices and conduct check-ins with HR leaders to discuss progress.
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Lead image and inline images / AfA Business Leadership Development Insights Report