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Helping SMEs ride the post-pandemic digital wave: Tackling cybersecurity, skilling, and benefits
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Helping SMEs ride the post-pandemic digital wave: Tackling cybersecurity, skilling, and benefits

A recap of the Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) SME Community Roundtable.

This article is brought to you by Mercer Marsh Benefits.

If we define an "expert" as having a great deal of knowledge in a certain area, which "music expert" would you ask to find a song that best represents small & medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore's economy? 

Chat GPT’s unequivocal answer was "Eye of the Tiger" – Rocky Balboa’s signature tune. Having thought about it, we couldn’t agree more.

SMEs are the dynamic centre of Singapore’s success. Did you know SMEs contribute S$230bn to the Singapore economy each year, and they employ seven out of every 10 people?

And so, on 23 March 2023, the Mercer Marsh Benefits SME Community Roundtable began by playing Eye to the Tiger; to celebrate the robust, fighting heart of Singapore's productivity and to answer the question – how does that heart beat ever stronger in the digital future?

Here is a high-level recap of the roundtable.

Cybersecurity risks

First on the expert panel was Naureen Rasul, Commercial Segment Leader from Marsh Asia, who delivered some sobering stats about cybersecurity risks. According to a recent survey jointly conducted by Microsoft and Marsh:

  • 64% of businesses in Asia have been impacted by cybersecurity issues,
  • 56% of companies in Asia have been targeted by cyber criminals in the past year, and of those, 51% incurred financial loss in the process.

The audience heard that ramifications of cybersecurity risks go beyond direct financial loss. Reputational, intellectual property, time, data restoration, and trust costs are also at risk. And companies that don’t comply with the ever-evolving data privacy protection laws are subject to financial penalties, or even jail time.

So where do you begin assessing your cybersecurity? A catchy acronym helps: CIA. Confidentiality, integrity and availability.

Moving to cloud

SMEs need to do a lot, often on lean budgets. How do you save on CapEx, but enable seamless hybrid working while running apps and solutions? Timothy Soh, Microsoft’s Azure Solution Specialist suggests SMEs to migrate to the cloud. "Pay for the market-leading services that you use rather than buying dated, redundant on-premises capacity."

mercer sme rt 1

Skilling for the future

Skills for the digital economy are also in demand. It is one of the top three growth areas, and companies that invest in digital skills have higher productivity, better revenue growth, and lower employee turnover.

Microsoft’s Fiona Seng, Skills Development Programme Manager introduced 'Let’s Skill Up', a free programme designed to meet SMEs' digital skills needs. The programme, in partnership with industry leaders such as LinkedIn Learning, and institutes of higher learning, offers:

  1. Customised upskilling of your employees on your timeframe,
  2. Masterclasses on specific applications such as Azure,
  3. Training needs analysis and skills conversion programmes.

Cyber risks from a legal standpoint

Three months is the current ‘enforceable’ non-compete period under Singaporean case law.

Lawyer, Ng Lip Chih, from Foo and Quek LLC thinks cyber risks are a clear and present danger. He should know, he is often in court on behalf of his clients on that very topic.

According to Lip Chih, the first step in preventing IP theft is an appropriately tailored employment contract that includes very specific anti-competition, IP ownership, and enforceable confidentiality clauses.

Lip Chih’s other practical tips include, all data on company issued devices to remain the property of the company; and as employees progress in their career, their employment contracts should reflect their seniority and responsibilities. And no, Chat GPT is not the place to go to get one.

Panel discussion takeaways

mercer sme rt 2

Next on the agenda was a panel discussion featuring Neil Narale, MMB Singapore’s Business Leader (pictured above) and Eric Koh, Chief Business Architect from BNS, on the topic 'Attracting and retaining talent in the digital age by going digital with your employee benefits'.

The panel discussed SMEs' challenges of attracting and retaining talent and how digitalising employee benefits can help. They also shared some predictions.

Companies are now having to go beyond compensation to retain employees. Employees want demonstrations of how much they are valued, time-off, better culture, flexibility, a sense of belonging, and employee benefits. But not all employee benefits are effective. Digital benefits that can improve culture include:

  • Telemedicine,
  • Digital mental health services,
  • Wellness challenges,
  • Access to discounted products and services,
  • Digital financial and wellness tools,
  • Digital and cashless experience at clinics,
  • Employee wellness programmes.

On that note, here are the top benefits offered in Singapore:

  • Life assurance,
  • Transport allowance/subsidies to cover commuting costs,
  • Employee assistance programme,
  • Healthcare cash plans for everyday expenses, 
  • Income protection

Moving digital means there has been a huge upsurge in data-capture insights, which enables more proactive, better informed decision-making. That substantial growth in data also leads to more interactivity; wearables are likely to become a lot more common; medical providers might soon offer them for free. When that happens, services will expand, and the real-time data will mean even better personalisation, and more seamless experiences.

Personalisation or customisation can better service our multi-generational workforce and their individualised needs – such as Gen Y’s preference for instant recognition. Even within generations, there are distinct life stage differences, and hyper-customisation will enable people to live better at any life stage.

But how do you enable customisation in the lean resource constraint context of an SME? Start with a core default offering, which robustly meets the needs of about 90% of your employees. From there, you can start sustainably offering choices.

For many SMEs, this will seem like a huge step forward, but for the employer, digitalised employee benefits mean less administration, and resource savings as well as more engaged and productive employees, who are happier.

To find out more about any of the topics from the roundtable, contact Mercer Marsh Benefits today.

All images / Provided by Mercer Marsh Benefits

ALSO READ: Companies surveyed in Malaysia outperform Asia in understanding talent development needs

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