Learning & Development Asia 2024
Singapore launches Jobs Transformation Map for the retail sector

Singapore launches Jobs Transformation Map for the retail sector

Part of the recommendations laid out include adopting new workforce models, defining & communicating employee value proposition, and redesigning roles for enhanced efficiency.

Report by Olive Goh & Priya Sunil.

Singapore's retail industry saw the launch of the Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) for Retail today (Thursday, 1 June 2023), to serve as a guide for companies in the industry to plan for the future and ensure that their workforce is equipped with the necessary skill sets to meet evolving business needs.

Jointly developed by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) with the Ministry of Manpower, the JTM is supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), and follows the roll-out of the Retail Industry Transformation Map (ITM) 2025 in October last year.

In his speech at the launch event, attended by HRO, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Tan See Leng explained the evolution of the retail industry over the past years, where the digitalisation of retail has been expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many retailers have tapped into e-commerce and broadened revenue streams to avenues such as Facebook live streams which combine sales and entertainment; and informal networks such as Telegram and WhatsApp chats.

Additionally, he shared, consumers’ preferences have shifted over the years. "The new generation of consumers, for whom online shopping is the norm, is accustomed to having the whole marketplace literally at their fingertips.

"They prefer a more personalised and bespoke experience. But they also expect greater cost savings and much better efficiency. They are also more socially and environmentally conscious. So, retailers will have to make that additional special effort to engage with and appeal to them."

The third, is that consumer demand in Singapore in the near term could potentially slow down, due to more cautious discretionary spending amid elevated inflation pressures. "The industry will also continue to grapple with manpower constraints or challenges, because we are unlikely to see a significant increase in the number of workers joining the industry as a result of the tight labour market.

"Therefore, retailers cannot afford to operate as though it is business as usual. It is imperative for all retailers to continue to innovate, to continue to be more productive, because if you do not do so, you will certainly see an impact on your bottom lines."

About the JTM for Retail

 According to data shared by WSG and ESG, the retail sector contributes S$7.3bn to Singapore’s economy and employs more than 160,000 workers, making up about 4.2% of the Singapore workforce in 2022. To ensure the sector can continue to attract and retain talent, as well as create quality jobs, a study was conducted to identify the future trends impacting the industry, as well as anticipate how future job roles and required skillsets must change to create new opportunities and meet evolving business needs.

The study identified the following trends and areas of opportunity:

  1. Consumer of the future – Shifts in consumer demands due to changes in lifestyle, preferences, and awareness;
  2. New retail model – Rise of new retail models (e.g. omni-channel; customer-centric retail experience and innovative business model) that provide enhanced brand and shopping experiences;
  3. Automation & data – Use of data analytics and advancements in retail technology that enable retailers to boost productivity and efficiency;
  4. Future-proof supply chain – Establish a resilient and agile supply chain to improve inventory management, and provide more fulfilment options amid an increasingly complex and volatilesupply chain environment.

The JTM report also identified three critical pillars of recommendations for the sector, which aim to highlight the required changes for the sector and the potential roles that different stakeholders can play in driving it forward.

Pillar #1: Productivity reimagined

  • Redefine ways to assess productivity in alignment with the changing retail models.
  • Uplift HR’s capabilities to support a sustainable retail workforce in the long run.

Pillar #2: ‘Going Global’ initiatives

  • The process of breaking into new overseas markets by expansion.
  • Conduct thorough market research, understand local regulations and policies, and identify consumer profiles to formulate strategies for business operations and engagement in the market.
  • Identify critical job roles and capabilities needed to support internationalisation plans and train all employees to perform in a new market.

Pillar #3: Human capital development plans

  • Defining & communicating the employee value proposition (EVP) which relates to the effort the company will make to develop the employee in exchange for the employee’s effort to grow the company.
  • Developing a compelling employer brand to retain current employees and attract new talent to the company.
  • Developing career frameworks and progression pathways for employees to envision a potential long-term career in retail.
  • Adopting new workforce models & unlocking talent pools to alleviate manpower shortage issues.
  • Redesigning job roles for transformation for enhanced efficiency through adding tasks and duties creating a multi-dimensional job.

Additionally, the report identified nine emerging job roles which would require emerging skillsets. Some aspects of these emerging roles could also be merged with existing roles to create expanded job roles that encompass more value-adding tasks as many of the skills are transferable, to then "create more well-rounded and larger job roles for workers who aspire to advance their career in retail."

These emerging job roles, along with existing job roles that will be impacted in some way, are as follow:

Emerging job roles: A significant level of reskilling is required for existing job roles in the sector to take up emerging job roles, where specific diplomas/degrees or further studies may be necessary. Companies might also need to hire from outside of the retail sector to fill these roles.

  • Sustainability Specialist
  • Product innovator
  • Customer experience manager
  • Customer intelligence analyst
  • Omni-channel manager
  • Digital marketer
  • Digital transformation manager
  • UI/UX designer
  • Full stack developer

Low impact: The tasks and skills required of these roles remains largely unchanged

  • Brand management executive
  • Logistics solutions specialist

Medium impact: While some of the existing tasks and skills will become redundant, there will also be demand for new tasks and skills for the role.

  • Store manager
  • Retail operations director
  • Marketing executive
  • Marketing manager
  • E-commerce executive
  • E-commerce manager
  • Warehouse operations manager
  • Logistics operations analyst
  • Visual Merchandiser
  • Brand Management Manager

High impact:  The majority of existing tasks will be substituted by technology and processes related to the role will transform rapidly. Many new tasks and skillsets will emerge while existing ones could be made redundant.

  • Sales associate
  • Sales supervisor
  • Merchandising manager
  • Merchandising executive

As part of their commitment to the JTM's implementation, the retail trade associations and chambers (TACs) – Singapore Retailers Association, Singapore Furniture Industries Council, and Singapore Fashion Council – have inked a Memorandum of Understanding today with SNEF and NTUC. Collectively, the TACs have committed to reaching out and working with more than 1,100 member companies and other retailers to drive job transformation for their workforce of almost 94,000 workers.

Read the full JTM report here

Following the launch, HRO caught up with Hwee Bin Tan, Executive Director, Wing Tai Holdings, who talked about how the job redesign journey – one of the key focus areas of transformation – is going for the organisation and its workforce. Wing Tai embarked on its job redesign journey about two years ago, which Tan notes is in line with its business and digital strategy, to better meet the evolving needs of its customers, improve productivity, and maximise staff's potential.

Currently, four roles are undergoing redesign, and the organisation will continue to expand to more roles. In lieu of this, Tan was asked about the support provided to mature workers, or any workers who may be resistant to the transformation, to which she shared: "As you would know, when faced with changes, mindset is a big challenge. But we noticed that after they are equipped with the right skills and knowledge, and given time to apply what they have learnt on their job, they will gain confidence.

"Coupled with customers’ positive feedback, they will feel encouraged and motivated to further upgrade themselves, and, ultimately, know that whether they are younger workers or older workers, they can future-proof themselves. And this will enhance their career prospects."

Alongside the JTM, Minister Tan also announced that to further support retailers on job transformation, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), in partnership with National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), has been appointed as the programme partner for the Jobs-Skills Integrator for Retail (JSIT-R). The JSIT-R is a dedicated intermediary to provide retailers with end-to-end solutions for workforce transformation, employee training as well as job matching services for the industry. The JSIT-R will use the JTM as a reference when working with retailers.

In an interview with HRO, on the side lines of the launch, Sim Gim Guan, Executive Director, Singapore National Employers Federation, shared more details on the JSIT-R's role. Read an excerpt of the interview below:

HRO: As JSIT, could you share more details on the guidance that will be provided, and also - how you will be working with HR teams who might be keen to embark on this journey, but also resistant?

Sim Gim Guan: If you look at the retail sector, as was briefed earlier, some of the challenges today include how to attract and retain people – they are tight on manpower resources. And of course, if the job itself doesn’t change, it will be even more difficult to try to attract the newer entrants into the labour market.

Correspondingly, we know that as an industry, there are a lot of challenges - you need to go omnichannel, you need to think about customer-centricity and so on. So there are two things that we believe need to go hand in hand:

One, is the industry transformation, i.e., changing the way you operate from today into what the future will look like.

Next, even as you do that, you need the people that can help the business operate differently. So that's workforce transformation.

Our role as the JSIT will certainly be focusing a lot on the workforce aspect, but it cannot ignore the business aspect. So what we will need to do while working together with our partners would be to first highlight the changes in line with the Industry Transformation Map as well as Jobs Transformation Map, so that retailers are aware of what is coming and start to think about the changes they need to start to introduce. But even as they want to do that, the question is: how do they proceed? That's where we come in. We want to work with retailers in terms of helping them with their business transformation and the corresponding impact on their workforce.

There are already a lot of existing programmes that the government provides through ESG in terms of productivity enhancements, so one of which is administered by SNEF - the Productivity Solutions Grant for Job Redesign.

Now, we are going to, of course, put a lot more focus on the retail sector. We will work with our TAC partners to reach out to the retailers. So that's one way in which retailers can now start thinking about what they can do. In parallel, as you'd realise, we are doing this in partnership with NTUC. NTUC also has the Company Training Committee (CTC) that helps unionised companies think about business transformation and gain workforce transformation. So for unionised companies, the CTC is certainly a channel that they can already leverage.

With that, we will then be looking at using existing schemes as well as training programmes that are available. There will be also additional and new needs, new capabilities, and new skills, that may not have a corresponding training that is currently available. In such cases, we will try to understand the business’s evolving needs and work with training providers to provide a curriculum that will then help train the people for the jobs of the future.

So, in essence, you can think of us as the conductor in an orchestra. We need to work with many different partners that fuse different parts of the ecosystem and try to make sure that everything works in concert to support both the company as well as the workforce.

In the spirit of upskilling and keeping up with the times, HRO took the opportunity to ask our two interviewees how they, as leaders, are keeping themselves upskilled as the world of work evolves. Check out their responses below:

Wing Tai's Hwee Bin Tan

This should apply to all levels, be it the management team or our staff on the ground. So let's say for me, I attend roundtables, discussions with thought leaders, and if there are suitable courses, I will attend them as well.

SNEF's Sim Gim Guan

I've been in this role for coming to three years. Before that, I was with the Navy, a Ministry, and the National Council of Social Service. Throughout my career, there have been many requirements in terms of how to lead my people, because as you grow your career, the size of your team increases. Now you may lead a small team, and as you progress, you lead a bigger team.

So, one of the things that I believe we all need to be aware of is that learning doesn't stop. One develops their leadership style across different roles as time goes, and I, personally, have undergone career coaching as a leader about three times. I think it is good to hear from others and not just live in your own world. We need to be open to feedback – not just from the career counsellor, but also from our team. We need to ensure that we are not closed off to their feedback because if that happens, nobody will want to give any feedback. We grow through feedback.

There are many things that have been useful for me [on this journey]. One simple one, when it comes to self-development, is the 360-degree feedback tool – as It’s important to listen to different perspectives of your stakeholders. Again, I believe it’s not useful to be defensive but instead, we have to take the feedback on board and see what we can do with it in order to grow and be better.

Recently, one of the ideas I have subscribed to is the term ‘serving leadership’. As leaders, of course we need to lead, give direction, and so on. But it is equally important to realise that there is a role we need to play in supporting our people. That’s where serving comes in.

One of the concepts under serving leadership is called the upend pyramid. Don't think of yourself as you know, but rather, think of yourself as being at the bottom and supporting alI across different hierarchies in the organisation. We are all supporting our people. You can you imagine how powerful the organisation will be with this in place.

At the same time, there is the concept of servant leadership – I'm using a different word here – as opposed to serving leadership. But the challenge lies in how we ensure that it's not just about me being there to serve you, but how I can still drive a strong and good outcome. Part of the whole idea is that we still need to be thinking about setting a high bar. But even as I set a high bar, I'm going to be there to help you succeed. I’m not there to allow you to just do what you think you want to do; rather, I’m there to ensure that what needs to be done is done, and how I as a leader can support you. I can always support you by helping you overcome obstacles that at your level you might not be able to overcome, for example. So there are different things that a leader can do.

The serving leadership concept is therefore something that I went through which I thought was quite powerful. It's something that we at SNEF are also trying to see if we can help to propagate. I think at the end of the day, leaders are also coaches and mentors for their people. And if we can do that, the organisation will be that much better.

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Photo / HRO

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