The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) engages its officers meaningfully and empowers its employees to contribute ideas on issues that matter to them.

With a gold win for Excellence in Digital Transformation and a bronze win for Employer of the Year at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, the team at Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) rejoices as its digitalisation and leadership capability development efforts have come to fruition.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) champions a compelling mission to develop Singapore into a premier global hub port and a leading international maritime centre (IMC), as well as to advance and safeguard Singapore’s strategic maritime interests. MPA is the driving force behind Singapore’s port and maritime developments, taking on the roles of port authority, port regulator, port planner, IMC champion and a national maritime representative. In identifying strongly with MPA’s mission and roles, officers understand how their work contributes to Singapore’s economy and the lives of Singaporeans.

MPA engages its officers meaningfully. To empower its employees to contribute ideas on issues that matter to them, MPA formed ground-up work streams on job redesign, career development, internal communications, and information sharing and processes. These work streams reviewed the four issues identified as important to MPA employees based on findings from the Employee Engagement Survey. The work streams, which encourage MPA officers to develop cross-divisional partnerships, offered recommendations on areas such as telecommuting policy, career rotation, self-directed learning and information sharing. MPA followed up on implementing many of these recommendations put together by its officers. Similarly, MPA is running a Change Leaders Programme that enables officers to work in teams to navigate complexities and implement changes on the ground.

Additionally, MPA centres its transformation efforts on the development of its officers. As Singapore’s maritime industry undergoes digital transformation, MPA has developed a Data Analytics and Technology Roadmap for employees to acquire digital literacy skills. The Roadmap details the incremental levels of digital competencies that officers can aspire to build – from developing general awareness of digital functions to mastering data analytics and digital programmes. MPA officers undergo digital training courses to acquire the competencies that meet the needs of the organisation and the maritime industry.

Furthermore, MPA empowers officers to take charge of their own career development. Its employees take on various developmental opportunities including cross-functional project work, job rotations, attachments and secondments to other agencies.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

By championing a compelling mission, engaging its officers meaningfully and developing its officers for organisational and industry transformation, MPA is able to meet its operational demands, anticipate the needs of a future workforce and overcome manpower challenges in adapting to changes in the external environment. These strategies help to build a Digital MPA, Talent MPA and One MPA.

MPA recognises that its leaders are key drivers of organisational transformation. As such, it focuses on leadership development that equips present and future leaders with the skills and confidence to lead their teams forward. To this end, MPA designs management programmes for officers at various levels of leadership based on the MPA Leadership Competency Model. The model outlines the proficiencies that MPA leaders require to perform their roles effectively and lead transformation collectively and in their own domains.

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

While MPA has built a strong value proposition, public awareness of the maritime industry and its careers is lacking.

MPA builds reputational capital for Maritime Singapore through a programme of strategic media and stakeholder engagement that anchors on telling the Maritime Singapore story, the transformative developments in the industry and why Maritime Singapore matters to Singaporeans. In addition to the Singapore Maritime Gallery, initiatives such as the Singapore Maritime Week exhibition reach out to the public to promote Singapore’s maritime industry and cultivate interests in maritime professions.

To attract the next generation of maritime talents, MPA engages the young through programmes such as the MPA Educational Series and MPA Learning Journeys. These programmes encourage youths to discover and experience the maritime sector in a fun, meaningful and interactive way. They reinforce the importance of Maritime Singapore and inspire the young to join MPA and Singapore’s vibrant maritime industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected some of MPA’s HR initiatives such as structured job rotation and learning & development. To continue developing its officers, MPA curated e-learning programmes in digital literacy, data analytics and design thinking for all its officers.

MPA also engaged its officers regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic through e-communications and platforms including e-townhall. Its officers have continued to run interest group activities like yoga sessions online.

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your game plan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

MPA runs the Employee Engagement Survey biennially to gather staff feedback on various aspects of the organisation and evaluate the level of staff engagement. The survey has reported an increase in engagement scores over the past few years.

In addition to receiving staff feedback and employee testimonials, MPA also examines its turnover rate and the level of participation in employee initiatives to measure the internal health of the organisation.

After being conferred the Singapore Quality Award in 2016, MPA continued to drive innovation and digitalisation within the organisation and in the maritime industry. In 2019, MPA clinched the Innovation Excellence Award, which not only validated MPA’s transformation efforts to date, but also rallied stakeholders in Maritime Singapore to embrace innovative transformation.

Over the years, MPA has worked closely with the Amalgamated Union of Statutory Board Employees (AUSBE) in building harmonious workplaces, strengthening tripartite collaboration and enhancing the overall wellbeing and career prospects of its officers. The regular dialogue between Management and AUSBE has helped to ensure that the concerns of its officer are heard and addressed effectively. As a testament to MPA’s strong labour-management relations, MPA was awarded the Plaque of Commendation (Gold) at the National Trade Union Congress May Day Awards 2019.

Q With WFH being the norm for the bigger part of this year, has your organisation recently adopted any new forms of technology to improve the HR processes/overall work processes?

MPA pursues digitalisation to improve work processes, enhance productivity, bring about convenience and promote time and cost savings for companies, public agencies and the organisation.

For instance, MPA launched digitalPORT@SGTM in October 2019 to improve port efficiency. digitalPORT@SGTM is a maritime single window that serves as a one-stop portal for maritime regulatory and port services transactions. In Phase 1, digitalPORT@SGTM streamlines vessel, immigration and port health clearances across the immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the National Environment Agency and MPA into a single application by consolidating 16 separate forms. More than 2,000 companies can now submit, track and receive approval for arriving and departing ships through the portal. Collectively, the industry is estimated to save 100,000 man-hours per year.

In 2019, MPA also launched its customer relationship management system, COMPASS. Serving as a centralised information bank for customer engagement, COMPASS provides MPA with a holistic view of its customers and enables frontline officers to deliver a One MPA customer experience. The system is linked directly to the Online Feedback Form, which customers can complete to submit their queries instead of searching for specific departments and officers to email their queries to.

Recently, MPA also developed a mobile app for its officers to access services and organisational information on the go. The myMPA app enables officers to receive announcements, apply for leave and submit their claims for reimbursement conveniently. MPA continues to upgrade the mobile app and include additional app services for its officers.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, MPA has rolled out customised hardware and software packages for employees to facilitate work-from-home arrangements. In addition, MPA has taken the opportunity to step up training for its officers via e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, to help new employees assimilate into the organisation, MPA ran its foundation programme, which included team bonding activities and maritime workshops, virtually. Besides conducting online townhalls and dialogue sessions with senior management to actively engage its officers, MPA also ran yoga sessions for employees on a regular basis to care for their mental health and wellbeing. Divisions have also organised virtual team bonding activities to strengthen team engagement.

Photo / 123RF

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