How Companies Are Overcoming Their Manpower Challenges


According to the Singapore Business Federation National Business Survey 2016/2017, labour and manpower issues has been identified as the main challenge for businesses in Singapore.

This is not surprising given Singapore’s lack of natural resources. Human capital, or the lack thereof, is often a key determinant of business success.

When we look at the specific manpower challenges faced by these companies, perhaps unsurprisingly, perennial issues like rising labor costs (77% of respondents cited this), manpower rules and regulations (54%), and attracting and retaining younger workers (50%) top the list.

This numbers do not paint the whole picture.

Consider the fact that there are approximately 188,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore employing around two-thirds of the workforce. Unlike their Multinational Corporation cousins, SMEs typically have limited capability in the key area of Human Capital Development.

One suspects the reality on the ground is probably much worse. According to surveys, Singapore’s workforce ranks the unhappiest amongst her Asian counterparts.

Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion

The good news is that all is not lost.

The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by extreme automation and connectivity, will bring plenty of opportunities for companies to transform digitally and thrive. Those that adopt an innovator’s mind-set and embrace digital technologies can create a compelling and sustainable competitive advantage.

The key is disruption.

As Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore aptly described it, “If we do not disrupt ourselves in a manner of our choosing, somebody else will do so in a manner we do not like.”

So what should companies, in particular, SMEs do?

Are your workforce digital-ready, future-proof?

One emerging technology which companies should pay attention to is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).​​

Simply put, think of RPA as a sort of virtual or digital worker.​​

The software bots powered by RPA technology enable companies to manage, execute and monitor any repetitive front-office and back-office processes that do not require human judgment, allowing their employees to pursue more meaningful, differentiated work.

With RPA, companies can take the grunt work out of their employees’ daily task.

In a single stroke, they achieve two worthy goals. Firstly, they drastically improve employee satisfaction, thus help to attract and retain workers. Secondly, they empower their employees to focus on more value-added activities, thus improving their productivity levels.

Businesses often gripe about the challenges they face in filling their manpower needs. Higher worker levies and foreign worker quotas in Singapore have been frequently cited as a double whammy.

Given that these constrains are unlikely to be removed in the foreseeable future, companies need to have a Plan B. A digital workforce that does the boring and mundane tasks that humans are ill suited for might just do the trick.

More than that. Because these bots are merely pieces of software codes sitting somewhere in the cloud, they can be scaled up or down at the whims of the business owner.

Think of it. An agile workforce that is exactly tailored to your business peaks and toughs. No more excess capacity lying around or costly overtime pay.

Which brings us back full circle. Costs. The major bugbear of every business.

The good news is that a bot can costs anything between one-third the wage of an offshore employee and one-ninth that of an onshore employee.

In short, everyone wins. Companies, their employees, and their solution providers too.

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