Singapore firms prioritise upskilling and reskilling, but need to do more, says Mercer’s new study

Nearly one in four see the urgency to increase investments to upskill and reskill their workforce, but only 9% plan to reward skills acquisition.


Singapore, 11 May, 2021 – In line with the Singapore government’s nationwide SkillsFuture push to advance skills in the country’s workforce for a knowledge-based economy, 37% companies in Singapore are prioritising upskilling and reskilling in 2021, according to Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends Survey.


 44% of respondents plan to expand learning ecosystems while 41% will increase investments in targeted reskilling and upskilling of critical talent pools, underscoring their desire to make their organisations more agile and provide employees with opportunities to learn and grow. 45% also plan to improve HR analytics for learning and skill acquisition.


However to unleash the power of skills, companies must refresh their programmes and tools to allow for seamless skills identification, assessment, development and reward. Yet, just 9% of HR leaders in Singapore (compared to 15% of their global peers) plan to reward skills acquisition.


Progress in this area will be vital for reinvention in 2021 as employees need to see that learning new skills leads to tangible rewards, recognition or promotion, said Lewis Garrad, Career Business Leader, Singapore, Mercer.


He added, “Our research also highlights the importance of viewing work and people through a skills lens. COVID-19 has also proven that the ability to rapidly adjust capacity and redeploy resources is critical to business continuity and resilience. This is reflected in our findings that companies are making internal talent pools more sharable and re-examining workforce flexibility.


This starts with understanding the existing skills their employees have and the skills they need for the future. Yet, only 24% of companies are gathering information on individuals’ current skills, a finding that has remained low, year on year. The greatest opportunity for supporting people to thrive in the future is implementing skills-based talent strategies – something that just 13% of companies in Singapore do today.”


Taking a Skills-Based Approach

A skills-based approach to workforce strategy assesses talent based on their holistic skill set (including adjacent skills across industries), rather than industry experience or qualifications. A well-designed skills-based workforce strategy will enable organisations to proactively identify future skills needs and develop an actionable plan to retain, build, buy and deploy talent, as needed.


In Singapore, Mercer has helped SkillsFuture Singapore identify the skills most critical for future resilience across 100 companies and 34 sectors. Mercer Skills-Edge Suite is also helping organisations adapt to the new shape of work with skills frameworks and roadmaps that help companies transition from job-based practices to skills-based talent and pay practices.


Mr Garrad added, “Organisations are struggling to understand the skill gaps in their current workforce. Two in five HR professionals globally from our Global Talent Trends survey admitted that they do not know what skills they have in their own organisations. By building a better understanding of the skills they have and the skills they need, companies can connect talent to the work more efficiently to meet the needs of the changing business landscape.


“The National Workplace Learning Certification scheme launched this month will further help close these skills gap in a structured manner to help companies keep up with change.”


Workforce Restructuring and Employee Experience are other top priorities

The financial impact and work-life disruption caused by the pandemic have also spurred employers in Singapore to focus on workforce restructuring (63%) and enhancing the employee experience (32%).


With flexible working as the new norm, HR leaders in Singapore are creating policies to support more fluid workforce models and help employees thrive in this new environment. 60% of Singapore employers (compared to 56% globally) have expanded and enhanced flexible working policies and practices and 41% plan to improve HR analytics for strategic workforce modelling and planning.


Employee experience and well-being have also come into focus as the triple impact of pandemic lockdowns, economic uncertainty and rapid change in day-to-day working patterns was widely felt in 2020. 36% are enabling digital health services and adding benefits to address mental or emotional health issues. 23% are also training managers to spot mental health issues.


Peta Latimer, CEO, Singapore, Mercer said, “The shift to different flexible working models and changing work environments provides organisations with an opportunity to reimagine how work gets done now and in the future. Doing so can bring a multitude of benefits, from increased productivity and more meaningful roles for employees to greater access to diverse talent pools.


“Several sectors in Singapore including retail, healthcare and food sectors have embarked on this journey and the government continues to support organisations with this initiative. Organisations should seize this opportunity to reinvent jobs for value, making them more productive and engaging to attract and retain talent.”


Other findings from Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Survey: 


  • 65% of HR leaders in Singapore say their companies have continued or stepped up the pace towards an Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) and multi-stakeholder business approach. The majority of those moving forward with stakeholder capitalism are tying ESG goals to their purpose (67%) and integrating ESG goals in their transformation agendas.
  • Leveraging AI, HR leaders plan to improve their analytics capabilities to support learning and talent acquisition (45%); to enhance the physical well-being and health of employees (32%) and to gather performance data related to flexible working (33%).  
  • HR leaders in Singapore identify skills such as adaptability (63%), collaboration (47%) and digital dexterity (39%) as critical for staying relevant and resilient through uncertain times. And as remote working becomes mainstream, skills such as self-management and prioritisation (35%) are equally important to help employees stay motivated and focused.


About Global Talent Trends study

The sixth edition of Mercer’s Global Talent Trends (2021) study shares insights from over 7,300 senior business executives, HR leaders and employees and, for the first time, has deep dive Companion Reports for 23 geographies, spanning 44 countries. To download the Global report, visit here. In conjunction, the Global Talent Trends 2020–2021 Local Companion Report – Singapore edition uncovers the priorities of Singapore HR leaders for the year ahead. To download the Singapore edition, visit here.


About Mercer Skills-Edge Suite
The Mercer Skills-Edge Suite creates skills frameworks and skills roadmaps to help companies to transition from job-based practices to skills-based talent and pay practices; and the support to operationalise and integrate companies’ skills philosophy into their HR systems through deployment and optimisation services. Some of the new products include:


  • Skills Library: A skills taxonomy based on market data curated by Mercer and mapped to the Mercer Job Library. With this first step, organisations learn what skills they should focus on to support their business strategy.
  • Skills Pricer: A self-service web application that shows which skills are influencing the pay of a selected job. Determining the skills that are most valuable to them helps organisations attract and retain in-demand talent.
  • Skills Pay Planner: An AI-driven tool designed to arm organisations with intelligent pay recommendations for individual employees. Understanding the premiums associated with certain skills helps organisation make informed compensation decisions.


About Mercer


Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 76,000 colleagues and annual revenue of $17 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.