Transitioning to the future of work in Singapore: Adapting to the new normal

In the post-Covid-19 digital era, what will the future of work in Singapore look like? (Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash)

- Crises such as Covid-19 have compelled companies and organisations to rethink the way they work. Companies can and should consider a variety of digital options to increase their adaptability to disruptions.

- Collaborative ecosystems will become the new normal. Be willing to have difficult conversations.

- We need to anticipate changes that will shape future customers’ demands in order to unleash new opportunities.

Disruptions due to natural disasters, security, and health threats are present-day realities that challenge workplace practices. Staff may get advised to work from home, business workflows and operations may be hampered and events might end up getting cancelled.

Closure of educational institutions and tuition centres entails alternative ways for students to learn. Supply chain and shipping disruptions could also arise, leading to stresses in customer relationships.

Force majeure aside, there are ongoing challenges arising from changes in demographics, on-demand experiential preferences of staff and consumers and an increasingly digitally connected world.

Furthermore, the new wave of excitement in intelligent automation, as well as robotics and machine learning add to the disruptions.

The future of work in Singapore: Are you Ready?

Thankfully, companies can consider a variety of digital options to increase their adaptability to disruptions, not just for business continuity, but also to differentiate and increase their competitive edge.

Here are some thoughts on how to start transitioning to the future of work in Singapore.

Seeing competitors as partners

With the sharing economy gaining traction, there will be more collaboration, co-creation, and alliances. Collaborative ecosystems will become the new normal.

Some companies will change the game and see ‘competitors’ as partners that co-exist as both competitors and collaborators (a term known as ‘coopetition’).

There are clear benefits to sharing data, such as the creation of partner networks, sharing of resources and assets and innovation for joint product development. Digitised platforms help to actualise such collaborative ecosystems.

The future of work in Singapore: Can we collaborate with competitors? (Photo by cookie_studio on freepik)

Collective wisdom can lead to positive business outcomes

It is said that one's strength can also be one's weakness. Leaders, like anyone in the company, can be its weakest link. Having the right people in the right place could help with the creation of processes for harvesting collective wisdom, strengthening every weakness.

This would allow a good team to turn complaints into actions. A learning ecosystem with a strong feedback loop blurs the line on where training ends and where learning begins.

Likewise, this applies to action learning and work performance, where collective wisdom can lead to positive business outcomes and customer satisfaction. Tap into an ecosystem that amasses and supplies critical thinking, creative problem solving and the collision of ideas. This will incentivise people to be willing to iterate [make mistakes] while contributing.

Be willing to have difficult conversations

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Leaders must manage expectations of all internal and external stakeholders.

Get comfortable with discomfort. Be willing to have difficult conversations. While leaders are expected to steer the ship through rough waters, the entire crew must be in accord and aligned with the journey. Leaders must steer the ship authentically and build up a culture centred on trust.

The crew must share ownership in decision-making and ensuring arrival at the desired destination. Everyone learns and grows together to shape the future of a company. Fear is a big obstacle, but a well-developed communication strategy can turn fear into opportunity and drive stronger motivation for change.

The future of work in Singapore, must it be all about technology?

With the Internet of Things (IOT), the future of work in Singapore is still being defined as each day passes. However, this does not mean that humans are to be neglected.

Maslow’s hierarchy implicates the need for human touch. In recent years, a number of online commerce stores have initiated some form of brick-and mortar presence to boost the human touch.

Employing an omni-channel approach would be a better business strategy. IOT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot replace the human factor, but it releases humans from mindless tasks to focus on more meaningful relational interventions.

Future of work in Singapore: Digital technologies like AI and automation have changed the way people work, but can they replace humans? (Photo by Lukas on Unsplash)

We can create the future

The essential role of leaders’ is to ‘unblock’, ‘unlock’, and ‘unleash’, be it for the movement and flow of information, resources, goods, finance or feedback. We need to anticipate changes that will shape future customers’ demands in order to unleash new opportunities.

We need to unlock potentials that have been locked in order to power-drive momentum. We need to unblock bottlenecks so that decisions can be made to optimise results.

Access to sense-making data and data models will help us to prescribe and predict future outcomes so that we can unblock, unlock and unleash more accurately.

We can create the future instead of being led to the future.

Does the IOT present a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) future?

Be comforted that VUCA is not a new thing. It has been around since recorded history. AI and IOT have been around for an estimated 20 years, albeit in a simpler form.

The baseline concept is the same, but due to technological advancements, they are now different in form, accessibility and impact. When embarking on the transformation process, remember that a one-size-fits-all solution will not meet your company's unique needs. Keep the focus on your goals.

As the 21st Century continues to unveil new innovations, let these timeless principles undergird our businesses:

  • You know your business best. Your passion and insights are uniquely yours – do not lose sight of them when adapting.

  • Stay focused on your mission. Although challenges can be overwhelming, remember your passion when you started. Do not give up.

  • Decide what to protect and set up robust mitigation plans for continuity.

  • Keep all customers (internal ones too) informed and reinforce the vision. Deliver on the promises made.

  • When actions are found to be insufficient, analyse the situation and be brave. Accept ‘failure’ and be prepared for alternative realities and challenges. Pivot if necessary.

  • Be humble and listen to all stakeholders. This includes those who tend to be neglected (frontliners, retiring staff and janitors), as well as local and international sources.

  • Execute timely actions. Overcome procrastination. Avoid knee-jerk reactions that arise from fear.


About the Author

Kau Poh Moi | Founder and Director | Osmosis Learn Pte Ltd | Ala Carte Learning Pte Ltd

Poh Moi has spent the last 40 years creating training programs for organisations that go beyond the classroom and the worktable, to where it matters most: a developed individual and a stronger performance by the organisation.

She has worked with a variety of media and channels in areas such as Civil Service, Military, NonProfit Organisations, MNCs in Oil and Gas, FMCG, Banking, Management Consultancy, Educational Institutions and IT organisations. She has also pioneered an apprenticeship program for Learning Designers in Bangalore.