Webinar I Successful Talent Management in a Cost-Cutting Environment

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, how many of you feel that your workplace has changed, your work style has changed, your life has changed, your thinking has changed or to some extent, everything has changed? Ironically, some of us cannot even remember what life was like before 2020.

For employees, work and life are now so closely linked, that some find it hard to draw the line between the two. More than ever, gadgets and humans are intertwined. The challenge extends to management. In their new role as “Remote Manager”, many are struggling with the challenge of managing people remotely.

What has changed? 

  • The office is no longer the main place of work, it is a place of collaboration. 
  • Work is no longer about 9 am to 6 pm, it is about effectiveness and efficiency. 
  • Communication “signals” are no longer strong, they must be re-wired. 
  • Existing workflow and processes no longer work, they must be re-designed. 
  • Cost is still on the agenda but more difficult to forecast. 

As a result of these changes, talent management is more crucial than ever. The old way of doing things no longer work. Employers must devise new strategies to retain good talent and ensure that their businesses can emerge stronger.  

3 Rs to Manage and Cut Cost Responsibly

1. Re-configure the Workforce:

Businesses should assess their workforce to determine if it is the right fit for their business requirements. 

Too many staff due to Covid?

A long-term view of manpower needs to be taken. This will help prepare your business to seize opportunities when the situation improves. Preserving jobs (including maintaining a strong Singaporean core workforce) is the right thing to do - retrenchment should be used only as a last resort. Look for alternative cost-saving measures to help sustain your business while waiting for the economy to recover and settle into a new norm. 

Businesses can consider adjusting wage arrangements without cutting wages. This can be achieved via redeployment of employees to other business functions in the company with higher manpower needs. Another possible solution is to implement a flexible work schedule for your employees (i.e. time-banking). 

If a wage cut is inevitable, businesses may consider reducing employee workloads to be in line with the wage cut. Various mechanism such as part-time work arrangements, job sharing arrangements, a shorter working week, temporary layoffs etc could be implemented.  

Direct wage adjustments can also be implemented if a flexible wage system (FWS) is currently in place. If not, businesses can take the opportunity to explore FWS and to introduce it to employees so that they may prepare for potential wage cuts during challenging times. Businesses are strongly encouraged to look at their annual variable component, monthly variable component, and base pay to come up with a FWS that is suitable for the business and for the employees. 

Too few staff due to Covid?

Some companies, in certain industries, are performing better than usual. These companies may be experiencing a shortage of manpower. In such circumstances, businesses should consider not just adding or replacing headcount in the usual way. A better approach may be to take this opportunity to reconfigure the jobs, with a view to achieving enhanced flexibility and cost savings in the long run.  

To support job reconfiguration, there are various government assisted options available -#SGunited related programmes, Professional Conversion Programme, SME Talent Programme, Career Trial etc. Engaging outsourcing services and/or exploring offshoring for certain business functions, can also be cost-effective - these solutions provide flexibility in terms of manpower planning while allowing for the economy to heal and stabilise. 

2. Re-design the Modern Workplace

The pandemic has presented us with the perfect opportunity for change and to reconfigure our mindset. Resistance to change may be at its lowest, since most, if not all, have experienced many changes during this period. Change management will thus be easier and have a higher chance of success.  

To a certain extent, we are all now working in “The Future Workplace” or a version very close to what our future workplace may look like. To redesign the modern workplace, there are 3 areas to look at - work environment, work arrangement and work/job redesign. 

Businesses should consider digitalising the work environment to improve efficiency and create a “modern-day” work environment. There are various grants available for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and digitalisation such as the Productivity Solutions Grant, Enterprise Development Grant etc. Learning and development also plays a key role in developing the mindset of your people. Importantly, businesses should also re-think about the office layout. Is open concept, hot desking, large space etc still viable? 

For work arrangements, telecommuting is going to be the norm. Businesses should look to adopt more flexible work arrangements (FWA) and explore the various types of FWA such as Flexi-time, Flexi-load, job sharing, compressed workweek etc. Tapping on outsourcing services can reduce disruption to business processes, help manage overhead costs and channel your key resources to assume higher-value roles. Offshoring could also potentially help to maintain competitiveness and fill the gap if certain roles with limited local supply. 

For work/job redesign, businesses should take each recruitment as an opportunity to re-think the job scope and role - new roles and capabilities may have evolved and been made possible in recent period. As a minimum best practice, businesses are encouraged to do a review of job scopes once every 2 to 3 years to stay relevant. Some grants are available under the “Human Capital Development” program, administered by Enterprise Singapore, to help companies re-design their workforce or equip their HR team with the skill set to navigate the company through the current, challenging situation.

3. Re-training & Upskilling of Manpower

With excess manpower, a lot of businesses are in a dilemma. They know that letting go of employees now will mean having to rebuild expertise when the situation improves. In some instances, businesses have consolidated or have made certain functions redundant. Can you expect your existing employees to pick up new skills immediately and become effective? What if you are not confident about the future business outlook and feel bad letting some of your employees go now? Striking a balance is never easy. 

A way for businesses to hold on to their manpower without losing talent too fast, is to consider re-training & upskilling. This can help manage cost, prepare manpower and practice responsible retrenchment. Sending excess manpower to pre-approved courses, allows the manpower cost to be funded by the government up to 95% via absentee payroll. At the same time, some courses are funded up to 90%. In addition, tapping on the Skillsfuture Enterprise Credit enables companies to seek funding for enterprise transformation and capability building. This funding can be as high as S$10,000 (applications end Dec 2020). 

In such a challenging environment, businesses have a key role to play in preserving jobs and ensuring retrenchment is a last resort. There are a lot of alternatives available before pushing the “Retrenchment” button. By preserving a strong pool of talent during this difficult period, businesses can expect to be ready for a robust rebound when business picks up.   

Do you have any questions for us about talent management?