It’s no secret that Singapore’s economy is quite labour-intensive. Employees work extremely long hours by global standards, and the tendency is to rely on cheap labour. Still, the wheel must keep turning. Recently, a news report emerged with the exhortation that the Singapore economy needs to become less labour intensive.
Does this mean bosses are just going to fire half their existing employees and pile their work on those lucky enough not to get the sack? We hope not. Here are some ways employees can make themselves more productive.
Improve their language skills
Most jobs do not require their employees to display the linguistic acumen of Shakespeare. But having a poor command of English often hampers employees in the discharge of their duties, making them slower and poorer at communicating.
Veronica, a 30-year-old editor, has trouble communicating with the design and IT crew at her workplace as they speak mostly Mandarin at work. “I don’t have a problem if they speak amongst themselves in Mandarin. But when I need to liaise with them for a publication, it can be frustrating when they refuse to speak English,” says Veronica, who is able to converse only in very basic Mandarin.
Improve their presentation skills
In line with varying degrees of fluency in English and an education system that prioritises exam grades over soft skills, employers have long bemoaned the paucity of good presentation skills in the Singapore workforce. Once again, this isn’t about mimicking the Mr Darcy but rather about gaining confidence speaking in front of a crowd, errors not withstanding.
Rachel, a 24-year-old HR executive, laments that her bosses often privately talk about hiring Western foreigners over locals due to the poor presentation skills of candidates from the latter pool, an accusation she thinks is not unfounded. “The Singaporean candidates tend to give by-the-book answers. When you ask them what their interests outside of work are, everyone says that they enjoy watching movies,” she says.
Be more efficient at their jobs
Many Singaporean workers are good at carrying out instructions, but when it comes to innovating at their jobs, they seem to be lacking. The face-time heavy culture at many companies contributes to a lack of incentive to become more efficient at work.
Says Bertha, a 41-year-old secretary at a law firm, “Many of the young lawyers spend a lot of time walking around the office and chatting with their friends the whole afternoon. They only start to panic around 6pm. I try to leave as early as possible so you hardly see me chitchatting, but most of them stay until late at night.” On the other hand, Bertha herself has hacked her own job by collecting templates during her free time at the office so she can effectively churn out documents on the fly without having to waste precious hours searching for precedents.
Use their SkillsFuture credits
After a lot of fanfare heralding the $500 received by each Singaporean in their SkillsFuture account, the furore has died down and the programme has been all but forgotten. This is a pity, as SkillFuture can actually make you more knowledgeable at work, and boost your efficiency, meaning man-hours spend on the job can be cut.
30-year-old Jessica, a marketing manager, used her SkillsFuture credits to take a course in SEO and digital marketing to better understand what the SEO contractors hired by the company were doing. “Before, they used to just go about their jobs unsupervised, just giving us a report at the end of each month. Now that I understand SEO more, I’m better able to tell them to change the way they do things if it’s not efficient.” This has helped Jessica in her work and she now spends fewer hours fretting about the company’s online presence.
How can Singapore workers get the job done while labouring less? Tell us in the comments!
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