Career

Can the WSQ Initiative Actually Help Companies Increase Productivity or Is It a Waste of Time and Taxpayers’ Money?

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Joanne Poh

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The government’s most famous failed incentive is the Baby Bonus, which has done nothing to halt the inexorable decline of Singapore’s birth rate.

While far from being a total failure, it looks like the WSQ (Workforce Skills Qualfications) initiative is also underperforming in its attempt to achieve one of its key objectives, that of raising productivity. Under this programme, employers get to send their employees for accredited courses with the view of increasing their productivity and upgrading their skills.

In a recent survey on WSQ training, only 54.6% of the companies surveyed observed an improvement in productivity after they sent their employees for WSQ courses.

55.7% of companies said they found that their service quality improved, while only 30.5% said the WSQ training translated to improvements in sales and profitability.

Other than weak economic conditions which have made survival harder for many companies, here are some reasons WSQ training may not be helping companies as much as it should, and what they can do about it.

 

Despite upgrading their employees’ skills, their turnover rate is still high and employees’ morale remains low

What many employers fail to understand is that they play a big part in motivating their employees to improve their service standards. Sending them for WSQ courses is just one part of the equation.

If the turnover rate continues to be high or employees are demotivated, they can’t expect to see much improvement. Hell no, their workers will just take that WSQ qualification and run to another employer who will treat them like a fellow human being instead of another cog in the wheel.

 

Employers need to make changes at the workplace that enable employees to contribute with their newfound skills

It sounds like some employers are mindlessly sending their employees for WSQ courses and then assuming that their businesses will magically improve overnight.

In order to reap the benefits of their employees’ newfound skills, employers often need to makes some changes at their workplaces, perhaps restructuring their work processes or modifying their employees’ roles.

For instance, if you’re going to send a creative industry employee for training in project management, it makes no sense not to upgrade his responsibilities to include project management duties, otherwise you’ll see no increase in productivity.

One big telltale sign is the fact that training did not appear to have an impact on career advancement. Only 7.8 percent of the trainees surveyed reported being promoted after their WSQ training, while only 11.3% received a pay increment after undergoing training. This is a sign that trainees are going for courses… and then coming back and doing the same old thing.

 

Companies need to match the right WSQ courses to their employees

Because WSQ courses are usually heavily subsidised, there is the tendency for some employers to sign their employees up for random courses even if they’re not sure whether they are really relevant or will raise productivity at work.

As a case in point, I know someone who is working as a manager at a bank. She got her company to sponsor her for a digital marketing course even though it had nothing to do with her work, and they thought why not, doesn’t cost much anyway.

If companies care about using WSQ courses to boost productivity, they need to properly vet the courses and match them with the right employees, instead of randomly signing people up for courses that sound vaguely relevant. This takes a bit more effort than just glancing through the list of course titles online.

 

Companies need to realise it is normal not to immediately see improvements

All the above being said, the fruits of sending staff for training often often do not start sprouting up on the branch immediately.

Companies who treat their employees as an investment rather than dispensable minions may not see immediate results, but in the long run they’ll have a loyal workforce with up-to-date skills.

Those who don’t pay attention to their workers’ career progression or try to exploit them, on the other hand, will find that they’re constantly having to replace workers and send them for the same WSQ courses over and over, and then wonder why this WSQ thing just doesn’t seem to be working.

Does your company send their employees for WSQ courses? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.