SINGAPORE – A panel of experts has been convened to come up with ways for human resources (HR) professionals to use more technology as they help workers and businesses transform.

The HR Industry Transformation Advisory Panel will also make recommendations on how to further develop the HR services sector here, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad announced on Wednesday (May 8).

HR services refers to consultancies, training providers and technology firms, which can boost the effectiveness and capacity of firms’ in-house HR professionals, Mr Zaqy said at the start of the two-day HR Festival Asia conference at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre.

HR can go beyond payroll processing and putting up job posts, he said, adding: “In particular, HR tech solutions can minimise many of these transactional HR tasks, and free up your bandwidth as HR professionals to do more high touch, strategic work. This includes engaging employees to better understand their needs, concerns and aspirations, and building a strong organisational culture that supports change.”

Technology and analytics can also reveal skills and competency gaps that need to be addressed for successful business transformation, he added.

HR tech, a US$400 billion industry worldwide, is becoming more accessible and affordable. In Singapore, there are close to 200 HR tech firms receiving about US$1.4 billion of funding from private investors, said Mr Zaqy.

The new panel, convened by the Manpower Ministry (MOM), is co-chaired by the ministry’s deputy secretary for workforce Poon Hong Yuen and Singtel’s group chief HR officer Aileen Tan. It includes HR and company leaders and representatives from the unions and government.

This builds on the HR Industry Manpower Plan, launched in 2017, under which various initiatives have been implemented over the past two years such as a skills framework and national certification for HR professionals, and a diagnostic tool which companies can use to evaluate their HR processes.

Employers need to have a mindset shift and be open to building up talent rather than just “buying” it, said Mr Zaqy. At the same time, workers must be open to learning new skills and embracing new job roles that will boost their career mobility.

He said that HR professionals have an important role in understanding companies’ overall workforce needs and optimising staff development efforts across different business units, so that they can help companies build stronger, manpower-lean teams to tap new opportunities in Singapore and abroad.

Support for smaller companies to adopt tech solutions is available under the SME Start Digital programme, set up by the Infocomm & Media Authority and Enterprise Singapore (ESG). Certain banks, telcos and insurance providers offer SMEs affordable HR tech solutions, and companies can also tap ESG’s Productivity Solutions Grant for off-the-shelf HR tech solutions, said Mr Zaqy.

He highlighted some companies which have already started using HR tech. One is DBS Bank, which uses a recruitment chatbot as well as data analytics to drive hiring decisions, so HR staff are able to focus on more strategic functions like talent advisory and candidate sourcing.

Smaller firms are also turning to technology, he said. For example, clothing label Love, Bonito uses HR tech to outsource the processing of employees’ medical claims and provide flexible staff benefits in the form of credits.

Mr Zaqy said this has led to better staff welfare, and freed up the people and culture team to improve their talent management and development initiatives for their expansion plans.

“Concerted efforts to redesign jobs, identify and address workforce skills gaps, as well as facilitate job transitions, will support inclusive hiring and allow workers to be deployed into new and exciting growth areas. Employers must also help their workers manage and build confidence in such change journeys,” he said.

At the event, six people received Institute for Human Resource Professionals certificates at the Master Professional level – the highest level in the national certification framework.

Fifteen companies were recognised as Human Capital Partners, which means they have committed to developing local staff and enjoy benefits when applying to the MOM for foreign worker passes and grants. There are now over 550 such companies, employing more than 190,000 locals.