A successful programme in spotting and developing local talent has been SUTD's Fellowship for newly graduated Singaporean PhD candidates to develop them into Faculty, shares Dr Jaclyn Lee, CHRO, SUTD, in an interview with Priya Sunil.

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Industry Insider: Dr Jaclyn Lee, Chief Human Resources Officer, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
Sector spotlight: Higher education
Based in: Singapore

The number one talent challenge this sector is facing

The key talent challenge faced by our sector is recruitment and retention of talents that are critical to drive the university’s strategy. SUTD is in the business of building talent needed to propel the country’s economy through the harnessing of core skills and capabilities in technology, design and sustainability. As these are very niche skills, we have embarked on an international as well as local acquisition plan to acquire talents in our key growth areas.

In addition, we also have developmental programmes to groom current faculty, administrative and research talents to fill in future roles.

Developments that are intensifying this challenge

The pandemic has brought about many challenges in our journey. Firstly, the closing of international borders has halted our ability to continue to bring in international talent that is able to fill certain niche roles that we are not able to recruit locally. Secondly, many of our international hires are feeling intensely homesick due to the ability to return home to visit loved ones. This has also resulted in attrition.

Although remote work is very much the new normal, being an educational institution, it has hindered our ability to continue to build the community and camaraderie that is prevalent with physical presence.

Best practices: Strategies that have worked in tackling this challenge

We have now shifted more of our hiring towards local talent. One of the more successful programmes that we have introduced is a Fellowship programme for newly graduated Singaporean PhD candidates to develop them into Faculty. It is called a Faculty Early Career Award and it has become a very successful programme for us.

We have also been very creative in re-inventing our research positions to attract fresh engineering graduates to join our research institutes through traineeships and attachments.

We continue to recruit foreign talent to supplement the local talent pool and making arrangements for them to work from their host country. Although there is still a talent shortage, these strategies have helped tremendously.

The next big priority for HR professionals in this sector

Our next priority would be to develop a comprehensive workforce plan to anticipate talent needs and manpower supply for the next five years. This would help us to anticipate the type of talent shortfalls and for HR to develop long-term recruitment strategies to continue to attract top talents into our sector.

Next would be to continue to develop our talent internally and groom them for roles in future technology, sustainability and design. Developing our employer brand will be vital for these strategies to succeed.

How CHROs are proactively preparing for the future workplace

The role of human resources is rapidly evolving especially in this pandemic world. In fact, COVID-19 has made HR the most important role in social sustainability and integration.

HR leaders are now called upon to help realign culture and values in this post-pandemic world to one of inclusion, sustainability, and integration.

In order to prepare for the future of work, we have also been actively managing our Workforce planning and capability development to help reshore and identify critical skills gaps.

As an HR leader, my key priorities would be to:

  • Attract a skilled workforce for current and future capabilities.
  • Retain valued employees to help propel growth.
  • Build capacity in the long run.
  • Provide strategic leadership necessary to model the right behaviours.
  • Develop an efficient and flexible workforce to cope with constant change.

Photo / 123RF

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