In this report we explore what’s understood as ‘talent’ in Singapore, and what drivers will shape the context of ‘talent’ in the next 15 years. Our findings, based on an iterative conversation with Singaporean and Singapore-based experts, are complemented with a review of existing literature on ‘talent’ and official trend data.

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Singapore; a city-state of 5.5 million people and an attractive prospect for employers and employees alike.

Singapore’s social, political and economic landscape has created a unique environment for talent, shaping its needs and expectations.

But what does ‘talent’ mean for Singapore, and what might it look like in the future?

Today, Singapore enjoys low unemployment, access to good jobs and salaries, and strong incentives for academic excellence.

But what impact does this have on employee motivation, attitudes to risk or the ability to innovate and collaborate?

The report explores potential future challenges like the increased mobility of labour into and out of Singapore, maintaining growth and productivity in fifteen years, and an ageing population.

What role do these trends play in recruiting and retaining the best talent?

And how resilient are organisations and their people to global threats like cyber security, climate change and the need for new skills and new thinking in emerging industries? What can we do to prepare for the job losses in the older established ones?

To find out, our latest research explores four scenarios for the future of Singapore:

  • A steady continuation of the present-day,
  • An rapidly evolving economy where old industries are cannibalised by the new,
  • A security-focused state and society,
  • And a visionary global leader.

Drawing on the expertise of leaders in HR, business and academia we discuss the current context of talent in Singapore, look at the implications for society, organisations and individuals in these scenarios and assess how different levels of maturity can shape our responses to these events, helping us to make better choices and prepare for the future.

Read our full report to out more about the future of talent in Singapore.

Scenarios for the future of talent in Singapore

This study combines trends and drivers of change into one base-line and three distinct futures for Singapore: Steady as she goes; No one is an island; Fortress Singapore; and Bless thy neighbour respectively. The scenarios provide a scaffold to enable us to consider possible implications of the present, and to design strategies that can shape the future of ‘talent’ and the world of work.

This report is for thinkers, decision-makers, the next generation of leaders, and all those who feel it their responsibility to build a better future for society as a whole.

Report overview

Introduction

Singapore has enjoyed a period of impressive economic development, and the key for its sustained success lies in the talent of its people. For this reason, our research explores the future of ‘talent’ in Singapore 2030.

What do we understand by the term ‘talent’ and how do you know that someone is talented? What are the drivers influencing the context of ‘talent’ in 2030?

We used the Delphi technique and relied on the informed opinion of a panel of Singaporean and Singapore-based experts. Their view on ‘talent’ is presented in section 1 and complemented with a review of existing literature on the topic.

In section 2, we report on the drivers and wild cards that will have a significant influence on the context of ‘talent’ in 2030. These insights, complemented with official trend data, are our springboard to explore alternative futures.

In section 3, we draw the baseline scenario Steady as she goes, and imagine three distinct futures: No one is an island; Fortress Singapore; and Bless thy neighbour.

In section 4, we detail the implications of each scenario. Here, we introduce a maturity framework, to look at the choices the state, society, organisations and individuals could make. It is an invitation to not only look at alternative futures, but alternative responses to those futures.

What is talent?

The high-level conceptual definition proposed by our panel of experts revolves around these themes: the ability to learn, evolve and adapt; and the ability to create and innovate, sometimes also described as ‘potential’. In addition, individual talent has to be high-performing, that is, stand out against their peers. In terms of proxies of ‘talent’, there was consensus around the following indicators: motivation; personal intelligence; uniqueness; and past experience/track record.

The drivers shaping the context of 'talent'

The cultural environment is a big influence on the understanding of talent, according to our panel. Specifically, the complacency and sense of entitlement by home-grown talent; the lower threshold to risk-taking; the high (social) cost of failure; the focus on academic excellence; and the highly competitive/ self-interested drive in individuals. Other drivers are related the labour market, economic development and policy interventions in Singapore. In this section, we also report on official statistics to draw a rich picture of the Singaporean landscape.

Scenarios

In the scenario Steady as she goes, we have created a baseline scenario where 2030 is recognisably a projection of the present.

In No one is an island, the main theme is disintermediation. Examples are peer-to-peer platforms for the exchange of ‘money’, information, anything that finds a market.

The scenario Fortress Singapore is driven by threats to security.

In the final scenario, Bless thy neighbour, Singapore has a vision of a stable, prosperous region and draws on its financial and human capital to lead the transformation of the region.

Implications

We introduce a model illustrating how different levels of maturity can shape responses to any future scenario. Here, the focus is on people, their paradigms and their development.

The maturity model is organised into 7 levels, evolving from short sighted reactions to the status quo to a level on which we are able to shape the future, and to focus on the long-term good of all. In addition, each level includes different units of analysis: individual, organisation, society, and the state.

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