Bosses must lead productivity drive
Thu, Jul 29, 2010
my paper

SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE must move up the value chain and take on more skill- and knowledge-intensive work in order to stay ahead of the competition, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

And a large part of this responsibility in raising productivity falls on bosses and business leaders, he noted.

He said employers set the strategic directions, make critical decisions and keep operations running efficiently. They set the tone for how open the workplace culture is and how closely their firms engage with unions and employees.

"Your leadership is vital for upgrading productivity in your company," he said.

Mr Lee was giving the keynote address at the opening of the two-day Singapore National Employers Federation's (Snef) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Employers Summit yesterday at Resorts World Sentosa. About 900 participants, including CEOs and senior managers, took part.

Mr Lee said real per-capita incomes tripled and two million jobs were created in the past 30 years. The nation's rapid economic growth is the result of "forward-looking policies", including the tripartism of employers, unions and the Government.

During the recent financial crisis, he said, the tripartite arrangement helped by preventing "what might have been massive job losses and retrenchments".

However, "this effort must be sustained and institutionalised", he said. While productivity leapt 13 per cent in the first quarter, it is merely a "one-off blip" due to the strong economic rebound, he cautioned.

He said: "This is a cyclical increase and the result of a tight labour market and more overtime work. "Firms have to innovate and develop novel business models," he added.

Training workers in multiple skill sets and adopting variablewage practices are also key in upping productivity, he added.

Mr Christopher Dobson, vice-president and managing director of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, said bosses must inspire their subordinates and show the benefits that productivity can bring to them.

"It absolutely has to come from the top," he said.

Madam Ho Geok Choo, Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC and CEO of Human Capital Singapore, said bosses need to engage employees and create a conducive culture.

"The whole approach (to productivity) is not really about working harder or longer, but about injecting the right processes and at the same time injecting fun and trust."

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