One HR

Last Friday, Ms Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary, Public Service Division, received an Honorary Fellowship from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), a professional body for HR that is renowned for setting global standards in people and organisational development. Ms Yong is the first nominee in Asia to receive the Fellowship, and the fourth person globally. The Fellowship recognises individuals who have made an impact in supporting the betterment of people, society and economies. In the following excerpt from her acceptance speech, Ms Yong shares how the Singapore Public Service is working towards becoming one HR team, one HR community. 


It is a great privilege for me to be here today. I believe this recognition is not so much for what I’ve done personally, but represents the significant achievements and strong commitment of a very large number of public sector colleagues, some of whom are here today, who have championed better people practices and good work environments for our officers in the Singapore Public Service.

So I’d really like to acknowledge them today and to say, “Thank you all very much,” because I think I’m standing here representing all of you.


Professionalising HR in the Public Service

I’d like to share a few thoughts about our efforts to professionalise HR in the Singapore Public Service. In this, we share the vision of CIPD to build the HR profession to enable and support organisations in the public sector to do well. We also strongly support the national vision of professionalising HR, which Brother Patrick Tay talked about. I congratulate the NTUC for its leadership in upskilling practitioners through offering certified training programmes and establishing a learning and development community of practice.

The Public Service has always recognised that the strength of our organisations lie in our people. So people management and development has been a long-established priority. The Public Service has done well in our people management and development efforts.

But times change and needs change. Our people management in the past was more focused on market competitive compensation and benefits; fair evaluation; professional career and development; and staff welfare. We’ve invested heavily for decades in training our officers to do their jobs well. We have good relationships and close collaboration with our public sector unions.

So today, we have a multi-generational workforce where every generation has different goals and concerns. And many young officers are less interested in what we offered in the past, and much more interested in gaining different experiences. When they join us, they say, “How can I change the world? And how can you help me do it?” And when they say that they might be leaving one of our organisations to move on, it’s often not because there was a push or they didn’t like us. But they had made a contribution and they wanted to move on to gain a different experience.

Technology is disrupting our existing business processes and that generates pressures for change. But that also generates opportunities of change and doing better. The public compares us to the service experiences they get elsewhere. So the public does ask us, “Do you benchmark with the best in the world?” And actually our answer should be, “Why not?”


One HR Team, One HR Community

Change is difficult. It requires new skills and for us to talk about how we’re going to continue to upgrade our knowledge. In the past, our HR work was heavily in HR which provided a good framework to operate in. HR leaders in agencies managed localised variations. But the demands of the environment now require the rapid development of new policies and approaches along a multitude of fronts, all at the same time.

Our leaders and HR leaders have recognised they cannot do this alone. We recognise that we are much more likely to move faster if we work together; if we share ideas and management bandwidth; if we worked as one HR team, one HR community, rather than as a collection of individual HR officers in individual agencies.

In making fundamental changes, we need to ask, “Why were these practices there in the first place? Why we do what we do? If we change, what are the pros and cons?” After all, many of our past choices may still be valid, so making changes requires deeper learning and thinking by our HR leaders and officers.

For HR leaders and officers to be future-ready, they need to professionalise. Future-readiness is a combination of skill-building; confidence-building; and being open-minded and curious about how HR is changing in the world.

Levelling-up and Beyond

I was very pleased to hear that some 16 of our HR leaders in the public sector were certified earlier this year by CIPD, receiving Chartered status. Out of the 16, eight became Chartered Fellows. This has built confidence and encouraged more of our officers to also think about seeking accreditation. The public sector will also support the new initiative announced by Minister (Manpower) Lim Swee Say, the National Human Resource Professional Certification Framework, which assesses our professionals on three components – foundational; functional; and mind-sets and behaviours. The public sector took part in developing this framework. We do believe it will help us level-up the capability of our officers further. We strongly support the levelling-up of our capabilities nationally.

Being skilled-up will enable us to continue to work with our national tripartite partners, to enable our organisations to transform and remain relevant into the future. I am grateful for NTUC’s leadership in SkillsFuture.

We’re on an important journey. We’ve come a long way, but there is much more work to be done. I’m confident that, with the support of partners like NTUC, the Ministry of Manpower and CIPD, we’ll embrace the future well.

    Nov 5, 2016
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