The Future of Work (Part 2)

A journey of transformation for Human Resource (HR) in the Public Service.

These are exciting times for HR in the Public Service. Though we face many external challenges and people issues, our HR community has made strides over the past two years by starting new conversations, coordinating our workforce planning and boosting our capability-building efforts. This progress is highlighted by two recent events that show twin movements in Public Service HR. One is top-down; the other comes from the middle. Together, these movements will transform the way we work.


In April, we held our third HR Leaders’ Retreat, with 140 HR leaders and their officers participating from across the Public Service. We talked about the future of Public Service HR, performance management and how we can better navigate our complex operating landscape. The discussions were energetic, but what made the event even more special was the fact that the entire programme had been conceptualised and planned by HR leaders, for HR leaders.

This was a change from our very first retreat in 2014, when members of our HR community operated in a more autonomous manner. However, we knew that a new model was needed to address the cross-cutting workforce issues we faced. At that first retreat, we made it our burning ambition to transform the Public Service into the employer of choice through proactive and innovative people practices.

Fast-forward to 2016, and look at how our HR community has progressed through capabilities development, with initiatives like the HR Leadership Programme, the HR Foundation Programme and new competency frameworks. Crucially, we made a strategic shift by actively sharing best practices and resources. The relationship between PSD and public agencies is now more collaborative and relational, a model that mirrors the relationship that we want to have with citizens.

In this way, we’ve built a trusted community, one with HR leaders from across the Public Service stepping forward to drive change. But what are our plans for 2016 and beyond? Besides further collaboration, we also want to benchmark our HR practices with the best in class, not only in Singapore, but globally. That’s what a team of HR leaders is doing now by benchmarking our capabilities and competencies to international standards through global HR certification and accreditation with the United Kingdom’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


Exciting as these developments are, they are matched by a movement that involves our HR middle managers. We have about 1,000 such practitioners across the Public Service, and they are absolutely critical to rolling out initiatives that make the Public Service the employer of choice. In fact, you could say that the “middle” is “central” to HR.

That’s why our inaugural HR Middle Managers’ Retreat, held in May, was so important. It brought this extended community together for the first time, and gave practitioners a voice. Besides delving into the larger issues we face in Public Service HR, our middle managers also learnt more about career development, as well as community- and capability-building initiatives like the HR Middle Managers’ Programme.

When we started the first run of this programme in November 2015, we asked our HR leaders to “pay it forward” by becoming mentors, and 26 raised their hands right away. The feedback from both middle managers and mentors has been fantastic – when the top meets the middle, you can count on great things to happen!


For our HR community to grow further, all of our members must play a part. To ready the Public Service for the future, HR must be a strategic partner and key driver. This will require a mindset change, one that goes beyond managing the people issues of today. HR must take the lead, not only within our community, but by championing innovative people policies and practices at the national level.

It has been a fruitful journey together. Here’s to even more exciting developments to come! 

Ms Low Peck Kem is the Chief HR Officer, Public Service Division. Don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of the 'Future of Work' series.
    Jun 25, 2016
    Low Peck Kem
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