Why did WSG appoint two foreign firms to help PMET employment in Singapore?

By Lim Say Ping for iqDynamics

Just two months back in April, Workforce Singapore (WSG), a government statutory board whose mission is to focus on skills and employment of local Singaporeans decided to appoint two foreign recruitment firms to help improve the re-hiring rate of PMETs in Singapore. (PMET is an acronym for Professionals, Managers, Executives and technicians.)

Here are some key points surrounding the matter:

  1. 72% of the 11,080 Singaporeans laid off last year were PMET.
  2. 6 in 10 PMET got rehired within 6 months of losing their jobs.
  3. The success rate of local placement firms engaged in the past were not even close to this 60% rate.
  4. Local job placement firms are said to be more employer-centric.
  5. Most local placement firms are more focused on poaching of employed workers and active job-seekers.
  6. MOM thinks the main problem is “career-matching”

Do you agree with the above observations and the appointment of the foreign firms?

As a director of a SME that look after HR and recruitment, the following are my observations and experience in hiring PMET.

  • Cultural Fit:

PMET are generally experienced workers from various age groups. One of the biggest challenge is cultural fit within the company. It is never easy for PMET to adapt. Let’s face it, it is generally harder for more mature workers. It is equally hard for PMETs coming from varying industries.

  • Skills mismatch:

PMET can certainly contribute to SMEs which generally lack experienced management staff. However, for PMETs from MNCs wanting to work for a SME which generally requires PMET to perform multi-roles with minimal support structures and resources, There may be mismatch of skills and competencies that requires steep and long learning curve.

  • Energy and health:

There is a preference for younger PMETs because of health concerns regarding more mature PMETs for Hiring Managers.

  • Mismatch of expectations:

This usually happens when an experienced PMET explores joining a SME, the job scope vs the salary expectation usually poses as a problem for both parties.

  • Few applicants or matching:

As an SME with headcount of about 50 plus, we have about 5-7 vacancies in a year. The percentage of experienced or mature PMET applicants is less than 10%. Most of the mature PMET hired was through referral or through recruitment firms who will do more screening to enhance the success rate.

We certainly have some success in hiring PMETs but there are also difficulties in not just recruitment of PMETs, but retaining them to contribute for a meaningful period.  To date, the success rate has been relatively low.

To improve the re-hiring of PMET, re-skilling of PMET as well as helping industries in need of manpower to attract, develop and retain PMET, one may want to look at the following:

  1. Government assistance:

The WSG program Adapt and Grow together with IRAS PIC encourages the companies to mitigate the risk in hiring PMET from other industry (or other segments within the industry). The grant will assist with hiring, re-training and conversion of PMET skills from one industry to another.

  1. Pro-active matching

Government can certainly help in pro-actively matching all the registered PMET who are actively looking for a job with the companies looking to hire. To-date, it is still left to the “market mechanism” which is still fragmented. The plan of a “matching portal” or process was mentioned by MOM once but it is not clear if it will be implemented.

  1. Robust recruitment, training process and system

The Human Resource processes such as recruitment and training should be robust and integrated. Job definitions and salary grid should be well defined to ensure the system is equitable and is flexible to hire PMET with different skills and different requirements. Eg  part time, flexi-time etc. The PMET hired should have a structured plan to re-skill, adapt and be appraised for the contribution. I.e the conversion involves more than just domain skills alone.

  1. Performance appraisal and coaching

To optimize the PMET that requires re-skilling, a comprehensive appraisal process together with a positive culture of coaching and counselling will help in developing, adapting the PMET to contribute positively to the new industry and organizations. An integrated cloud based recruitment, appraisal and learning management solution can automate many processes and enhance effectiveness.

  1. Consider free-lancing

Government can consider putting in resources to help to set up a framework to help PMET to be independent professionals offering free-lance services. This requires some training and coaching of how to be an effective freelancer, how to market their services and having a platform or portal to serve both companies and freelancers will be very effective, such as www.upworks.com, www.freelancer.sg.

In summary, active matching is certainly an important process to help the PMET. It is more than putting the names for the hiring companies to interview. The concerns and appropriate processes and systems to address the issues should be considered to make the re-hiring and retention of PMET in our workforce successful.

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