2020 – Predictions vs Reality: Introduction

    Kerry Consulting

    Soon enough we’ll find ourselves in the last quarter of the most unpredictable year of many of our careers. At the start of the year, filled with the hopes of a new decade, and the acceleration of many sectors in 2019, optimism was bountiful. What does it look like now and what can the next few months offer in terms of recovery or growth?

    Welcome to our mini-series “2020: Predictions vs Reality” where we review the predictions we made at the start of this year and evaluate where Singapore’s key industries are today.

    Several of the key themes that drove hiring in 2019 across industries and job functions in Singapore also looked set to shape demand for talent this year.

    The uncertainty, stemming from volatile macroeconomic and geopolitical circumstances, was causing a certain caution with regards to hiring.

    Market events such as the US-China trade tensions, Brexit, and protests in Hong Kong took their toll on the willingness of leadership teams to embrace risk. Even as certain threats subsided, the arrival of the coronavirus and, with it, far-reaching implications on societies and economies, a new hurdle was created.

    Yet, some themes from 2019 have been reinforced. Fundamental trends such as digitalisation and innovation have led to companies pivoting in line with emerging opportunities, or out of pure necessity. This has happened on a large scale given the widespread use of technology, influencing sectors from consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and retail, to property, finance and health.

    No business can avoid the need to re-evaluate and redefine processes, in turn impacting human capital. Taking businesses online to survive, coping with country-wide work from home mandates, people have demonstrated their ever-impressive ability to innovate. We are reminded that no hurdle is insurmountable.

    Disruption as a talent driver

    The strategic goals of many companies for 2020 were increasingly driven by digital offerings and innovation – especially in consumer-focused industries, but also in financial services.

    From incumbent firms to start-ups and new market entrants challenging the status quo, talent in front-, middle- and back-office functions was in the spotlight. Whilst the hiring outlook for 2020 is not as anyone predicted, any disruption causes new trends.

    Some of the highly sought-after skills and experience in 2020, almost regardless of employer, are:

    • Data
    • Digitisation and digitalisation
    • Digital and social media marketing
    • Cybersecurity
    • Cross-department strategic decision making
    • Customer retention
    • New technologies

    Whilst some planned initiatives have undoubtedly been paused or scaled back due to Covid-19, many companies have found themselves switching investments to new initiatives. Whether these relate to cybersecurity or a reconsideration of the product mix, there has been an impact for hiring managers. Still faced with one of their biggest challenges: addressing shortfalls in expertise, they are also seeing a certain caution from candidates, many opting for job security rather than progression at this time.

    Looking outside of a particular industry, at candidates with transferable skills and a willingness to learn, could become more commonplace as we navigate the next few months.

    If business expansion plans remain on hold, companies will need to look for individuals who are able to be agile, to deploy resources rapidly and seize opportunities. Job seekers, hence, will need to demonstrate their transferability and seek out open-minded employers that have a new need.

    Brighter scenes in Singapore

    Compared with less stable environments, Singapore perhaps offers more reason for optimism in terms of the hiring landscape.

    Considering support from the Economic Development Board, the upcoming digital bank licences being granted, as well as the financial support the government has pledged to keep Singaporeans in work, the infrastructure is in place to weather this storm. The Singapore government laid out a clear phased approach to recovery and their delivery on this plan is testament to their vision for the country.

    With its relative political stability, Singapore will continue to see demand for local talent as a growing number of companies move their regional – and global – headquarters to Singapore. The pandemic will likely decentralise some operations as companies look to take advantage of global ‘air bridges’ between countries and future-proof themselves against similar travel restrictions of goods or personnel.

    Over the coming weeks we’ll share in-depth reviews of specific industries such as Financial Services, Technology, and Retail as well as particular functions. Next, we’ll share how the outlook for Sales and Marketing functions have changed from our predictions.