Category Archives: Human resources

Automation will allow us to do certain things much faster than before. What we need to work out is how we can do things better than we used to. We need to be smart with the data and challenge our assumptions to create better situations. Just as new technologies allow buildings to move beyond stone and steel and become living, breathing systems, these same technologies, if used creatively, can allow us to make the hiring process much more organic, personal and effective.

If you’ve ever endured the withering gazes of your colleagues while you punched out of the office promptly at 5 while the rest of them had to stay on to work late, then you know how much pressure a workplace culture can have on an individual.

In a culture where hard work is prized as a virtue this pressure can force workers to stay in the office much longer than they would like to, or need to despite their legal rights to do so. But there is more to this than simple social niceties. Failure to work equally long hours can be assessed as a mark of un-productivity despite actual results stating otherwise. It’s simply human nature. If an employee is not present at their desk, then it’s hard to think that they’re working.

By AJ Anderson

In 2014, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that hosting duties for the Olympics could be shared between two countries. This led Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar—Prince Imran, as he is known in the West and president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia—to float the idea of a joint-bid by Singapore and Malaysia for the 2028 or 2032 Olympics.

While Mr Ng Ser Miang, chairman of the IOC’s finance commission, confirmed that the idea of a joint-bid had been suggested, he claims that no one has “given any serious thought” to it yet.

This begs the question: is Singapore capable of hosting the summer Olympic Games? And what would this mean for Singapore?

Singapore and the Olympics

The Olympics presents a unique opportunity for Singapore to encourage interest in sports. Singapore placed ninth out of fifteen countries across the region in insurer AIA’s 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey.  According to the Ministry of Education, obesity in school children has steadily increased from 10 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2013 and 12 per cent in 2014. With an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and greater emphasis on academic grades rather than an active lifestyle, this is becoming an issue that needs to be addressed.

Sports participation would help Singaporeans lead healthier and happier lives. Hosting the Olympic Games would promote healthy resilient people and a strong united community. The participating athletes that attend the games would inspire more people to play sports recreationally and competitively. An active life in sports prepares young Singaporean men for National Service and encourages the habit of integrating work and an active lifestyle from a young age. Additionally, children, youth and adults can develop essential skill sets that are highly valued in the labour market such as, teamwork, cooperation and a competitive spirit through a life in sports.

Sports: Gets people to pull together

Hosting The Olympic Games

It goes without saying that the Olympics is about competitive spirit and national pride, but it is also about business. Host cities invest heavily in the games with the hope of reaping sizable monetary returns for the local and national economy through tourism, marketing, and other means, not to mention the recognition it would bring. Cities also recognise that the potential long-term benefit of hosting the Olympic Games is the opportunity it provides to influence the pattern of urban development through investment in infrastructure and environmental improvements. There are a few factors that a host city should consider, though.

As a result of winning the bid to host the Olympic Games, urban development in host cities are required to fulfill three important criteria:

  1. Primary Structure: Sport and leisure structures, including stadiums, indoor arenas, and other specialised facilities such as swimming pools, shooting ranges, rowing courses and equestrian facilities must be available.
  2. Secondary Structure: Adequate housing and recreational facilities for athletes and the media (i.e., Olympic Village), a media and press center, and training facilities.
  3. Tertiary Structure: Infrastructure for transportation (airport, public transport, roads and highways), tourism (hotels and attractions) and utilities (sewage and telecommunications)

Singapore is a small island country. With a population size that hovers around 5.5 million people it is a very crowded city, second only to Monaco in terms of density. Can such a tiny nation support such a large sporting event?

Small Nation, Big Dreams

Despite its size (or lack thereof!), Singapore has been sending athletes to compete at the Olympic Games from way back before the country achieved independence in 1965.

Singapore has hosted, among other sporting events, the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010, which featured about 3,600 athletes across 26 sports, as well as the SEA Games in 2015, which featured some 7,000 athletes and officials across 36 sports.

Apart from the fact that Singapore has hosted sporting events in the past, there also exists various organisations actively supporting the sports scene in Singapore. The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) is the national non-profit organisation that coordinates the selection of Singaporean athletes to compete in major games such as the Olympics, the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, and the South East Asian Games.

Sport and leisure structures

When London won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games, it set out to avoid leaving any ‘white elephants’, by constructing the facilities with the aim of continued utilisation long after the 2012 Olympic Games had ended. For instance, the park itself reopened this summer, hosting major sports, music, and cultural events.

The centrepiece of the park, the Olympic Stadium, continues to host elite international sporting events. The stadium hosted several 2015 Rugby World Cup matches, one test match of a tri-series between the England Rugby League and the New Zealand Rugby League in November 2015, and will host both the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, as well as the 2017 IPC Athletics World Championships.

To top it all off, the stadium is the home of English Premier League football club West Ham United, who took residency as the Stadium’s long-term anchor tenant.

In that spirit of creating structures which have a purpose outside of the Olympic Games, Singapore already has a sporting facility in the form of the Singapore Sports Hub.

The fully integrated state-of-the-art Singapore Sports Hub which officially opened in July 2015.

The main facility at the 35-hectare Sports Hub is a National Stadium with a retractable roof and a capacity of 55,000—just 5,000 short of the London Olympic Stadium. So there is no need for Singapore to build a brand new stadium just for the Olympics.

Housing and recreation for athletes and the media

The Sydney Olympics in 2000 had 15,000 athletes and 6,000 media and press. In comparison, Singapore’s Youth Olympic Village (YOV) of the 2010 YOG housed over 5,000 athletes and team officials.

Located in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the YOV served as both accommodations and a preparation point, and also contained specially designed cultural and educational activities for athletes. This resourcefulness demonstrated Singapore’s flexibility in adapting existing facilities for alternate uses, thereby negating the need to spend enormous sums of money to build new facilities.

And while the number of people NTU’s YOV housed was but a fraction of the 2010 Sydney Olympics, a similar concept could be used but on a larger scale, with multiple locations, should Singapore host the Olympic Games.

For hotels and accommodation, the IOC requires candidate cities to guarantee 40,000 rooms in various categories. As a city which thrives on tourism, Singapore had over 60,000 rooms available as of the end of 2015 and this number is steadily increasing.

Singapore boasts some of the most impressive hotels in the world

Transportation and Tourism

Transport during the Olympic Games should link the sporting venues, the Olympic Village(s), and hotels and accommodations in an efficient manner, while having minimal impact on the daily transport needs of local residents and businesses. For a candidate city to win a bid to host the Olympic Games, the candidate city must have a strategic transportation plan that takes into account the above considerations.

Singapore is known to have one of the most cost-efficient public transport networks in the world. It’s number five in terms of overall infrastructure, and number one in airport infrastructure. The city-state has high quality public transportation, flight availability, and minimal traffic relative to other cities of a similar size.

High Speed Rail between Malaysia and Singapore in 2020

In addition to travel by air and road, transportation between the two nations can come from the bullet train currently being developed, which will run from Singapore to Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur. The train is to be finished by 2020, and will travel at speeds up to 220 mph.

What would this mean for Singapore?

Hosting a major sporting event such as the Olympics can have both short-term and long-term benefits for a host country. The Games will serve as a tourist attraction, an opportunity to attract foreign investment in Singapore, and as a way to rally political support for valuable infrastructure projects.

After the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic events, it is safe to say that hosting these major sports events encourage drastic improvements in a country’s transportation links and infrastructure. The pressure to meet high demands for these fundamental services provokes countries to act faster, developing transport networks which benefit their communities and increase the productive capacity of local businesses in the long-run.

Material benefits aside, Singaporeans would also experience positive social impacts, such as the development of national pride and fostering a sense of community belonging. And let’s not forget that the Olympics also acts as a foundation for international friendship, giving the host country the opportunity to expose the international community to its traditions and customs in an organic manner, potentially increasing the nation’s viability as a tourism destination.

A celebration of sports in Singapore

Yes it is possible for Singapore to host the Olympic Games in time to come. A large amount of work would be needed but the benefits are manifold. Challenges are inevitable, but Singapore as a nation is known for overcoming challenges in the face of adversity. With proper planning and implementation the dream of an Olympic Game in Singapore could become a reality.

By Gemma Keogh-Peters

Nothing happens in Singapore without a plan. At least that’s how things would appear. Planned growth began in the 1800’s when Sir Stamford Raffles first created the Raffles Town Plan intended to ensure that the physical growth of the city followed an orderly pattern. And if, like for most foreigners, your first view of the jewel of Asia is from the window of an aeroplane, you’d most likely agree that the island city-state looks like one of the most orderly cities in the world.

The view, however, changes once you enter the Central Business District. The streets in Singapore’s business hub are an oddly chaotic criss-cross of roads that meet at seemingly ad-hoc angles and are all too often, too narrow for the traffic that flows through them. This illustrates the power of British city-planning.

It took less than a decade for the city to outgrow the limits of the Raffles Town Plan and a sort of urban sprawl to develop, upon which is built the contradictorily organic versus organised pattern of the business district of Singapore — where modern skyscrapers intermingle with two-storey shophouses; remnants of warehouses from the 1800’s that now house cafes, restaurants and all manner of eateries for the variety of food that Singapore is also famous for.

This contradiction of Singapore’s business district seems to be echoed in the nation’s long term business plans as well. During his 2016 Committee of Supply speech the Minister of Manpower, Lim Swee Say, laid out the challenges facing Singapore’s business growth for the coming years. The central conundrum facing Singapore is one that many developed nations face today — how does one maintain a strong core of local workers, yet keep the competitive edge that often requires the hiring of foreign talent?

Dissatisfaction over the number of foreigners has mounted amongst Singaporeans and the government has been taking pains to keep a healthy balance between bringing in much needed expertise and experience with ensuring that jobs go to Singaporeans first, where possible.

In order to ensure that jobs remain available to Singaporeans the government has instituted a maximum of a 2:1 ratio of locals to foreign workers although this number varies across industries. While that means that Singapore could potentially accommodate a third of its workforce as foreign, the actual number is closer to 21% of the total workforce, as this ratio is enforced on a per company level rather than a per capita level.

Over the next five years, the Minister expects to see a drop in the growth of the labour force, from 55,000 per year to a low of 20,000 new jobs per year by 2020. The pressure is then on for businesses to make operations leaner, whilst increasing productivity — which so far has remained stagnant — in order to keep Singapore competitive. It also means that the island nation will be issuing fewer employment passes in the years to come.

This drop in the number of employment passes is a concern, especially to foreign businesses and multinational companies looking to set up in Singapore. While companies do set up business operations elsewhere in the APAC region, Singapore is usually the location of choice when it comes to locating a regional headquarters.

Having a regional headquarters in Singapore while maintaining operations elsewhere means requiring staff with experience and expertise in running multicultural operations — a skillset local Singaporeans seem short of.

It is not that Singaporeans are incapable of working in a multicultural environment. It is simply a matter of geography. It is almost ironic that the Singaporeans who would have this skillset are not in the country. Or it would be ironic, if it didn’t make complete sense. Learning to work with other cultures requires one to, surprise surprise, work with other cultures ― something that locals don’t always value as crucial to their career development.

Headquartering in Singapore thus brings up some unique challenges. Keeping headcount lean while bringing in the appropriate expertise can prove quite problematic, and this often leaves large foreign companies in a quandary over how to proceed. Though the Ministry of Manpower requires that companies post up positions on a government Jobs Bank this by no means provides a good way for foreign companies to find suitable Singaporean talent to fill those positions. This goes doubly so for new set ups.

What then? Singapore needs new businesses to come into the country to stimulate its economy. And while foreign companies see Singapore as an ideal location to set up base, getting employment passes for the required staff can prove too restrictive to allow a company to hit the ground running. While many businesses are urging the Singapore government to relax its stance on employment passes as a solution to this problem there is an alternative.

The biggest issue for multinational companies setting up an office in Singapore is finding local talent. Yet companies have to do this without extensive knowledge of the local manpower market.

Recruiters could do much more to fill the gap between the interests of foreign companies and the Singapore government by sourcing for suitable talent. Jobs Bank may be a resource, but like any jobs board it will not have any insight on passive candidates who may be looking for the very opportunities presented by a new foreign multinational setup — be they local Singaporeans with the expertise who are looking for fresh opportunities, or Singaporeans based overseas who may be attracted by a suitable opportunity back home. Recruiters could form that crucial link between need and opportunity. Between business’ needs and the government’s needs.

When the Singapore government took urban planning to heart in the 1950s the structured metropolis that is Singapore really began to take shape. I think ever since then the expectation is for the Singapore government to shape every aspect of the nation. But as the history of its Central Business District shows, business in Singapore does not grow solely along the guidelines set out on paper — it craves its own path within them.


I was delighted to be asked to lead a discussion co-sponsored by ULI as part of ANREV’s inaugural ‘Women in Property’ luncheon, held in Singapore this week. Joined by Alex Crossing from CBRE Investment Partners, a fellow champion of women in business, this was a fantastic launch pad and a great opportunity to reach out to the very talented women in real estate in Singapore and across Asia.

We know the figures for women reaching the top levels in business and real estate globally aren’t reflective of the talent that enters these professions. There are so many bright, ambitious and well educated women joining the ranks but not making it to the top levels in businesses. The aim of this event was to start the discussion and reach out to those future leaders and say ‘you don’t need to do this on your own’. By forming this powerful network we are offering women the support, encouragement and opportunities for mentorship and we actively encourage women to seek greater visibility within the real estate industry.

Whilst we may joke that you stand a greater chance of becoming a CEO if you are called John or David, (or Peter if you’re in Australia) than actually being a woman, we know that these statistics reflect the big challenges faced by women as they progress their career – a distinct lack of role models at the top.

It’s hard to know where you’re heading if you can’t see a picture of what that looks like.

Younger women in the workplace need to have peers to evaluate how they manage their achievements at work and at home. Positive female role models, 5/ 10/15 years ahead, offer women a vision of how they can be when they reach that point in their business and personal lives. It offers them a mirroring view. When organisations have no senior management who are women, you will see fewer women sticking around. Culturally women often make the decision (rightly or wrongly) that their long term ambitions won’t be supported when they are in a minority in that particular firm or industry.

With this in mind, women need to put more value on networking.  ANREV events will give women a greater opportunity to meet other senior real estate professionals and grow their own profile.

So, if you don’t want to change your name to David or John, but do want professional recognition and want to maximize your potential to get the promotion you deserve, then here are some things to consider;

Take ownership of your career today.

  • Don’t give your boss the opportunity to make the decision on your behalf that domestically you won’t be able to take on greater challenges. Men are not passed over on a promotion because they have children, women are.
  • Have a career plan, never assume that management know your goals.
  • Be vocal, find your voice and be heard.
  • Be clear about how much responsibility you want and how much you can take on.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.
  • Look around you and decide where you want to be and how you want to get there. Your manager does not hold that responsibility and HR certainly don’t. Join business groups, have lunches with other senior business women. Seek out women who have the experience you are looking to gain and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.
  • Make yourself visible within the industry. If you are a subject matter expert, let people know that. If you don’t feel confident in speaking in public, ask your firm for training.
  • If the industry doesn’t know about you, then you won’t be in a position to get noticed.
  • Don’t be lazy with your greatest asset. You!

For further coaching advice or a confidential recruitment discussion, please contact me on