Digital disruption drives professionals in Singapore to upskill, but more support from employers needed

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According to a recent study by HubSpot Academy, an online training firm, 83 percent of employees in Singapore have considered taking an online course. The company surveyed 1,000 working professionals in Singapore.

The survey also found that most have already taken the plunge, with 73 percent having already taken online courses in the past. These knowledge-hungry professionals are already seeing efforts pay off. Of those who had taken an online course in the past, more than half (57%) noted that taking online, job-related learning courses has helped them secure jobs.

This is no surprise, considering the clarion calls for professionals in Singapore to upskill themselves in recent years, amidst a rapidly digitalising business landscape. Landing a new job isn’t their only motivation either. The top reasons for upskilling noted were to remain technologically savvy and relevant (66%), to help grow the organisation they work for (54%) and to achieve promotions or pay raises at their current workplaces (48%).

However, while employees are generally keen to take on more online job-related learning activities, they still face a range of issues in doing so.

Time – or lack thereof – seems to be the biggest obstacle standing between professionals and their learning aspirations. Chief challenges faced by professionals here are lack of time in their personal lives (58%), lack of support from employers in terms of time, budget, resources etc. (45%) and cost (38%). While 60 percent of professionals noted that they would like to spend more time on job-related learning and upskilling, three in 10 polled spent only an hour or less per week doing so.

While the need to upskill is widely recognized, trying to get employer buy-in on personal development initiatives seemed to be a constant push-and-pull process for Singaporeans. 81 percent of professionals highlighted a desire for employers to place higher importance on job-related learning. Furthermore, 68 percent noted that their employers encouraged them to attend classes / courses to learn new skills, but only outside work hours.

“It is difficult to demonstrate the immediate value of learning and development before you acquire the new skills, which then makes employers less willing to commit resources,” said Shahid Nizami, Managing Director, APAC at HubSpot. “One way to seek a middle ground is through online microlearning platforms. They often require lower time and monetary commitment, which allows professionals to ‘test the waters’ themselves. If they’re able to employ their new skills to bring more value to their work, employers can be more easily convinced to invest further resources in learning and development.”

Is upskilling a “big company thing”? Does it have less of an impact on your career if you work in micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Singapore? Professionals here seem to think so.

Only 39 percent of professionals working in organisations with 2-10 employees noted that taking online, job-related learning courses has helped them score interviews, compared with 64 percent of those working in organisations of between 200 and 500 employees. Conversely, 76 percent of professionals working in organisations of between 200 and 500 employees noted that taking online, job-related learning courses made them more attractive candidates, compared with just 61 percent of professionals working in organisations with 2-10 employees.

“MSMEs tend to work with much tighter resources than their enterprise competitors, be it in terms of labour or budgeting. As such, it can seem like a heavy toll to set aside resources to help their employees upskill,” said Nizami. “While allocating resources towards employee upskilling may impact short term growth plans, it is also an investment in the future, and enables firms to grow better in the long term by equipping their team with the best set of skills to grow both the business, and their careers.”