Top 5 tech skills Singaporean CIOs want to develop

Employee recruitment and enablement plans heighten as businesses battle for market differentiation

As the pace of technological transformation accelerates in Singapore, the battle for business differentiation is moving into employee recruitment and enablement.

In 2019 and beyond, the focus is shifting to the internal skill-sets of CIOs and employees in a market chasing the most in-demand technology talent.

But with the talent pool being drained on a daily basis, organisations are embarking on wide-scale up-skilling exercises to drive transformation initiatives from within. A recent case in point is DBS Bank, amid plans to allow “every single developer in the bank to become a machine learning engineer”.

“Today, many Singaporean workplaces are navigating an era of rapid transformation,” said David Jones, senior managing director of Asia Pacific at human resources multinational firm Robert Half.

“The increasing prevalence of new technologies within our workforces is having a major influence on the type of roles and skills that companies need to evolve into the future – a trend often referred to as Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“As companies continue to move away from manual processes and responsibilities, more time and resources will become available for strategic, innovative and customer-focused tasks.

“This isn’t about replacing existing jobs with new technologies but, instead, creating new opportunities and up-skilling workforces to complement technology in a way that accelerates growth.”

Consequently, Singaporean CIOs are looking to develop technology skills across five core areas, spanning IT security (53 percent); data analytics (37 percent); business analysis (32 percent); business intelligence (32 percent) and IT management (25 percent). The top five in-demand roles are cybersecurity analyst, technology risk manager, data scientist, project manager and software developer.

Specific to qualifications, businesses are seeking certifications in CISM, CISA, CISSP or CRISC, alongside a “working knowledge” of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Technology Risk Management guidelines. Python programming is also welcomed, in addition to a PhD or Masters in machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics.

That’s according to new findings from Robert Half, following an independent survey involving 75 Singapore-based CIOs.

david jones robert half Robert Half

David Jones, senior managing director of Asia Pacific, Robert Half

“With more financial processes being completed digitally than ever before, it’s no surprise that cyber attacks in Singapore are rising,” Jones added.

Consequently, Jones said the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (FS-ISAC) are working together to “advance security threat intelligence sharing” while conducting joint initiatives to protect the financial services sector.

“As awareness of these cybersecurity threats continues to rise throughout 2019 alongside the introduction of new regulatory processes to combat these threats, there is a growing trend towards enhancing the ‘cyber hygiene’ within Singapore’s financial services institutions,” Jones said.

“This has resulted in greater demand in the fields of cybersecurity, technology risk and RegTech to comply with regulations and safeguard organisations against external risks.”

Citing LinkedIn, Jones said cybersecurity specialists rank as “one of the top five” emerging jobs in Singapore across all industries.

Specifically, hiring plans for IT professionals as a result of the Singapore Government’s Cyber Security Bill centre around adding new permanent (29 percent) and temporary/contract positions (24 percent).

Up-skilling

In assessing the Singaporean market, Jones said that many employers are seeking to benefit from the “gig economy” by gaining “immediate access to high-demand skillsets, filling talent gaps and managing unique projects”.

“There is continuous demand for contract workers in project management, change management and business process improvement,” Jones outlined. “Contract workers provide companies with more agile workforces that respond quicker to changing demands.

“While relying on a temporary workforce generally results in increased productivity, and improved and faster services for clients, other benefits include lower staffing costs, improved budget management, and immediate access to a wider talent pool of professionals skilled in niche areas such as blockchain, AI and cybersecurity.”

Similarly, Jones said IT professionals should consider contract work to increase market value.

“By accessing the latest technology trends across a range of industries, contract employees can accelerate their careers in the long-term,” he advised.

In a message to employers, Jones said that “wherever possible”, businesses should adopt a “hire for culture, train for skills approach” during the recruitment process.

“Up-skilling workforces remains a top priority for companies, but employers must also ensure every new hire demonstrates the right soft skills such as adaptability, attitude, personality and emotional intelligence to fit in well with the company and team,” he said.

“In a competitive employment market, IT candidates themselves should take a proactive approach to their ongoing professional development. Candidates who up-skill themselves with the latest technology knowledge through online courses and by gaining SkillsFuture credits are more attractive to employers seeking workers who are adaptable and embrace new challenges.”

Jones said recruiting within the fields of artificial intelligence, digital and data strategy is also becoming “increasingly competitive” as the impact of Industry 4.0 begins to impact local businesses.

According to findings, 87 percent of CIOs believe it is more challenging to source qualified IT professionals compared to five years ago. Therefore, Jones said current market conditions are placing “mounting pressure” on companies to offer higher salaries to attract IT professionals.

“In an ever-changing landscape, the highest salaries are offered to those with the most wide-ranging experiences, up-to-date skills, an aptitude for new technologies and a high degree of emotional intelligence for managing and working with different personalities,” Jones said.

“IT professionals should be proactive in their own efforts to gain as much relevant experience and knowledge as possible through development opportunities and by working across multiple projects in different industry sectors.”

While up-skilling is essential for ambitious IT professionals, Jones said leveraging contract work to demonstrate adaptability, experience across different industries, and even different country knowledge, will be “highly valuable” in the years ahead.

“When applying for roles, IT candidates can benefit from focusing less on starting salary and more on how their unique skills and experiences can add value to the business they are applying for. In turn, companies are expected to increase salaries to motivate and retain workers who make meaningful contributions and deliver results,” he added.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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