SINGAPORE – Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), the top-ranked global provider of executive education, released “Digital Leadership Readiness: Lessons from Singapore”, which provides a holistic picture of what is really needed to continuously drive digital transformation in Singapore and around the region. The report was published in partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce-Singapore (AmCham Singapore), supported by HRM Asia, Pymetrics and Thrive HR Exchange.
While efforts and investments to achieve digital transformation are not new, 2020 has accelerated three to seven years’ worth of transformation in digitalisation of customers and operations, which saw the rapid introduction of digitally enabled products and new ways of working in a matter of months. While digital transformation has brought about greater connectedness during the pandemic, it has also exposed the vulnerability of many businesses, which may lack vision and are resistant to change. In response to these challenges, Singapore’s government recently announced during the annual Budget that it will be setting aside S$1billion for new schemes to support mature enterprises in increasing their competitiveness by adopting digital solutions. As part of this push, it is also important to ensure that business leaders are equipped with the right skills in tandem, to drive productive change while balancing employee engagement.
“It is important to understand the difference between digital and digital transformation. Going digital is about incorporating new and innovative technologies to the business, while digital transformation is a mindset that requires people transformation, a team effort,” said Elisa Mallis, CCL Managing Director and Vice President, Asia-Pacific. “To deliver results, digital leadership is crucial, and a growth mindset is needed.”
Progress of Digital Leadership in Singapore Today
Singapore is ahead of many other countries in the digital transformation journey due to the government’s ongoing efforts to set up best-in-class business-friendly infrastructure, government – industry collaboration, and the ability to take an outside-in-perspective. However, sustaining the lead will require addressing aspects of digital maturity where Singapore is lagging.
The 2020 AmCham Manpower survey results highlight an ongoing challenge for multi-national and SME companies to identify local candidates with the right skills and experience for leadership positions. Management positions were the most difficult to fill, with 60% of respondents reporting that they are somewhat difficult or very difficult to recruit for.
AmCham’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Hsien-Hsien Lei said, “Digital transformation does not happen overnight. AmCham member companies understand the challenges of upskilling workers to prepare them for management-level positions and have worked closely with the Singapore government to provide training and development opportunities, such as the Next Generation (NextGen) Upgrade Leadership Program. We must train up-and-coming leaders to be innovative and bold when leveraging technology and data to drive process improvements and organizational change. Digital leadership is complex and requires a team effort.”
Key Focus Areas to Improve Digital Leadership
For many businesses and governments, digital transformation has been disjointed to date. Leaders need to set direction, create alignment and scale commitment to create the right culture, mindset, skillset, and toolset for successful transformation. Thus, we have identified the nine digital leadership roles that map back to the Direction, Alignment and Commitment (DAC) framework. They are Future Seeker, Business Shaper, Customer Champion, Ecosystem Builder, Organization Transformer, Innovation Accelerator, Talent Maker, Culture Catalyst, Engagement Energizer.Our research has shown that respondents reported a low- to mid-level of ability in performing all the roles associated with digital leadership, signaling a need for all-round development of digital leadership capability. With the right focus and attention, addressing these areas could make a significant shift in digital transformation. Some key findings:
- Alignment stands out as a priority that must be addressed to accelerate the ability to lead digital transformation in Singapore. It is key as it develops the right environment for success, prototypes to show leaders new ways, and new habits in real business situations. Such areas include using agile methods to develop innovative solutions, using digital to promote mutually beneficial activities with partners, and developing capabilities to deliver digital changes.
- The role of Innovation Accelerator scored the lowest, underscoring how leaders continue to be risk-averse, less ready to allow for and learn from failures.
- The roles of Customer Champion and Engagement Energizer scored the highest, highlighting that leaders place customers at the center of digital transformation and encourage positive employee experience toward digital and digital tools.
- Bridging the digital talent gap is another area that needs to be addressed. While commitment towards digital is high, more effort is needed in the role of Talent Maker to foster a culture of keeping digital talent and equipping people to develop digital knowledge.
Shifts to Improve Digital Leadership in Singapore
CCL research recommends three areas Singapore must focus from a policy perspective – Education, Talent, and Support:
- It is all about educating a “growth mindset”. With change being the only constant in the business world, it is important to shift mindsets of youths from a “fear of failure” to a “confidence to experiment”
- Develop diverse, digital talent through a culture of trust and influence. Policies are needed to bring in the diverse blend of talent with cross-functional skills to support development of local teams through mentorship and bridge the skill divide with incentivized learning.
- There is also need for more diverse support from the government. From enhancing communication about support available for digital transformation, to providing more support for companies that are at various stages of their digital transformation journey with diverse needs (e.g., companies that start off being digitally ready, companies looking to scale to other geographical markets).
The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and the American Chamber of Commerce-Singapore (AmCham Singapore) gathered inputs from 198 leaders, using a combination of 179 surveys and 19 interviews. The participants in the survey and interviews were senior leaders who oversee, have responsibility for and play a role in their organization’s digital transformation efforts.
CCL’s Digital Leadership survey was used to identify areas of strength and development on nine key digital leadership roles. The interviews with senior leaders were focused on obtaining insights and practices on their organization’s journeys in digital transformation and their views on macro changes to improve the level of digital leadership readiness in Singapore and across the region.
About AmCham Singapore
Established in 1973, the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham Singapore) is the largest and the most active international business association in Singapore and Southeast Asia, with over 4,700 members representing nearly 600 companies. Our Chamber is comprised of 14 sectoral and functional committees and conducts nearly 200 events per year.
AmCham is a forward-thinking, business-progressive association. Our mission is to create value for our members by providing advocacy, business insights, and connections. Our membership includes American companies and Singaporean and third-country companies with significant U.S. business interests. AmCham is an independent, non-partisan business organization. We are a member of the 28-chamber-strong AmChams of Asia Pacific (AAP).
Our goal is to provide the information and facilitate the access and connections that give members insight into the local, regional, and global operating environment, enhance their 4 professional capabilities, and enable them to make well-informed business decisions. For more information about AmCham Singapore, visit www.amcham.com.sg.
About HRM Asia
As Asia’s leading publication and web portal for HR professionals for over 20 years, HRM Asia is a multiplatform network helping to support, educate and celebrate the professional HR community in Asia-Pacific. Across our magazine, digital content, and world-class events, we provide an array of thought-leading HR discussion and information to HR professionals and business leaders across the region.
pymetrics is a talent matching platform that makes workforce decisions more efficient, accurate, and fair. We use behavioral science-backed exercises to measure the cognitive, social, and emotional attributes of individuals and take a data-driven approach to match them with the right opportunities based on their potential, not their pedigree. Our insights and recommendations, which are powered by ethical and audited AI, equip employers with accurate and actionable information to manage the entire talent lifecycle, from hiring to internal mobility and beyond. With over 80 enterprise clients and offices in NYC, London, Melbourne, and Singapore, pymetrics is redefining workforce transformation.
About Thrive HR Exchange
Thrive HR Exchange is where global HR professionals and people leaders come together to co-create the future of work. Through global connections that foster the exchange of knowledge and fuel innovation, members find compassionate support, meaningful collaboration, and best practice sharing. Thrive HR Exchange empowers the people leaders of today and tomorrow to become agents of change within their industries. To find out more information, please visit: www.thrivehrexchange.com.
About the Center for Creative Leadership
The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development. By leveraging the power of leadership to drive results that matter most to clients, CCL transforms individual leaders, teams, organizations, and society. Our array of cutting-edge solutions is steeped in extensive research and experience gained from working with hundreds of thousands of leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education by the Financial Times, CCL has locations in countries worldwide. Visit us: www.ccl.org. Follow us: @CCLdotORG
Anand Chandrasekar Senior Research Faculty, APAC