If you can’t go to the zoo, then the zoo will come to you. When Singapore’s animal sanctuaries faced low visitor numbers during the pandemic, they started offering virtual visits, allowing citizens to interact with animals and zookeepers from home.

This adoption of new technologies was assisted by Workforce Singapore (WSG), which supports the country’s economically vulnerable industries. The hospitality and tourism sectors were struggling particularly hard as Covid-19 made travel difficult.

Kenneth Wong, Director, Tourism Division at WSG shares how e-commerce, automation and virtual experiences helped these industries through a tough year.

Automation as the key to next-level services 

WSG provided workers at a tourist attraction with the skills to automate their daily tasks. These manual tasks included keying in payslip information and the sending of birthday messages, Wong explains.

The attraction will save 50 manpower hours a year due to this change, says Wong. The reserves staff are now leading a bigger-scale project that looks to automate the onboarding process for new colleagues, he adds.

Automation is set to become a core tool in the future workforce. Embracing automation and keeping skills relevant to a digital society is “crucial for the future of work”, says Wong.

Automation enables workers to simplify paperwork and procedures, reducing the amount of time needed overall, wrote Forbes. A smooth process behind the scenes will help to improve customer service.

This is not only relevant in the private sector, but in the public sector as well. Creating automated and digital services for citizens to do common tasks such as pay taxes or submit permits online can make their life much easier, Forbes noted.

Expanding business with e-commerce 

Some businesses have struggled to make the most of the digital tools available. Greendot Gourmet, a food provider with nine outlets across Singapore, reported that there was confusion among customers in the queuing process, meaning slower service.

WSG helped to train Greendot Gourmet’s staff to operate a digital platform which allows customers to order from their tables. The added convenience led to increased revenue, Wong states.

The platform also reduced two hours worth of work for staff and improved service delivery time by 53 per cent. It also allowed staff to spend more time interacting with customers, selling them other retail items and guiding them on the ordering process.

Last year, WSG also helped a watch retailer to improve its online service, teaching the employees how to adapt traditional customer service into e-commerce strategy. This was part of the agency’s efforts to redesign job scopes and processes for the pandemic.

Image: Kenneth Wong, Director, Tourism Division, Workforce Singapore.

What do these vulnerable sectors need?

As seen with Greendot Gourmet, job roles are changing as digital services are introduced. Work is being “redesigned or enhanced”, with tech-focused jobs in e-commerce, data analytics, and digital marketing becoming more common, Wong explains.

But companies are still struggling to adopt digital services. A WSG survey reported that 25 per cent of businesses didn’t have workers with the right digital skills to make adoption possible, the report found.

Many retail organisations face a “lack of digital-know how”, Wong says. Retail companies are looking to upskill their workers rather than hire new specialists due to low revenues, says Wong.

This is where WSG can help. Its programmes are reskilling workforces to meet in-demand roles such as digital strategy and digital marketing.

The initial results are encouraging, he says. About 60 companies have become more productive and efficient since joining one of WSG’s programmes, he reports. The organisation provides practical advice on which processes, products, and services can be digitised.

WSG also assists in career conversion, where workers learn to take on in-demand job roles. For hotels, health and ventilation are of particular focus. For tourism, some workers are being trained to deliver virtual experiences including AR and VR technology, WSG’s report found.

WSG’s career conversion programme led to a zoo finding a new way for customers to get involved. The attraction began offering video calls with animals, allowing customers including those serving Stay-Home-Notice or quarantine orders at Millenium Hotels & Resorts, to interact virtually with them.

A government’s responsibility includes ensuring that every citizen has a chance to be successful. When unexpected crises arise and industries become vulnerable, governments can help the country’s workforce by equipping them with the skills to keep them afloat.

Image of Kenneth Wong courtesy of WSG.

Featured image from Lezlie NeoCCBY-NC-ND 2.0. Image has been adjusted for size.