On July 25th, LVI Associates and the Singapore Water Association co-hosted Embracing Water Sustainability 2019, which focused on preparing for the future of industrial water consumption. Supported by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, over 80 Water sector professionals came together to explore cutting-edge developments in the field, network with the peers, and listen to two compelling panel discussions.
Discussion 1: Embracing Digitisation & Innovation – Water
Digitisation is not a novel concept within the water sector, but companies are increasingly looking for ways that technology can help improve, predict and resolve the many challenges they face, which includes reducing leakages, monitoring water quality, managing service levels and supply, promoting water conservation, and increasing revenue through operational efficiency.
“The cycle time of getting data and taking action gets cut down by 90% when you apply digitisation the right way,” remarked one of the panellists, Mr. Vishal Sharma, “It’s not just about responding to what is happening right now. Digitisation can investigate the future – which is predictive analytics. This can help you to avoid bad things happening.”
The panel also discussed how technology can be used to educate and inform consumer behaviour and encourage water conservation. “When digitisation comes on board, it can help to change the ways that consumers consider water,” Mr. Derek Murray added, “Are you surprised that the largest use of household water is to flush the toilet? Everybody looks at water as something that is free.”
What became evident throughout the panel discussion was that digital transformation has become a critical business priority for many water companies. However, the challenges that come with implementation should not be underestimated. “The biggest barrier to change is the perceived cost of going through digital transformation,” said Mr. Vivek Chatrath, “Yet, 35% of these respondents say digital transformation adds the biggest value.”
Digitisation also brings complex regulations concerning privacy and data protection that companies must navigate to remain compliant. “Every country has their own data privacy regulations. How do we overcome the challenge of sharing information?” queried Mr. Irshaad Hakam.
Managing employees fears that such advances will replace job opportunities is also something employers must contend with, “People always think when digitisation comes, they lost their employment opportunity,” added Mr. Ishaas Hakam, “This is not the case. Digitisation increases their productivity and it allows them to do something more with the intellectual property of their mind. Hence, this will be a challenge for us to just bringing this knowledge to people.”
Discussion 2: Global Market Crisis – Talent Management
In this ever-changing market, talent is the fundamental key to driving a business forward, especially in niche area like the Water sector. Many companies and hiring managers are starting to notice a talent gap between the experienced senior Water contributors and the younger graduates. The seniors have mainly stayed in the Water sector for their whole career and are not afraid to get their hands dirty on-site and during client meetings. For the most part, they are also loyal employees who are contented in their companies and are not actively looking for a new role elsewhere. However, younger generations tend to stay in the Water sector for 2-5 years on average, before they decide to move to other sectors where they can truly hone their skills.
Although there is a gap, Mr. Edward Tierney has observed that the talent availability in APAC is far denser than in North America. Specifically, the Singapore market has been doing a great job of attracting talent despite having limited resources but it still needs to manage the expectations of a younger generation to ensure retention.
“Organisations should be honest in terms of what the day-to-day of the role. Do not over-glamourize,” advises Mr. Tierney. “Instead, make sure that the line manager is responsible for writing the job description, so that potential employees receive an accurate portrayal of what to expect” Ms. Naida Suprapto added.
Mr. Loh Pui Wah also reminded companies of the importance of employer branding, “Your potential employees will see you on official and unofficial channels, including Glassdoor, word of mouth, social media etc. Be aware of your online presence and employer branding.”
Others noted that while employee work-life balance has become a concern for candidate attraction cross-industry, the Water sector has been slow on the uptake. “Managers and leaders need to keep looking at the price-value equation,” argued Ms. Suprato, “What does the associate bring to the team? What level are you available to flex the policies?”
The on-boarding process always plays an important part of recruitment and retention, noted Mr. Kunal Shah who showed examples of how his company ‘gels’ new recruits. “For senior employees, Anaergia’s Chairman will spend 1-2 days with them in California even before they come on-board, adds Mr. Arun Kaimal, “For junior employees, they will be pack and shipped to one of our sites to maximize the learning opportunity.”
Likewise, Dr. Senthil Raja Jayapal highlighted the importance of engaging with new employees to understand their needs to best help them feel a sense of belonging within the wider organisation, which is essential to encourage their individual skillsets, performance and productivity.
Thank you to all our exceptional panellists for contributing to a fascinating discussion on innovation within the Water sector. While their variety of experience and backgrounds– ranging from engineering, technology, engineers, human resources, as well as graduate career advice– ensured a lively debate about the future of the sector, by coming together to share their expertise, they represented the collaborative and diverse spirit of all those involved who are determined to provide safe, sustainable water for all.
LVI Associates is the leading specialist recruitment agency for the infrastructure sector. We were born from the fusion of two existing companies—Laking Group and Viridium Associates who recruited for the oil and gas and renewable energy markets. While working for some of the largest energy companies in the world, we realised that we could transform more careers and support greater projects and companies by opening our services to the wider infrastructure market. More than the sum of our parts, today LVI Associates provides permanent, contract and multi-hire recruitment from our global hubs in Boston, London and Singapore. Contact us to find out more.