Liu Bei and today’s war for talent: Tan See Leng teaches from Romance of the Three Kingdoms September 13, 2022 A global “war for talent” is on. And an easy and powerful way to understand the situation is through the story of the great ruler Liu Bei repeatedly assembling his generals and advisors in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In Monday’s (Sep 12) Parliament sitting, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng told the nation in Mandarin just why: “在《三国演义》中的刘备，善于结交天下豪杰，先与张飞和关羽桃园结义，后又三顾茅庐请出诸葛亮。 刘备识才过人，将各有才能的文官武将组织成一支出类拔萃的团队。在赤壁之战，.刘备就和孙权联军，以少胜多，打败了曹操强大的军队。” “In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei is good at making friends with all heroes under Heaven. He swore an oath of brotherhood with legendary generals Zhang Fei and Guan Gong in the Peach Garden. He personally paid the master strategist Zhuge Liang three visits to his cottage to recruit the latter. Liu Bei used his exceptional knowledge and talents to field a team par excellence. At the pivotal Battle of Red Cliffs, Liu Bei and Sun Quan joined forces, defeating Cao Cao’s mighty army.” Three lessons, then, from this story: 1) Attracting top talent from different fields will require deploying different pull factors, 2) Small powers, strategised well together, can defeat a larger one. And importantly, 3) Top talents benefit everyone on their teams. Because the story is not just about superheroes like Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, Zhuge Liang and Sun Quan. It’s about the team of more everyday people benefiting from their skills, and working together to accomplish great things. As Minister Tan continued: “如果我们要在国际舞台上占有一席之地，就必须采取双管齐下的策略：一方面接纳来自各国的顶级专才；另一方面，继续培养和支持本地人才。 通过与国际顶尖人才交流和互相切磋，本地人才便能汲取他们的专业知识，建立更广泛的人际网络，一同为其他国人创造更多，更丰富的就业良机。如此一来，国家能继续繁荣昌盛，国人也能分享经济蓬勃增长的丰厚果实!” “If we are to have a place on the international stage, we must adopt a two-pronged strategy: on the one hand, accepting top talent from various countries; on the other hand, continuing to develop and support local talent. Local talents can expand their professional knowledge and networks through exchanges and mutual learning with top international talents. This creates more and richer employment opportunities for other people. Here, our country keeps prospering and our people share in the rich fruits of economic growth.” The goal of ONE Pass There are, as Minister Tan also points out, ways for Singapore’s private sector SMEs to benefit from these top talents under the ONE Pass scheme for excellence in various fields. “Indeed, some SMEs could benefit from directly hiring the ONE Pass holders, while others could tap on the Pass holder’s expertise through consulting services, or inviting them to join their Boards,” said Minister Tan. “Just as importantly, a vibrant, growing economy will create more business opportunities or build a new eco-system for our SMEs who may be partners, contractors, suppliers or service providers. This may be in up-and-coming sectors like the green economy or FinTech, where there will be new cheese for our SMEs,” he added. The Government’s nod back to Romance of the Three Kingdoms for informing the search for new possibilities and forward horizons is wise: the book is very much a story about how to manage talent for a nation’s best benefit. Because Singapore’s foray into this “global war for talent” is ultimately about locals too. In fact, Minister Tan spent a significant part of his speech assuring local workers that they remain front and centre. “But let us not forget what our goal is,” said Minister Tan after explaining to Parliament (a brief version is on his Facebook) the safeguards in, and targeted nature of, recent work pass enhancements as well as work done to ensure that locals can compete fairly and strongly.