ILO, IOE and SNEF held a Regional Forum of EBMOs in Asia, Pacific and Arab states to discuss opportunities and strategies to lead, serve business and deliver value in the shifting world on 5 December 2022, Singapore

News | 29 November 2022
Before 2020 business was already experiencing the transformative effects of major global trends. Data from various sources suggested that regardless of sector, size and location, business models have been adapting to the impact of globalization, technological advances, demographic trends, sustainability pressures and skills shortages. At the beginning of 2020, the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the global economy's fault lines, tested the institutions' strength, forced the reshaping of work and business models, and radically changed the outlook for the foreseeable future. With the lasting effects of the hybrid or flexible working methods, the rethinking of quality and nature of jobs, the new premium on work organization, safety and health and the spotlight on wellbeing, the major impact of the pandemic is felt at the workplace. With many industries experiencing fundamental changes, skills shifts, and shortages have acquired new urgency.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has added new complexity to recovery, hiking up the commodity and energy prices, changing the global political landscape and raising major issues for businesses, including the stability of markets, the resilience of supply chains and challenges of operating in countries with authoritarian regimes. Fiscal and monetary policies of governments have brought about the fluctuating exchange rates which are adversely affecting the real economy. The medium-term outlook shows a serious risk of fragmentation of the global economy into geopolitical blocks with distinct technology and financial standards.

Against this background, ILO, IOE and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) are holding a regional forum of employers and business membership organizations (EBMOs) in Asia, Pacific and Arab states on 5 December 2022 in Singapore to discuss strategic business issues, dominating trends, opportunities and strategies to lead and serve business in the shifting world.  

The Forum will provide a platform for EBMOs to share their perspectives on the post-pandemic environment and pressing new challenges for business leaders created by the recent disruptions. Sharing their experiences and lessons learnt during the pandemic and exchanging ideas and innovations would help take stock of developments and stimulate thinking on how EBMOs can continue to add value to serve members and society at large.

The deliberations will build on the outcomes of the series of virtual meetings held by the ILO and IOE throughout 2022, focusing on strategic management, policy influence and service function of the EBMOs needed to support members in the increasingly uncertain environment. These meetings synthesized several conclusions demonstrating EBMOs strategies, resilience and agility in response to the crisis. Digitalization of EBMOs has been particularly notable, with many organizations developing or upgrading their digital resources to maintain relevance in the virtual world.

To stimulate a forward-looking and relevant discussion, the Forum is designed to bring out these key issues for business and EBMOs, taking into account regional, subregional and country differences to the extent possible. The Forum will offer a unique opportunity as follows:
  • Discuss the feature of shifting business environment that impact companies and EBMOs;
  • Reflect on the evolution of EBMOs value proposition and recent efforts to recalibrate in the interest of enhancing influence, membership, sustainability and resilience;
  • Discuss organizational strategic priorities and maximization of technological tools to make EBMOs in the region fit for new challenges;
  • Offer a platform to the EBMOs in Asia, the Pacific and the Arab States to share their views and experiences on the current and future challenges facing business and EBMOs with their peers;
  • Provide insights into the EBMOs' current agenda and priorities to feed into the future programmes and action;
  • Stimulate a flow of ideas, innovative thinking and exchange of knowledge on proven and new way of delivering value and expanding membership base, including those outside of EBMOs traditional scope; and
  • Provide clear takeaways for action.
The Forum will bring together the following participants:
  • Employer delegates to the 17th APRM from the Arab States and Asia Pacific regions;
  • Nominated participants from EBMOs in two regions;
  • Invited speakers and panellists; and
  • ILO and IOE staff.
The Forum will be organized around four main segments/themes.

1. Setting the scene: Social and economic outlook for the foreseeable future: macroeconomic trends shaping the regions and productivity challenges.

This session will provide a briefing on the current social and economic outlook as well as productivity trends and challenges from the labour market perspective in two regions as a backdrop to the meeting.  

2. Session I: Trends shaping business environment: mid and long-term view

This session is designed to seek participants’ perspective on the key trends transforming business based on their analysis and membership experience. As EBMOs need to be at the forefront of the developments that affect the business environment, members' priorities and needs for solutions to be able to influence the policy, manage diverse membership and deliver bespoke services.

3. Session II: The Next New normal for the workplace

This session is designed to bring out the new workplace features that emerged in a post-pandemic environment following a presentation by HRM Asia. Today the workplace looks very different from three years ago. The pandemic fundamentally changed where, when and how people work.  The effects of the global experiment of mass transition to teleworking during the pandemic demonstrated the need a for a new management paradigm, greater flexibility, changing skills requirements, and demanding reconsideration of workspace, wellbeing and occupational health and safety.   

4. Session III: Putting digitalization at the service of EBMOs

This session is designed to discuss the opportunities and challenges for EBMOs presented by digitalization. While digital technology can enable EBMOs to become more agile and member oriented, investment in people and business processes are key to successful digital transformation at the organizational level. During the pandemic many organizations swiftly adopted digital working methods, tools and technologies to remain operational during the lockdowns. Yet, to maintain sustainability and impact of this new or enhanced capacity will require EBMOs to reflect on these factors. The role of data as a strategic asset for core functions is yet to be fully embraced by many EBMOs.

5. IOE session: Entrepreneurship & Business Heroes: How to build the Right Narrative

This session focuses on how to tell the stories of the silent heroes from the small and medium business world. Too often, the stories of the leaders of small and medium businesses are not widely known or understood. The purpose is to train EBMOs to show the human side of running a business globally. We will discuss the importance of sharing individual stories of employers and learn what drives them, how they overcome obstacles, navigate the highs and lows of owning a business and the personal sacrifices they make on the road to success.

Sanchir, Tugschimeg, Regional Desk Officer for Asia Pacific and Arab States, Bureau for Employers’ Activities,
Bromley, Wade, Senior Specialist on Employer’s Activities in Bangkok,
Lee, Dong Eung, Senior Specialist on Employer’s Activities in Bangkok,
Peiris, Ravindra, Senior Specialist on Employer’s Activities in New Delhi,
Salvai, Paolo, Senior Specialist on Employer’s Activities in Beirut,