INSTEAD of physically increasing manpower capacity, enterprises need to look to enhancing customer satisfaction and employee engagement as tools to navigate the new economy. Development of these new tools, instead of the old ways of relying on foreign manpower, are what will help businesses thrive, and are the areas the enhanced business excellence (BE) framework aims to address.

"Customer and employee are two sides of the same coin - one cannot grow without the other. With a slower pace of workforce expansion, trying to grow the employee side of the coin by increasing headcount alone is not good enough. We need to recognise that a more engaged employee is a more productive employee," said Lim Swee Say, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, in his opening address at the 6th Business Excellence Global Conference on Wednesday.

Companies need to embrace a new mindset to navigate the new economy. "This new mindset is really about how to grow your business profitably, and how to enhance the wages of your workers in a sustainable manner by finding ways to enhance customer satisfaction and employee engagement." 

One of the key changes introduced in the enhanced BE framework is the placing of customers at the core of business strategies. It also emphasises future orientation for sustained growth and performance, as organisations need to understand current and emerging market trends to continuously improve and even transform their products and services.

The certification process has also been simplified, in response to feedback from SMEs that preparing for certification to the various BE standards can be resource intensive.

These include e-enabling the application process progressively in 2015, which will allow organisations to conduct self diagnostics and track their own progress. A greater emphasis will also be placed on on-site assessments over hard copy documentation review and audit. These initiatives are expected to halve the time and effort required for SMEs to fill in an application for any BE certification. In addition, one-to-one coaching is available by Principal BE Assessors to guide applicants through the process and help them identify gaps and areas of improvement.

The enhanced framework, which will be implemented from January next year, is the result of a review which saw SPRING Singapore obtain feedback from some 150 stakeholders from large organisations, SMEs, public-sector agencies, BE assessors and other organisations that have yet to embark on the BE journey.

The enhanced framework was piloted with 10 organisations, one of which was The Soup Spoon.

Benedict Leow, The Soup Spoon's executive director, noted that the holistic nature of the BE framework drew his company to it.

"It's not good enough to stay status quo because the way we ran the last 12 years will be quite different (compared to) the next 12 years, especially when we are prepping ourselves and our capabilities not just to expand in Singapore but to expand overseas. This is the main reason why we need a framework to help guide us - something proven, something that many established firms have adopted," said Mr Leow.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the BE initiative and to date, some 1,000 organisations have benefited from the internationally benchmarked BE framework.

"The review of the Business Excellence framework is timely, especially with the context that organisations are operating in today. Apart from better reflecting current management trends and practices, the enhanced framework allows organisations to better appreciate the key principles of excellence and guide them towards superior business performance and sustained growth. With the streamlining of the certification process, we hope to see more organisations, especially SMEs, embark on the journey of excellence," said Choy Sauw Kook, assistant chief executive (quality & excellence), SPRING Singapore and Singapore Quality Award Administrator.