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Trends that are shaping today’s L&D landscape

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There is no denying that there has never been a more important time for companies to train employees to cope with global changes. Wani Azahar uncovers how Singapore employers such as Singtel, Chope Singapore and TWG Tea, as well as international firms such as Chevron, Symrise and ZEISS are responding to major L&D trends.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 survey, which polled more than 7,000 HR and business leaders from 130 countries, 91% of Southeast Asian respondents rated learning as “important” or “very important”.

Speaking to home-grown brands such as Singtel, Chope Singapore and TWG Tea, as well as international firms such as Chevron, Symrise and ZEISS, Human Resources uncovers what business minds behind these companies are doing to respond to the trends within the learning and development (L&D) landscape.

Trend No.1: Learning that impacts business results

When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, Singapore’s telecom giant Singtel was challenged to continue delivering on its promise to foster a culture of learning, encourage employees to take charge of their personal development and enhance their level of engagement in corporate-wide initiatives.

Launching its flagship learning activity called the Singtel Group Learning Fiesta (SGLF) in November 2008, it enabled the firm to stay true to its word – and at a much lower cost. The SGLF is an annual learning event which plays an important role in helping staff strengthen and deepen their knowledge and current skill sets to help the business deliver a better performance.

Together with strong leadership support, the firm conducted pre-SGLF surveys, mini workshops and lectures to drive participation. To date, it has been replicated across the globe since the inaugural event. Starting with the SGLF at its Philippines associate, Globe, in 2010, the event was further expanded in 2014 to five venues, including Australia, Malaysia and the US – resulting in a record high of more than 20,000 training places and a 38.6% increase in training places from 2013.

Moving forward to 2015, it was extended further to Shanghai, Chengdu, Suzhou, Hong Kong and the Philippines. In 2016, it was expanded to Trustwave and 10 Amobee locations globally – Santa Monica, San Diego, Foster City, Chicago, New York, London, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney and Tel Aviv – with a record offering totalling more than 27,000 learning places across 170 courses.

Speaking to Human Resources, Aileen Tan, group CHRO of Singtel and Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) board member, said: “We see our L&D team deepening the partnership with the businesses to deliver effective and cost-efficient learnings that impact business results positively amid the changing business landscape.

“Our L&D team has increased collaborations with our businesses to build capabilities in growth areas such as computer engineering, cyber security, analytics and smart cities.”

As a firm with a multi-generational workforce, Singtel also acknowledges that learning is becoming more personal. “In this regard, we have proactively engaged our employees’ inputs to shape our major learning programme such as the SGLF and offer programmes that are meaningful, and meet the needs of our employees,” Tan said.

She also said that personalised learning helps to promote self-directedness in learning among its employees. Similarly, global suppliers of flavours and fragrances, Symrise AG’s roadmap in building its L&D capabilities has been evolving to align with its business ambition. It integrates leadership, structure, mindset, people’s competencies, processes and systems.

Headquartered in Germany, Symrise is represented in over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, the United States, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. In fact, it recently unveiled SPark – its eight-storey Asia Pacific innovation and technology centre in Singapore.

The new centre aims to offer more intensive and advanced training to equip staff with highly specialised skills required in the industry. Dina Abastillas, vice-president of human resources at Symrise, said: “We prepare our employees for the jobs of tomorrow by giving expanded responsibilities, providing the training platform and the freedom to innovate and deliver success. Significant work is being undertaken to sharpen and integrate our competency framework at every component of the talent life cycle.”

Symrise embraces the 70-20-10 learning approach, and employs formalised structured and intensive core training programmes within its talent management process. In the past few years, it has introduced programmes such as its flavourist, perfumer and application technologist training geared towards technical development, as well as the Future Generation programme to groom future leaders of the company.

We prepare our employees for the jobs of tomorrow by giving expanded responsibilities, providing the training platform and the freedom to innovate and deliver success

- Dina Abastillas, vice-president of human resources at Symrise

Abastillas commented: “We have seen increased levels of expertise, creativity, passion and added value in the organisation since the inception of the programmes and we now have better opportunities to leapfrog in our learning and development journey.”

Highlighting one such initiative, the global flavourist programme is a three-pronged strategy that includes personal development and career advancement, compensation, as well as the Flavourist Academy.

The academy offers international training programmes for prospective flavourists and application technologists. The two-year journey starts with introductory training on raw materials, the basics of development, analytics, application technology as well as the practical phase. Here, the junior flavourist works not only in their home region, but also becomes familiar with the sensory preferences of other regions on planned trips abroad.

In the final phase, the young flavourists develop their own masterpiece flavour compositions and take the theoretical exams. In Asia Pacific, Symrise saw a high retention rate of 80% for flavourists that graduated from its academy. From here, they form a strong talent pipeline accounting for 40% of the technical community.

Additionally, in terms of the service period, 70% of its flavourists have a tenure of five years and above – showcasing a high project success rate.

In order to support both Symrise’s growth, and to help expand the industry, it’s necessary to build a future pipeline of talent, and the best approach is to establish internal learning centres in order to fully impart the unique combination of skills required by each role.

Every potential flavourist undergoes a dedicated onboarding programme followed by a training and development framework that is aligned with a career roadmap customised to each employee. All training is conducted by its internal experts in Singapore, and from around the region.

Trend No.2: A comprehensive learning ecosystem

Being a home-grown brand that Singaporeans have loved for years, TWG Tea is one of the finest luxury tea brands in the world. Recently, it launched its Tea Institute – the first tea connoisseurship and professional development centre in Singapore.

A luxuriously designed training facility, the Tea Institute demonstrates TWG Tea’s commitment to excellence and was conceptualised to groom and deploy talent for the brand’s global operations. It has been aimed to respond to the needs of its rapid business expansion, extensive product range, high customer expectations, diverse backgrounds of new employees and how the new hires often have very little knowledge about tea.

Speaking to Human Resources, Maranda Barnes, director of corporate communications and business development, as well as co-founder of TWG Tea, said: “The centre acts as an institute of L&D focused on key TWG Tea touch-points such as brand experience, luxury behaviours, tea connoisseurship, retail sales, fine dining experience and management.”

As the first fully fledged tea training facility in Singapore, the TWG Tea Institute is dedicated to training internal brand representatives with a myriad of bespoke workshops that focus on key touch-points of the brand. In developing the Tea Institute, TWG Tea worked with International Enterprise Singapore, where it helped scope TWG Tea’s HR project and provided grant support under its global company partnership programme.

To date, more than 85% of the TWG Tea team have undergone training at the Tea Institute. In fact, staff have exhibited an impressive 95% retention rate of information from the training programme.

Elaborating on the metrics used, Barnes remarked: “Participants receive an ongoing evaluation over the course of each workshop for information retention and demonstration of knowledge.”

For example, participants of the brand experience workshop will create and present a collage of visuals about the brand on the last day of the workshop to give tangible proof of their new-found knowledge and passion for TWG Tea. Additionally, feedback forms are completed by participants at the end of each workshop to share constructive comments.

For the brand experience workshop, 98% of new staff cited their appreciation for the content of the workshop and felt the methodologies were effective in promoting and retaining learning. Evaluation from the mentors attached to onboarding staff is solicited to assess new hires’ behaviours during their first six weeks on the job. The results showed that 80% of the mentors found the new hires demonstrated strong enthusiasm and confidence when interacting with customers.

Not only that, the new hires were all well-versed in their knowledge of tea and the brand. Barnes added the L&D team organises a follow up session with new staff to test retention, address questions and develop more in-depth luxury behaviours and brand experiences. Through such sessions, new employees showed a 95% retention rate of information communicated previously during the workshop.

“HR plays a very important role in identifying such talent, ensuring that we are grooming them with the right training programmes to ensure consistent quality and service delivery across all markets,” she said.

“With the right training programmes as well as rewards and recognition given to our staff , this would play a big role in attracting and retaining talent within the company as well. Hence, HR does play an invaluable part to TWG Tea’s business development,” she continued.

Meanwhile, Barnes also observed the growing popularity of mobile learning. In response, TWG Tea offers a mobile application for the employees’ benefit. Interestingly, the mobile application was launched even before the website was rolled out in 2015.

“We feel that mobile learning is a way for employees to learn on-the-go as well. The mobile application is a hand-held TWG Tea book, which contains a trove of information on the wide variety of teas, tea accessories and gourmet products that we carry at TWG Tea.”

The brand is working on developing a more comprehensive mobile application which will be rolled out in the second half of 2017. Plans are also in place to train all employees to maximise their tea knowledge and customer service with the use of the application.

We feel that mobile learning is a way for employees to learn on-the-go as well.

- Maranda Barnes, co-founder of TWG Tea

Meanwhile, leading optical brand ZEISS is working to create a synergistic learning ecosystem worldwide and across business groups. As part of a large global organisation, ZEISS Southeast Asia is among one of the pioneering organisations that will be rolling out its learning platform – a single learning platform across the group catering to both employees and customers.

Additionally, the firm aims to build regional learning networks through centres of excellence to create maximum business impact. Having launched globally in November 2016 and with the Southeast Asia region up for launch in July 2017, the platform answers the need for a comprehensive learning ecosystem within the organisation.

Not only that, it serves to involve all stakeholders in the development of its employees. On a bigger scale, the initiative is part of ZEISS’ efforts to cater to the growing trend of on-demand learning.

Speaking to Human Resources, Rohan Nabar, project lead of SHARE APAC, corporate human resources at ZEISS said: “The platform is just the vehicle. But in essence, the learning organisation, processes that support creating best case practice sharing, and leveraging from the collective strengths in learning are the main target.”

To date, the company platform has drawn more than 2.5m logins with over 60,000 courses signed up for. In fact, more than 50% of the employee base were recorded as active users within the first six months.

As with TWG Tea, HR plays a significant role at ZEISS as well, by understanding the needs of the sales and service employees. Team members at ZEISS Singapore work alongside the business in the field to experience challenges which helps provide a more holistic support.

“This helps to provide more value in hiring the right candidates, being able to pick the training needs, and focus on the right aspects in performance management,” Nabar said.

“And, more importantly, understand what gets the best employees ticking to ensure better retention. Th is is not a complete task, but a constant work in progress.”

Trend No. 3: Raising the quality of the workforce

Since 1933, Singapore has played a critical role in the global operations of international oil and gas company Chevron. The international products business unit, which covers Chevron’s downstream fuels businesses and joint ventures in Asia Pacific, Africa, Middle East, Pakistan and Europe, is headquartered in Singapore. Additionally, the city-state is home to Chevron’s APAC headquarters for the manufacturing, supply and trading, marketing and lubricants operations.

Chevron Upstream has a presence in Singapore through its shipping, global gas and power generation businesses.Chevron’s Asia Pacific exploration and production also has a regional office in Singapore. Other Singapore operations include shipping, global gas and power generation. At Chevron, training and development begins on the very first day and continues throughout one’s career.

While its L&D is decentralised to address organisational capability building needs by function, there are a number of focus modules that are driven from the top down. One clear example is the set of principles which act as an ethical compass that governs the way the firm works, called the “Chevron Way”.

On that note, Cecilia Sobrevinas, APAC L&D lead for Chevron, said: “The strength that harnessing workforce diversity brings to organisations is recognised as a powerful source shaping long-term business growth and sustainability.”

“As such, diversity and inclusion are integrated into and aligned with our business objectives and processes, which includes how we approach talent management and communicate safety.”

In 2015, Chevron refreshed its diversity and inclusion values as it realised how much stronger and capable it was as an organisation when it taps into the unique skills, talent and perspectives of all its employees.

To help ensure its employees understood its policies and knew how inclusion was practised throughout the organisation, Chevron provided opportunities such as diversity training, guidance on personal diversity action plans, lunchtime diversity learning sessions, and encouraged recognition for related efforts.

Using the mentorship and coaching model, senior management is closely engaged to provide insights, resources and regular reviews with senior leaders to discuss diversity progress. To further the inclusion and diversity journey in the firm’s respective geographies, Chevron leverages on employee networks through dedicated resource groups known as “Inclusion Champions”.

As such, performance is monitored through regular reviews of quantitative and qualitative data to ensure it is on track with training, and job selections. For example, every three years, Chevron will conduct a survey of its employees worldwide to understand their level of engagement; assess Chevron against the attributes of a high performance organisation; and measure the impact of its people development programmes.

This survey is supplemented by pulse surveys of its employees, and measures their progress and reinforces Chevron’s high performance behaviours. For Singapore’s leading online reservation platform, Chope Singapore, it’s currently focusing on a more structured on-the-job training rubric.

Joshua Tan, head of HR for Chope Singapore, said: “While we have a set process for multi-department exposure for new hires, and native department training processes, it still lacks a more structured framework to ensure consistency and to identify individual weaknesses in learning. “To this end, more intermediate checkpoints for learning as well as a more deliberate checklist approach towards skills and learning objectives is being introduced.”

Still in the development stage, Chope Singapore started this process in response to a few stimuli – a need for new hires to become operationally independent faster, and feedback from its employees comprising 75% Singaporeans/permanent residents and 25% expats.

For starters, Chope Singapore plans for more regular check-ins, such as at three-month intervals. On that note, Tan concluded: “I think it’s a lot about recognising that learning (and teaching) needs to be a two-way process and we need to engage the employee in how their learning is going.”

Trend No.4: Better with blended learning

Commenting on the learning and development trends observed, Sobrevinas makes a point: “With global operations, it’s not practical to rely on annual trends.”

That said, in accordance to the geographic spread of our business and learning preferences of our multi-generational workforce, we’ve moved away from traditional forms of classroom training to a more blended approach.”

For example, when it comes to developing organisational capability for its business consultants at Caltex, Chevron adopts a blended learning approach by combining classroom, virtual and coaching methodologies. Training modules are broken into more manageable content, allowing for more flexibility and fit-for-purpose to meet the specific skill requirements of the job role.

With global operations, it’s not practical to rely on annual trends.
- Cecilia Sobrevinas, APAC L&D lead for Chevron

On another note, Sobrevinas also highlighted how dedicated communities of practice will be set up to focus on a certain skill set that connects colleagues separated by geography. Not only aimed to build skills and evolve critical thinking, it leverages on best practice sharing and knowledge transfer. As for the other key trend, she highlighted how a guided experience is an effective tool in the L&D landscape.

Based on a coaching model, on-the-job training helps to build the leadership skills of a mentor, as well as accelerate the skill growth of the employee to safely execute business plans. “Th is is a structured on-the-job activity completed under the guidance of a mentor or supervisor with the objective of closing competency skill gaps or developing new skills,” she said.

Photo / 123RF

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