Cara Reil, SingTel’s vice-president of talent and leadership development, explains to Rebecca Lewis why the company is looking to restructure one of its prestige training programmes.

While SingTel has “the full range of offerings” when it comes to corporate training, its more robust offerings for high potential talent are the pride of the company.

Across SingTel and its wholly owned entities and associates, the company has invested in two flagship programmes specific to high performing talent, which started about four years ago.

The Regional Leadership in Action (RLA) and the Game for Global Growth (GGG) programmes are two separate, but equally important investments in growing the company’s leadership capabilities and overall knowledge of the industry.

“People know these are prestige programmes,” says Cara Reil, SingTel’s vice-president of talent and leadership development. “We’ve basically lined up our training – our soft skills training is lined up by our levels of leadership, we’ve got various levels of management training, and then we have these special set of training programmes specific to our high potential talent pool.”

These programmes are cross-regional and aim to incorporate a diverse group of high potential talent from different business units, functions and countries.

The exposure and learning potential is incredibly high but, as Reil explains, SingTel is looking to revise one of its programmes this year after uncovering some difficulties within the framework.

Getting started

Before the implementation of the GGG and RLA, SingTel had a programme where it was partnered with a different vendor.

“This was great, but it was more leadership-based and I think what we recognised back then is that we needed to add in more of a focus within the industry,” Reil says.

While the previous programmes were effective, Reil says HR and the company felt they were simply too generic and they were looking for something more bespoke to the industry.

Training for high performers

Thus, the GGG and RLA programmes were borne out of partnership with a number of new vendors.

The RLA is typically targeted at first level managers and “emerging leaders”, while the GGG is aimed at future leaders from a more senior pool of talent, who are typically leading other managers or heading up a department.

“Both programmes are just for our high performing leaders; people that are selected from our talent pool. They are not just from our SingTel and Optus businesses, but also from our associates, so they’re truly regional programmes.”

Both are offered once a year – the RLA is a five-day course open to up to 35 top talent, while the GGG is spread over two weeks, with a six-month gap in the middle, offered to up to 25 top talent.

The training covers everything from developing a strategy to consumer-focused elements, as well as a focus on the intercultural aspect and managing virtual teams, which aims to cement SingTel’s very regional focus.

“The thing that’s interesting is that typically in other organisations I’ve worked in, these programmes have really been just around leadership competencies, whereas these are a combination of leadership development as well as bringing in elements of what’s happening in the industry.

This is really critical for us because the industry is moving very quickly and quite dramatically. So we’re giving them a view of what’s actually happening in the industry and where it is headed.
The cross-border integration of these programmes is important because shifting people around the various businesses is part of SingTel’s talent management strategy.

During the courses, top talent are brought together and put into cohorts with one another to work on action-learning projects. In the GGG, the diverse groups are given a real-life business problem to solve together. These action-learning teams are then given the chance to present their ideas to senior executives.

“The people we send to the RLA and GGG are already in our talent pool, so they’re also probably the people we’d be looking to move to one of these other countries for their development.”

While getting exposure to other business units and networking is an obvious advantage, Reil says over the years the programme has highlighted a very real issue.

Time for a review?

Because of this issue, SingTel is looking into revising the GGG programme.

“One of the challenges is the action-learning teams were cross-functional and across business units, and so we’d have someone from Australia working with someone from India and someone in Thailand,” she says.

“And it could be a person working in a networks group, someone in finance and someone in the business group working on a consumer problem, for example.”

Because of the six-month gap between trainings, the employees are left to carry on their networking and ideas through virtual teams.

Reil says the challenge has been making it easy for employees to work in these virtual teams in addition to their current jobs.

“It’s just that much more effort. If you could get some people together every now and then, then they might find it easier, but of course we want them to work on the cross-functional groups because that’s the benefit.

“But, in some cases it worked out well and in other cases it was a real challenge.”

Other than geographical difficulties, Reil says working across the various businesses made it clear some companies under SingTel are more advanced in their development than others.

Where Singapore and Australia are quite advanced, in other entities it’s still maturing. Potentially, we may change how those action-learning programmes are done.
While Reil says it’s too early to discuss exactly how this will be done, she says the company fully understands the benefits that action-learning projects bring.

“When you’re trying to do this across the region with people from different types of businesses and different functions with different levels of maturity, it becomes very complex to manage. It becomes difficult to ensure you’re going to get a good result for the business and for the employee.”

The key thing is ensuring employees get the needed development through working on a real-life project and a full or partial solution to the problem for the company.

Results and lessons

Despite the questions surrounding the GGG, there are many positive aspects to both programmes, the biggest being the networking between employees.

“Additionally, they’re learning from each other,” Reil says. “Because the industries are at different levels of maturity and there are different market conditions, there’s just a lot of learning from the networking and interaction in the room.”

One success, which has also been a challenge, has been discovering attendees of the GGG have been rolling out some of the learned concepts within their own business units, meaning the next round of high potentials who come in for the programme have already been exposed to it.

“They’d say, ‘We’ve already heard that one’ because their boss has brought it back last year after he went to GGG.

“So we’ve had to make sure we’re keeping up with the content and refreshing it constantly, but this is actually a success, because if they didn’t think it was relevant they wouldn’t have taken it back to their group.”