Yap Aye Wee, Head of Learning & Development and Organisational Development, Group Human Resources, OCBC Bank, shares how the bank enabled employees to continue learning throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and its L&D plans as it transits into the 'new normal'.

Given the constantly changing environment, OCBC Bank understands that it is absolutely critical for its business models to evolve, to not only keep pace, but also to take advantage of new opportunities brought about by that change – and L&D is the backbone of this evolution.

To enable employees to continue learning throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the bank took the OCBC Campus virtual, says Yap Aye Wee, Head of Learning & Development and Organisational Development, Group Human Resources, OCBC Bank.

In the process, the bank focused on three key things – content, experience, and branding. “We had already had quite a lot of online learning content on our shelf, and in fact, many of our compulsory regulatory programmes had just been redesigned for a better learner experience. We therefore could focus on creating virtual programmes that were of topical interest,” Yap says.

It ran various programmes – from those that helped people make sense of the crisis (Economics of Coronavirus) to helping them stay resilient and well (Cultivating Emotional Resilience). A spectrum of programmes was also designed to cater to all segments of learners – from physical workout sessions where families and children were encouraged to join in, to highly technical programmes such as robotics.

“To ensure a great learning experience, technical support and well-orchestrated facilitation were key. Virtual technical support was provided to help new learners navigate the new tools,” Yap says.

The bank procured equipment for employees who did not have it so they could continue to access learning while at home. For the campus team (the team running and organising the programmes), new virtual tools for dedicated VC and webinars were set up and made available.

In terms of branding, communication with employees was done via virtual channels.

“We ran a ‘Campus goes Virtual campaign’. We themed our weekly specials: for example, The Fostering Wellness series. The current campaign is “Around the World” where our learning teams from across the OCBC group (for example, NYC, HKG, China, Myanmar) take turns to host learning specials across different time zones,” she explains.

Every change has its benefits and challenges. For OCBC, the benefit of virtual learning came in the form of being able to tap on courses conducted overseas to provide a multi-faceted, multi-cultural learning experience for employees, Yap says.

As for challenges, they were mostly related to initial teething problems, which thankfully, weren’t insurmountable. “Most of them were technical in nature, but once we all got the hang of it, it has been smooth sailing.”

Overall, the virtual courses were well-received by OCBC’s employees. In a survey of more than 700 learners across more than 20 programmes, high scores were received for all attributes, including “my peers and I contributed actively to a positive learning experience”.

“We also got positive comments on relevance, experience, convenience, and requests for more sessions.” Notably, while the pandemic helped accelerate the adoption of virtual programmes, virtual learning has always been a channel of learning at the bank’s learning and development hub. For instance, in 2018, when OCBC launched Campus on Cloud, its cloud-based learning management system, more than 10,000 online programmes were incorporated.

Now that employees have gotten the hang of virtual learning, will all courses offered by OCBC Campus be available on the virtual learning platform? Not all, Yap says.

She explains: “We believe that multi-modal channels are the way to go. While the take-up for virtual learning has been most encouraging, there is a place for learning that is sited in a physical space. We have a beautiful 10-storey campus and work is currently ongoing to reimagine learning in that space.”

Moving forward, as workplaces transit slowly into the ‘new normal’, the bank intends to remain alert to any new preferences and behaviours and adjust accordingly.

“That said, it is likely that we will continue to avail a high number of virtual programmes, and to scale that to foster a global virtual learning community – inspired by and inspiring employees across the OCBC Group,” she concludes.

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Photo / provided