Companies today devote time, effort and money into corporate training, but such training can only drive a competitive advantage if done effectively.
From digital transformation to employee engagement, Wani Azahar speaks to leaders from OSRAM, Antah Schindler, Volvo Trucks and YOTEL Singapore to identify the trends that are stirring the region’s learning.
OSRAM shines a light on leadership
In Deloitte’s report, “The Rise of the Social Enterprise”, it noted the symphonic C-suite is a new leadership model in which an organisation’s top executives play together as a team while also leading their own functional teams. With the pace and complexity of the changes in today’s environment, and the high stakes of success or failure, trends and issues can no longer be delegated or approached in silos.
One of the world’s leading sustainable lighting solutions provider, OSRAM, focuses on leadership development for different tiers – from first-time managers to senior management.
OSRAM Malaysia has seen its headcount more than double in the past five years (currently at more than 8,500 employees) – covering all major operations from business to R&D and high complexity manufacturing.
Shaun Woo, HR director of OSRAM, notes: “Such growth will require strong leaders at every level as well as strong technical competencies in human resources.”
It has two programmes curated for its leaders: the leadership development programme (LDP) consists of potential department managers to succeed director/functional head positions, while the senior leadership development programme (SLDP) participants are current directors and functional heads.
Aimed towards experiential learning, various interventions include participation in global light fairs and technology conventions; learning and sharing with invited guests who are recognised as exceptional leaders in their own fields; and professional coaching for personal leadership. The SLDP has undergone its first cycle this year, with plans in place for subsequent cycles. As a standard OSRAM practice, programmes are constantly reviewed and improved to meet the business needs of the time.
“OSRAM Malaysia has undergone tremendous growth in recent years. It is currently the largest international site for the company out of Germany encompassing all aspects of the business. Our business is global, our technology is niche. Therefore, only a strong succession pool as well as a competent senior management team with critical leadership skills, strong global business and strategic mindsets can meet expectations of the business,” Woo says.
Meanwhile, OSRAM is also embarking on a robust long-term strategy to build the technical competencies of the organisation. According to Woo, many industries globally are undergoing significant technology shifts (for example, IoT) and there is a significant gap in what’s available in the labour market versus what is needed.
Other than for its leadership career path, OSRAM Malaysia has also developed two additional career paths: the key expert career and the project management career. Woo comments: “We believe every employee is a talent. These development programmes are designed to specifically address the common gaps and expectations of the different careers,” he says.
“A holistic strategy is in place where learning is beyond the classroom setting, with other essentials such as mentoring, coaching and cross-functional exposures.”
With the OSRAM Malaysia talent development strategy implemented in phases since 2012, the programmes have grown based on business needs. Inevitably, growth brings about a set of its own challenges, including creating buy-ins among the middle to lower level management.
“It is not easy to challenge the status quo on how things are done in an organisation that has been in Malaysia for over 30 years.” He says his team took steps in getting buyins by creating small impactful wins.
“Grow in phases rather than going to the business with a huge mega project that would be perceived to be risky and impractical.” The other challenge was that knowledge required in technical competency development is niche and proprietary to OSRAM. Thus, not many existing external resources are available. For that, its HR team developed and implemented an internal trainer community programme that develops and retains competent technical experts to continuously propagate critical technical knowledge.
A holistic strategy is in place where learning is beyond the classroom setting, with other essentials such as mentoring, coaching and cross-functional exposures.
- Shaun Woo, HR director of OSRAM
Internal trainers are identified through nominations and volunteers for which they undergo a rigorous train-the-trainer programme to ensure minimum expectations are met in terms of curriculum design and facilitation skills.
“Internal training programmes are generally in the category of technical and organisation culture/leadership. Activities are planned annually to ensure these trainers are motivated. They are also rewarded based on the number of training hours they have clocked.”
OSRAM Malaysia is working closely with various local learning institutes such as KISMEC, UTAR and USM to introduce opto semiconductor-related syllabus and curriculum in those institutes. Further, OSRAM and other German companies are working with the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran Malaysia to implement a Dual Vocational Apprenticeship Programme to develop skilled technical staff .
Through such initiatives, OSRAM Malaysia obtained the highest score globally for the past two cycles in its global employees satisfaction survey (which happens every two years).
Sharing his personal take, Woo concludes: Every employee is a talent. The secret of success is to put the employee in the right place, at the right time, with the right development.
Elevating success at Antah Schindler
Having been with Schindler Group since 2006, Ashok Ramachandran, managing director of Malaysia at Antah Schindler, has taken on various intra-firm roles. Leading the Malaysia office with close to 1,000 staff , he is focused on building a pipeline so as not to lose great people.
On that note, there poses a huge challenge when it came to the firm’s blue-collared staff . He mentioned a lack of ownership to their development, a lack of commitment to career progression or were not groomed in quality and safety. To tackle all these issues, the group introduced two apprentice programmes with short and long-term goals. More on how it benefits staff , he says: “It was a fast-track for the staff . We opened up a training facility in Kuala Lumpur spanning 12,000 square feet. We hired professional trainers for these programmes, and it is now even recognised by the government as a training body.”
Since then, other organisations have become certified by it, even if they applied through the government for training. Additionally, Schindler and Selangor Human Resources Department Centre (SHRDC) had partnered for the Technical Maintenance Programme (TMP). Launched in December 2017, this 12-month programme trains apprentices in two parts – theory (three months) and practical (nine months at Schindler). To date, Schindler has trained 19 apprentices.
It was a fast-track for the staff . We opened up a training facility in Kuala Lumpur spanning 12,000 square feet.
- Ashok Ramachandran, managing director of Malaysia at Antah Schindler
“This programme aims to develop our talent pipeline for maintenance technicians, considering the lift and escalator industry is very niche; of which there are not many candidates in the market and no specific course on lift and escalator field in universities.”
Volvo Trucks drives engagement via T&D
Volvo Trucks strongly believes that engagement plays a huge role in developing the competency of employees for future roles. Lending his expertise, Lars-Erik Forsbergh, managing director at Volvo Trucks (Southeast Asia and Japan), says: “Disruptive change driven by digital technology is ongoing and companies should invest in motivating their employees to be continuously learning, pushing for skills development and being innovative.”
The evolution of technology, increasing customer demands and growing competition are urging the group to focus on developing the competence of frontline staff as a regional priority. In his view, the frontline staff is imperative to customer satisfaction, making them key to the company’s success. He reflects: “Our frontline staff are key assets, and we aim to increase their performance engagement index.”
Volvo Trucks has been investing in innovative training designs to provide learning solutions for all its employees through the Volvo Group University. A new concept that was introduced includes group talks – a session similar to “Ted Talk” experiences – where employees share their experiences and knowledge with one another on an open platform.
Disruptive change driven by digital technology is ongoing and companies should invest in motivating their employees to be continuously learning, pushing for skills development and being innovative.
- Lars-Erik Forsbergh, managing director at Volvo Trucks (Southeast Asia and Japan)
Additionally, it also holds the VISTA (Volvo International Service Training Award). An ongoing biennial competition that was started in 1957, it is the world’s largest competition for service market personnel – designed to demonstrate, develop and reward staff ’s exceptional knowledge and skills. VISTA is targeted towards its aftermarket retail roles such as technicians, parts personnel, service advisors and foremen.
VISTA is a mass training activity that helps technicians expand their knowledge and maximise their competence on customer satisfaction and teamwork. According to Forsbergh, the popularity of the programme is testament to its success. In fact, the latest edition of VISTA recorded the largest number of participants, with more than 5,200 employees being part of the programme. “One of our measures of success of VISTA is through the numbers in participation. Th is year, 231 teams were represented in Gothenburg, Sweden for the semi-finals – of which the top 40 teams progressed to the finals,” he says.
Regionally, Volvo Trucks is happy to have demonstrated achievements in the areas of talent management, leadership development, performance management and competence development. In addition, Volvo Malaysia was awarded “Employer of Choice – Silver Level” for in 2015 and 2017.
“This is a recognition for us as it demonstrates achievements in the areas of talent management, leadership development, performance management and competence development. As part of the Volvo Trucks culture, the firm continues to promote open and honest dialogue among employees and leaders,” he concludes.
YOTEL prioritises on housing digital natives
With digital transformation a big issue within the region, many companies are making it a priority to future-proof their workforce. As a tech-forward hotel, YOTEL’s HR strategy centres on attracting those who are open to different platforms of learning. Jillian Cheong, director of human resources at YOTEL Singapore, highlights how housekeeping is one of the roles often shunned by job seekers in the hospitality industry. However, it is also one of the crucial components that contribute to the hotel’s success, particularly through guest satisfaction.
She says: “We truly value our cabin crew (housekeeping department) at YOTEL, and therefore our rooms are designed to facilitate housekeeping. Meanwhile, we leverage robotics and technology to simplify and ease their workload, as well as strengthen efficiency.” She believes that virtual reality and augmented reality will be adopted to provide real-world experiential training scenarios this year.
“Through these myriad of simulation scenarios, Millennial employees will be more engaged in participating in T&D schemes to build up their confidence.”
With an aim to create a vibrant working environment at YOTEL Singapore, job scopes are designed to speak to the heart of the hospitality industry’s future, while in line with the brand’s DNA. “The journey for all our crew members starts right from the day they join. They are each given a training itinerary, which comprises both developmental and technology system training.”
As YOTEL advocates team spirit, it enforces the idea that it takes different departments to manage and operate a successful hotel. In the near future, it is looking to provide its team with opportunities to work across different markets, exposing them to various work departments.
A firm believer in curating holistic learning pathways for crew members. YOTEL also recognises that soft skills are necessary to stay relevant. As these skills are trained on the job, the hotel crafts innovative training strategies to ensure its crew members remain nimble and flexible to respond to ever-changing needs.
“Communicating and instilling our values helps to supplement our technical skills. We are constantly emphasising our 31 practices – which translates our values into practical actions and behaviours in our daily activities,” she explains. As a digital brand functioning with an online business model, YOTEL looks out for those who are digital natives at heart. According to Cheong, embracing digital means that one is open to the adoption of the Internet of Things and analytics to maximise efficiency, providing an unparalleled experience to the YOTEL guest.
“YOTEL’s guests are independent, techsavvy, value-conscious and no-frills types of travellers of the 21st century, and we are looking for like-minded individuals to join our team. Our crew has to be comfortable to be in a digital-first environment to resolve issues and are unafraid to break conventions to add value,” she says.
“Keeping true to our brand ethos of ‘everything you need and nothing you don’t’, we are focused on efficiency and productivity. With this, we would very much like to build a team of highly versatile and adaptable crew.”
Communicating and instilling our values helps to supplement our technical skills.
- Jillian Cheong, director of human resources at YOTEL Singapore
To address these priorities, crew members are trained to stretch their capabilities and explore an area of expertise or interest in which they can develop a life skill. For example, YOTEL has decided to outsource the stewarding function to other parts of the hotel, and also cross-train its stewarding crew to be proficient in culinary aspects. Following that, they are converted to cooks in less than six months.
YOTEL is also working on condensing its training materials into bite-sized pieces to facilitate absorption. “We have 30-minute crash courses and learning nuggets that are flashed on our crew TV, inculcating an inquisitive learning environment.
Crew members are encouraged to embrace their curiosity and develop relevant skills, helping them to adapt, learn and innovate.”
Through the bite-sized programmes, YOTEL has successfully engaged more than 90% of its crew members. In fact, since the implementation in October 2017, YOTEL has built a highly engaged workforce and this has allowed it to maintain a relatively low turnover rate as compared with industry standards, according to Cheong.
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