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Equipping employees with future-proof skills
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Equipping employees with future-proof skills

 This article is brought to you by SkillsFuture.

In this feature, we speak to PwC Singapore, and Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, recipients of the SkillsFuture Employer Awards, on how they are upskilling their talent for the future. We also hear from Josephine Chua, a SkillsFuture Fellow, on her pursuit of continuous learning and what drives her.

With a rapidly evolving global economic landscape, comes a range of challenges posed to companies and individuals – with the key being to remain competitive amid it all. This is particularly so, given the findings from a recent study by PwC that one in three businesses in Singapore are planning to reduce headcount (31%) due to automation, while 22% of businesses are substantially changing employees’ roles.

That means one thing – providing the right skills that will prepare employees for the future. And when employers seek new avenues to hone these skills, one avenue they turn to is SkillsFuture – a name so familiar to Singaporeans of all backgrounds, and one that is synonymous with the national continuous learning movement.

In this feature, we zoom into the experiences of two employers – PwC Singapore, and Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park.

Both are recipients of the SkillsFuture Employer Awards, which honours exemplary organisations that champion employees’ skills development and build a lifelong learning culture at the workplace. These awards are open to SMEs and non-SMEs. The latter also saw one of its employees receive the SkillsFuture Fellowships, which honour individuals as masters of skills and mentors of talent.

PwC Singapore

Given the impact of digitalisation on developing tomorrow’s workforce, Jovi Seet, Human Capital Leader, PwC Singapore, says: “We recognise there is a growing mismatch between the skills people have and those needed for the digital world, and so, we need to do our part to help our people upskill to stay relevant for the future.”

To address this shift, the team identified several key skills that would be relevant for the digital future – data analytics skills, data literacy skills and data visualisation skills. “As tasks that are repeatable and rule-based become increasingly automated, individuals doing these tasks will need to move to different roles that are more strategic and these roles will require more ‘human’ skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and effective communication,” Seet explains.

When it came to communicating this shift to employees, the key lay in the hands of the firm’s leaders.

“They ‘walked the talk’ by encouraging the increased adoption of digital tools in their daily work, allowing staff to experience the practical benefits of technology in their everyday work.” Communications were supplemented with a multi-channel approach to building internal awareness through events (such as town halls), regular newsletters and emails. In doing so, when concerns arise, they are evaluated and addressed on a case-by-case basis, typically by way of group/individual coaching.

The learning toolbox: What learning and development tools did PwC Singapore undertake to hone these skills in employees? For one, the firm conducted internal training related to soft skills and technical knowledge, ranging from business writing and presentation skills to regulatory updates. The firm also provides sponsorships and co-funding opportunities for employees who attend relevant courses such as those approved by SkillsFuture Singapore.

To supplement classroom learning, the company also has on-the-go learning tools such as “Vantage” and the Digital Fitness App, which provide employees with easy access to learning materials pertaining to self or professional growth. “For example, if an individual would like to enhance their skills in data analytics, they can search for resources on data analytics or tap on existing data analytics playlists on Vantage and watch/listen to/read the resources at their convenience,” Seet says.

To date, 2,450 employees in the firm have undergone the eight-hour classroom Digital Academy training session, which is an introduction to three digital tools.

“These individuals should now be able to perform basic data cleansing, data visualisation and elements of robotics process automation.”

To get here, the firm had some challenges along the way. For instance, given the varied levels of skills and knowledge of employees, the team faced a challenge understanding how to cater to this wide range of needs.

To tackle this, before the team ran its Digital Academy training, it organised focus groups with leaders and staff to deep-dive into what it thought they needed and how it could help them overcome these needs. Through that, it managed to curate the academy’s training materials to remain at a level that would be relevant to people of different roles, business units and skill levels.

Apart from the above, another challenge the firm faced was how to balance the need for training with the demands of work. “Individuals must be given space to attend trainings, and leadership buy-in was required to ensure individuals had the right support and resources to attend training and upskill,” he explains.

To address this, he and his team worked together with the leaders to make training a KPI, proving how dedicated the team was in giving everyone the opportunity to grow.

Based on this experience, Seet believes organisations should first understand what is required of the business and understand how upskilling fits into the business strategy. “In particular, there must be buy-in from the leadership and not just to execute the programme, but to allow their people to take time off work to attend trainings and to actively use their new skills at work,” he says.

“When implementing an upskilling programme, organisations need to factor in the current competencies of employees, make learning a priority (such as by turning upskilling into a KPI), as well as provide support to those who may be less well-equipped.”

This hard work paid off, with the team earning the SkillsFuture Employer Awards in 2019.

Jovi Seet, Human Capital Leader, PwC Singapore
Jovi Seet, Human Capital Leader, PwC Singapore

Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park

Over at Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, the need for upskilling was prompted by digitalisation, the influence of social media, a growing trend in technology such as AI, as well as the ever-changing buying trends and behaviours of different generations.

Specifically, the firm was most in demand of skills such as big data analytics, eCommerce, strategic thinking skills, an understanding of changing customer satisfactions, and more, shares Josephine Chua, Director of Human Resources and Quality. In communicating this need to employees, Chua and her team made use of daily briefings, monthly meetings, and an annual appraisal system to facilitate understanding. Additionally, the team also had one-on-one meetings, and staff dialogue sessions.

Active learning engagement: In line with the need for the above skills, and in support of the SkillsFuture movement, the hotel introduced a series of learning and engagement initiatives for employees. Through these, employees had the opportunity to be enrolled in SkillsFuture-supported courses; the SkillsFuture Work-Study degree programme run by the Singapore Institute of Technology in 2018; and the SkillsFuture Work-Study Post-Diploma, among others.

Further, the hotel also implemented skills development programmes based on the Skills Framework for Hotel and Accommodation Services.

On the journey towards these concrete initiatives, the firm faced the issue of insufficient resources to manage the analysis of employees’ learning needs and needed to gain the support of all stakeholders. Given the tightening of the dependency ratio ceiling in Singapore, the firm saw the need to work even closer with the government to ensure resources to service the business. The firm also makes it a point to address the varied needs of different generations, and employees of different abilities, with on-the-job training, coaching, as well as formal training.

More importantly, Chua stresses: “There is no one-size-fits-all; some programmes may be implemented through a standard platform to all, while some are customised to suit the individual departments such as Ascott’s in-house course for handling difficult customers. On the other hand, some programmes are also put in place to reach out to the target age group, such as the SkillsFuture Digital Advice Workshop.”

With the backing of such intensive learning campaigns, Chua says the organisation has been able to meet its training goals, while providing customers with quality deliverables. Employees have also been promoted in the process, while staff retention and engagement have exceeded the industry norm.

SkillsFuture Fellowships

The SkillsFuture Fellowships honour individuals as masters of skills and mentors of future talent. It is open to Singapore citizens with at least 10 years of working experience in the same (or related) industry or job function. Each recipient will get a monetary award of S$10,000 to continue their pursuit of skills mastery.

SkillsFuture Employer Awards

The SkillsFuture Employer Awards honour exemplary organisations that champion employees’ skills development and build a lifelong learning culture at the workplace. The awards comprise the SME and non-SME categories.

Josephine Chua’s journey towards the SkillsFuture Fellowships

priya mar 2020 josephine chua provided resized
Josephine Chua, Director of Human Resources and Quality

Q What inspired you to pursue the journey of continuous learning?

It was the ability to pass on the knowledge I’ve gained, as well as seeing talent develop a wealth of knowledge, and growing in their careers. Did you face any setbacks along the way? Gaining the confidence and support from stakeholders – management, employees, staff. To overcome this, I made it a point to plan, propose, present and communicate; discuss any concerns; and make it inclusive.

Q What, in your view, are the key skills of a mentor?

Open-minded and a great listener. Despite the knowledge the mentor brings along, it is important to provide a conducive ambience for mentees.

Q Having received the fellowship award, how do you hope to continue your learning journey going forward?

I am very clear of the direction I am pursuing, way back since 2010. It is about the transfer of learning and coaching people. I have already completed one of the key programmes in the award submission: the Emergenetics Profiling Certification. As soon as I received the award in July 2019, I went for the programme in October the same year.

Today, as a certified Emergenetics associate, I am able to help people know about their preferences and blind spots, and use this knowledge to help them in their careers and to collaborate better with others.

I have also already enrolled for the next programme, namely the Neuro-Linguistic Programming training with Coachology, which will take place in March, in line with my holistic aspiration to help people grow.

Q Lastly, which quote inspires you when the going gets tough?

I am a self-motivator and self-driver. My own quote in life to inspire me to remain active in the industry to coach talent is: “Coach talent, catalyse the next generation, and create the momentum for talent to thrive in their career and lives.”

Lead image / 123RF
Jovi Seet’s image / Seet’s session at SSGXHRO Conversations, 15 January 2020
Josephine Chua’s image / provided

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