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Exclusive interview with Joanne Ho, chief operating officer, Fung Academy, Fung Group
1. How have you adapted your L&D strategy to engage today’s workforce?
With the increasingly Millennials and Gen Z workforce, they have started to transform the workplace in several key aspects. They emphasize on purpose of work, communities and networks, flexible work environment, and employee experiences and engagement. Our L&D strategy has been changing to address these changes.
Millennials and Gen Zeds have grown up in the internet world. So digital is almost their language. So in developing our L&D interventions, we have also been putting more attention to develop digital capability enhancement.
Another element is the importance of branding and purpose. As mentioned earlier, an organisation’s purpose is crucial to Millennials/Gen Zeds. At the Fung Group we have our purpose of improving the lives of a billion people in the supply chain and the Fung Academy is not just providing routine training and development programmes, but we have laid clearly our purpose and vision: To help accelerate the learning for the group to enable business success.
Feedback is also crucial. It’s important for Millennials/Gen Zeds to be listened to – this is part of employee engagement. So we have built in structured feedback and evaluation processes for our L&D interventions. We also build in a mixture of small and large group learning interventions, to ensure Millennials feel their voices are heard throughout learning. For example, in some of our bigger programmes, like Account Management, we pair large-group workshops with small-group coaching sessions.
For gamification, it’s found to be quite effective with the new generations (and all generations – don’t we all love a game?)
2. Would you say digitisation and gamification are the big two game changers in workplace L&D?
Yes, surely. Digitisation has transformed L&D in a number of ways:
(i) E-learning modules and platforms
(ii) Mobile learning. We have developed our mobile learning app – the WorkerApp – for our vendors/factories
(iii) Automate the L&D metrics and learning evaluation
(iv) Learning experience platform (LXP), supporting personalised learning paths by machine learning and AI to curate relevant content for learners – and provide business intelligence and analytics capabilities to enable L&D to monitor and act on learning metrics
For gamification, it’s found to be quite effective with the new generations (and all generations – don’t we all love a game?). Two years ago, we developed a board game for our logistics warehouse workers who usually have no time or appetite for classroom or online training. But with the playing of the board game during their breaks, the intervention had provided not only the training knowledge and materials, but also good opportunities for cross-team networking.
The Group’s digital learning team has also developed some online learning games for different teams, and we use games in the AI curriculum for people to learn how to lead AI projects.
What also works well in our culture is experiential learning (thinking of the card-sort simulation and boardwalk in our leadership programme) that feels like an immersive game. Even in what could be seen as factual programmes like business ethics for senior leaders, we use games to show how judgement calls are made and to discuss how we set a culture of integrity.
3. How much of Fung Academy’s L&D programmes are focused on ‘soft skills’ like emotional intelligence, conflict resolution and storytelling?
Fung Academy’s core focus is on the senior leadership team (General Manager and up) across the Fung Group. In fact we focus more on developing the leadership capabilities of our senior leaders and enhancing their core competencies: global mindset, customer focus, agility, innovation, collaboration and developing others.
4. How do persuade the boss to invest in L&D when HR budgets are tight?
This is always a big challenge for the L&D professionals. For us, we are an asset-light company – the only valuable assets we have are our people. Therefore, it’s almost in the group’s DNA that we have a strong emphasis on developing our people. Even in tough times, we actually have invested more as we believe that good and strong talents will help to develop and grow our businesses.
5. How do you get maximum benefit for your L&D spend?
It’s always difficult to measure the ROI of L&D investments. For the Fung Academy, we have our project charters for our various L&D interventions. The project charters will list clearly the purposes/objectives of the initiatives/programmes, the content, the processes, expected investments, expected deliverables and impact.
We also need a sponsor – either a business sponsor or a strategic sponsor – so as to get alignment on expected outcomes and returns. Secondly, we will keep track of the programme/initiative execution to see if they’re on track or not. Thirdly, we also set KPIs for evaluation as agreed in the project charters.
Of course, some skillsets are easier to measure than mindsets. For some L&D interventions that focus on agility, or adaptability to change, these we have to take the longer view on. For some, we can measure learning and attitude change in the short term, but have to be more inventive in measuring ROI.
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