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Grow your people, grow your business

Learning is a continual journey for organisations such as Reebonz, NEC Asia Pacific, Singapore Maritime Foundation, and the Marketing Institute of Singapore, as documented in this feature by Wani Azahar.

With Singapore’s union body NTUC adding S$100million to its education and training fund, and the Malaysian government in the process of mainstreaming the Technical and Vocational Education Training as part of its 2020 vision, firms across Asia understand that learning is a continual journey. Human Resources learns how Reebonz, NEC Asia Pacific, Singapore Maritime Foundation, and the Marketing Institute of Singapore, are equipping their brightest minds with skills for the future.

Making a mark in authentication

With eight offices across the region, including Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, Reebonz is a household name when it comes to luxury e-commerce. Devoted to building a culture of entrepreneurship that allows its staff to be innovative in problem-solving, Reebonz’s HR team is known as “the Connectors”.

Launched in 2015, the Atelier’s Workshop was developed as a way to keep its staff up to date with the latest in authentication technology and to allow them hands-on practical sessions to fully immerse themselves in the restoration of not just luxury bags, but other luxury products.

Offering specialised in-house programmes, Reebonz is proud of its Atelier’s Workshop which trains merchandisers on authentication.

“People are our best assets and understanding what our employees want will ultimately allow the business to achieve to its goals."
- The Connectors, Reebonz

As part of this, Reebonz sends its artisans to leather restoration workshops overseas, while employees are sent to conferences and study trips such as the one recently organised by the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies to the Alibaba University in Hangzhou.

On a bigger scale, the workshop identifi es the list of skills and knowledge that Reebonz employees need to meet the demands of the competitive market. While its size varies according to the number and job scope of staff , it runs across three days and includes training, practical and theory tests.

The Connectors commented: “As we continue to grow the luxury ecosystem, there will be a growing trend of consumers that will sell their pre-owned products to purchase new products and consumers who look into buying pre-owned products simply because of their rarity or investment value evident across Hermès Birkins and Chanel bags.” “It became pertinent for us to build the trust in our platform for buying and selling authenticated pre-owned luxury and we decided to build in-house capabilities in this area – training our staff in the skills of authenticating products across leather bags, timepieces and jewellery.”

Following the workshops, staff say their skills in authentication are broadened to include not just bags, but shoes, jewellery and timepieces.

“This also enforces a deeper understanding of the pre-owned market for our staff to ensure that our organisational goals are met,” the Connectors said.

To date, around 15 staff have been trained under this programme to which Reebonz has consistently conducted tests to ensure the retention of information.

Reebonz has also seen three key trends in the L&D landscape this year – mobile, on-thejob and blended learning. Using the workshop as an example, the team said it helps staff to push the boundaries of what they can achieve both professionally and personally in their area of work.

“People are our best assets and understanding what our employees want will ultimately allow the business to achieve to its goals. People who are passionate about their jobs will constantly seek ways to innovate and improvise what they do, and this is the kind of mindset that Reebonz hopes to cultivate in all its employees.”

Developing talent for the future

As a leading ICT provider, NEC Asia Pacific constantly keeps an eye on the company’s current and future business needs, with NEC APAC in Singapore serving as the regional headquarters for NEC Corporation.

In this regard, NEC APAC management has implemented an initiative called the “NEC Talent Development Programme” (TDP), launched in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

Aimed to attract young graduates to join NEC to build a future talent pipeline, the identified talent goes through an accelerated career path to enable them to reach management level, which also helps the company with its succession planning.

The TDP is a company-wide initiative that involves active participation from senior management as well as the HR team.

During the planning stages, it engages with stakeholders, including senior management, to identify a list of mentors and department heads from the corporate support functions to participate. Trainees are rotated across its business units to gain different skill sets and exposure to the various job environments.

Jonathan Tan, vice-president for regional HR at NEC APAC, said: “Mentors are identified by the respective business heads to develop a structured training programme in discussion with the trainee.

“The programme also includes a three-month overseas assignment at one of our offices within Asia or Oceania for regional exposure.” To create its presence in the educational institutions, NEC holds on-campus recruitment activities and networks with the deans and career advisors.

For these talent recruitment drives, NEC is looking to partner institutions of higher learning such as National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore Institute of Technology.

In fact, it organised a career fair in October 2016 with NUS, complete with interactive sessions and networking with the current students as well as alumni from the NUS School of Computing and Faculty of Engineering.

“As this was the first time that NEC ran a TDP, there were many unknown aspects such as the talent acquisition process, selection criteria, suitability of training plans provided, type of rotation plans, identifi cation of dedicated mentors and more,” Tan said.

“Through intensive research, we managed to develop the most suitable programme in line with the company’s vision and core values.” NEC makes it a point to hold meetings regularly with all stakeholders to manage expectations and to establish a common understanding. Furthermore, EDB has been providing great support to NEC APAC to drive the programme, including co-funding support to build its future talent pipelines.

By placing graduates in different departments, it has allowed them to bring in fresh ideas and provide valuable suggestions to help improve the organisation as a whole. In fact, NEC recruited the first batch of six graduate trainees in January 2017, with three more joining in July.

While they get proper guidance from the firm’s dedicated mentors and go through a structured training programme, it helps the firm’s experienced staff as well. The group has to examine and rethink how they currently do things.

“Being a mentor is also a good way of cultivating management skills and it provides a leadership role in grooming talent. Above all, it aims to increase employee engagement and staff satisfaction for both the mentor as well as the trainee,” Tan said.

NEC is also proud to be the pioneer batch of Human Capital Partners (HCP) to receive the HCP Mark from Minister Lim Swee Say earlier this year.

As part of the HCP, it is able to better drive its recruitment efforts and create awareness in the marketplace.

“Being a mentor is also a good way of cultivating management skills and it provides a leadership role in grooming talent." 
Jonathan Tan, vice-president for regional HR. NEC APAC

Additionally, NEC APAC has signed the employers’ pledge to show its commitment to promote fair and progressive employment practices and tapped on TAFEP’s various resources/publications to help implement these practices.

Tan concluded: “We will continue to work with TAFEP to leverage on their resources to build talent capabilities across leaders in NEC.” Shipping scholars towards excellence With the shipping industry carrying 90% of the world trade, it is understandable for such an industry closely linked to the global economy to have faced many challenges over the past few years.

With so many positions to fi ll, and yet suffering from some of the biggest retrenchments, there’s not a more important time than now to close the skills gap.

With much progress in the areas of technology, some of the recent trends in maritime include developments in information technology, cyber security, as well as data analytics, according to the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF).

As the industry prepares for greater mobility and automation, employees will have to develop an understanding of interpreting data as well as identifying related risk factors based on collected data, it added.

On that note, SMF introduced the MaritimeONE (Outreach NEtwork), an outreach initiative, in 2007. Led by four industry partners – MPA, SMF, Association of Singapore Marine Industries, and the Singapore Shipping Association – it includes a scholarship programme to raise awareness of the maritime industry.

Targeted at students who are intending to pursue a tertiary level education, or who are currently studying at tertiary levels, the programme aims to attract and nurture young talent for the future of the maritime industry in Singapore.

Under the scholarship, scholars gain a first-hand experience of the industry by networking with maritime leaders or past scholars through events such as the Industry Welcome Reception.

For scholars who are new to the industry or to the programme, SMF also organises the scholar induction programme to help them grow their network and forge strong relationships with their peers from the programme.

With many MaritimeONE scholarship sponsors coming from varying industries, scholars are able to receive a diverse range of education and training.

Scholars who were not bonded to their sponsoring companies have also actively pursued a career in the maritime industry and have since stayed on.

In fact, it has awarded a total of 312 MaritimeONE scholarships worth more than $8.2 million since its establishment in 2007.

SMF commented: “Progress has been good so far; with the increase in the number of sponsoring companies, there has been greater communication and synergy between SMF and the maritime industry.

“This has helped facilitate the team’s work in preparing scholars for their first steps into the industry.”

Tapping on diversity issues, it has also seen a significant increase in the number of female scholars since the start of 2007; a 42.8% increase on average over a period of 10 years.

Through the course of their studies, scholars will gain exposure to all sectors of the industry, ranging from port to shipping, maritime services, offshore and marine engineering.

“Identifi ed students also get to attend learning journeys to the ports and the shipyards to learn what goes on ‘behind-the-scenes’ in the transportation of our goods such as raw materials and our daily necessities,” SMF explained.

In addition, soon-to-graduate scholars also get to meet others with similar values and diverse backgrounds in maritime through its young executives and students club.

Together with the recently launched Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office, employers are given the opportunity to link up with job seekers.

The MSC Office is a unit that serves to connect maritime employers, industry associations, the government and schools with students, job seekers and the general public.

For example, in the course of MSC Offi ce’s engagements with the HR of maritime companies, SMF has observed that employers are interested to hire job seekers from various disciplines. However, the challenge is two-fold.

Sharing industry insights, SMF said: “Some people do not consider a maritime career because they do not know anything about the industry, and the sense is that it is not something that is open to them, since they had not studied something related to maritime in school.

“Other times, the candidate may hesitate to join as he or she would prefer to join a sector that is more familiar to them (for example, a business studies graduate choosing to join a bank).

“It is important as employees should, through employee education, continuously improve their skills to develop themselves in their careers.”

Matching up in marketing

Having nurtured more than 50,000 sales and marketing practitioners through its professional learning and development programmes, Marketing Institute of Singapore (MIS) has seen the changing needs of employee education throughout the years.

Employees were traditionally sent for training and/or education primarily to help them overcome inadequacies in their competencies or skill sets.

However, the rationale has always been driven largely by commercial objectives such as raising productivity, market share and profitability, according to MIS.

Speaking to Human Resources, Christina Ho, head of executive development services at MIS, said: “We’ve observed an increasing trend where firms have taken a nurturing approach in developing their employees towards excellence, for work as well as personal goals.

“The paradigm shift is largely due to managing a younger and dynamic Millennial workforce – a group with very distinctive characteristics which are shaped by the new digital economy.

“Employee education, be it internal or external, will be the norm moving forward to enhance engagement and humanising employee experiences.”

According to MIS, a well-structured L&D framework allows matrixes to be used easily in quantifying the ROI of learning and development.

Companies who are known to be “people-developers” are highly committed in doing this; ROI is monitored and tracked with a long-term view, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Many companies lack the know-how or consistency because there are always other priorities, limitation on resources and/or lack of support from the management, according to Ho.

“Employee education, be it internal or external, will be the norm moving forward to enhance engagement and humanising employee experiences.”
- Christina Ho, head of executive development services at MIS

With that said, MIS is experiencing a huge uptake in its series of marketing courses, particularly those relating to digital marketing, from across all industries.

Both foundational and advanced classes are having huge traction from companies and self-sponsored individuals alike.

Added Ho: “Automation and the new digital economy has totally reshaped the workplace; we are so digitally connected both as an employee as well as a consumer.”

“This iceberg will continue to grow and get bigger, weighing down on business performances and bottom-lines.

“Developing digital capabilities is a necessity to survive and people are coming to terms with that.”

Photo / 123RF

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