Highlights and key takeaways: Learning and Development Asia 2022

Highlights and key takeaways: Learning and Development Asia 2022

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From how leaders are driving the conversation on inclusive development, to steps leaders can take in building a culture of internal mobility, and to the key priorities for L&D teams to stay connected during a crisis, here's a quick summary of what we uncovered through the sessions.

On 27 and 28 September 2022, Human Resources Online had the pleasure of hosting the seventh edition of Learning and Development Asia - back in-person after two years!

Held at Regent Singapore, the two-day conference saw networking sessions, knowledge-packed panels, keynote sessions and case studies, and even mini interactive workshops, covering the latest trends and practices leaders and teams in Asia have been involved in (or are looking into) in the L&D space.

From how leaders are driving the conversation on inclusive development, to steps leaders can take in building a culture of internal mobility, and to the key priorities for L&D teams to stay connected during a crisis, here's a quick summary of what we uncovered through the sessions, as reported by Aditi Sharma Kalra, Arina Sofiah, and Priya Sunil.

Building a learning organisation

Rapidly evolving skills, the rise of hybrid working, and the emergence of new learning technologies have fundamentally changed learning and development in most organisations.

Our first keynote speaker of day two, Dr. Jennifer Pei-Ling Tan, Vice President, Learning and Organisation Design, OCBC Bank, highlighted macro shifts for L&D leaders to track:

  1. Macro shifts in the global people economy – Is your L&D anticipating the new geo-political economic future?
  2. Macro shifts in the human capital economy - Is your L&D anticipating and attending to new human capital behaviours?
  3. Macro shifts in the learning economy - Is your L&D anticipating and attending to new learning constitutions, aspirations, and expectations?

"Talent is the new oil. And culture is the new paycheck," she shared with a rapt audience. Those organisations where talent is valued and poised for learning see:

  • 3x higher motivation, retention, productivity in a strong learning organisation,
  • 3x innovation, profitability,
  • 4x change responsiveness.

Levelling up your workforce’s data competency

In a high-impact session, Isaac Reyes, Co-founder of StoryIQ laid the foundation for building data literacy – from things to avoid ("don’t make the mistake of cramming too much in data literacy programmes") to examples of data visualisation (through mini case examples).

He shared that 85% of C-suites agree with the following statement: "Being data literate will be as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer today."

According to Isaac, here are the nine things you must include in your organisation-wide data literacy programme:

  1. Get top-down support right from the start,
  2. Assess your organisation’s current level of data literacy (use surveys, ask how confident they are, etc., you can ask again in a year),
  3. Don’t cram too many skills into the programme (don’t go overboard with machine learning AI),
  4. Start with data storytelling,
  5. Identify and showcase at least 2 good data analytics case studies,
  6. Use a mix of adult learning methods,
  7. Give your programme strong branding,
  8. Establish a community, and
  9. Allow learners to apply learning to their own work

Engaging talent through an agile learning culture

In a panel discussion on building an agile learning culture, and expertly moderated by Isha Majithia Bhatia, Global Talent Management Lead, Standard Chartered Bank, we heard from Colin Khor, Principal, Talent & Organisational Development, AIA Singapore; Alan Lam, Solutions Engineer-APAC, Class; Zu Hui Yap (M.Ed), Head of Training Development, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF); and Grace Chan, Vice-President, Group Human Resource, UCSI Group.

In his personal views, Zu Hui categorises learners into three different types: those who are genuinely interested in learning, those who learn because of a compulsory mandate, and those who learn because they genuinely want to progress themselves. “When people learn, we must have a system to track and manage this learning structure.”

Grace highlights the importance of bite-size learning, and how it helps make L&D more interesting. Simple initiatives like a learner’s badge go a long way in engaging people. Alan agrees, and points out that with so much independent self-guided learning, how does this tie into work performance? “A huge part of it is aligning objectives of the business and learners.”

In Colin’s previous work experience, transformation is born out of crisis. This experience often leads to a steep learning curve, and allows L&D leaders to switch from traditional face-to-face to virtual and self-directed learning culture.

Panellists and moderator of this session:

  • Colin Khor, Principal, Talent & Organisational Development, AIA Singapore,
  • Alan Lam, Solutions Engineer-APAC, Class,
  • Zu Hui Yap, Head of Training Development, Singapore Armed Forces,
  • Grace Chan, Vice-President, Group Human Resource, UCSI Group, and
  • Moderator: Isha Majithia Bhatia, Global Talent Management Lead, Standard Chartered Bank.

Amplifying an internal talent marketplace

Jobs disappearing.
New jobs appearing.
New ways of working.

Is this what the future of work looks like? Well, the future is here.

Sharing his experience on the opportunities in internal mobility, through reskilling and upskilling, was Anish Lalchandani, Global Head of Talent Management, A.P. Moller - Maersk.

There are three reskilling imperatives that he advocates strongly:

  • reskilling the entire workforce (Scale),
  • on-the-job learning, learning from others (Application), and
  • aligned to people’s needs (Human-centred).

Recharging the employee experience with wellbeing at the core

In a case study session, Nathan Y Andres, Global Wellbeing Leader, The Body Shop, and lifelong wellbeing advocate, shared with the crowd about some of the ways to recharge the employee experience:

  • Wholistic approach with a lotus of wellbeing to listen and act,
  • Culture creation leveraging our activist roots,
  • Guided in three pillars of mind, body, and soul.

"In order for us to do anything as activists, we have to take care of ourselves first. When you are practising wellbeing, you are showing a sign of your own self-love, and how to make sense of your own wellbeing,” Nathan reminds us.

"In order to be a changemaker, what you need to do is build better inner strength."

Drawing on a four-step leadership development process

How do adults learn? Well, there are five conditions that Garima Kothari, Chief Executive, Leadership Trust Singapore, highlighted in her session:

  1. A safe environment,
  2. The reassurance of support,
  3. The impetus of challenge,
  4. Simultaneous integration of thinking and feeling,
  5. Continued application

The team advocates a four-step leadership development process:

  • Clear, conscious, full and accurate awareness of one's self
  • Awareness and sensitivity to other people
  • Ability to manage oneself – feelings, responses, moods and reactions
  • Skilful management of one's relationship with other people

Garima shared: "Leadership development is best served when it combines a powerful, real emotional experience of leading and being led with a clear and compelling explanation that makes sense of the experience for each individual."

Three key priorities for L&D teams to stay connected during a crisis

Staying connected during the pandemic (how many of them do you agree with?):

  • Need for social interaction and engagement remained high
  • Technology as an enabler to keep our employees connected
  • Differences between virtual vs physical interaction emerged (e.g. virtual lunch)
  • Keeping learners engaged – how?

In our post-tea break session, John Augustine Ong, Head of Learning and Development, SGX Group, laid out the three key priorities for L&D professionals against the backdrop of the above developments:

  1. Opportunity (Education) - holistic learning framework, leadership development, professional development and technical capabilities
  2. Accessibility (Exposure) - making learning effortless and easily accessible through multiple learning platforms
  3. Applicability (Experience) - promoting a work-based learning culture and better integration of learning to work based on the 70:20:10 principle.

Lessons L&D teams can learn from digital marketing

In the next session, Arthur Koo, AVP, Learning & Development, IHH Healthcare, took on the challenge of sharing lessons from digital marketing with a room full of L&D professionals – and succeeded!

"Data is omnipotent. Acting upon data is the only effective way to make informed marketing decisions. If you know and understand your data, you can adjust your marketing accordingly."

Against that backdrop, he advised that AI in learning can support in a host of ways:

  • personalised and targeted learning recommendations
  • measuring training effectiveness
  • learning analytics and insights

Making learning impactful for a multigenerational workforce

Our last session of the conference was a micro-workshop on hosted by Lawrence Chan, Director (FVP), Learning and Development Asia, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation.

As Lawrence pointed out to the audience – we're L&D folks, but we’re also salespersons, whether we’re selling an idea at work, or a dinner date decision to our partner. And that perspective, he shared, should form the basis of our learning design.

He said: "The right thing is to approach it [learning interventions] like a sale – you are selling L&D solutions to your stakeholders. Why create a product and then chase the market, when you can involve them in the creation and delivery of the product?"

Raising the bar on skills development & employee engagement

Kickstarting day one of the conference was a fireside chat with Amazon Web Services' Sandra Teh, Chief Culture Evangelist, who shared about the fundamentals that raise the bar on skills development & employee engagement at AWS:

  • Listening to employees and teams, and keeping an open mind to every idea they share. The company’s SheBuilds programme, for instance, was born from an employee’s idea!
  • It’s important to continuously motivate and encourage employees, and ensure upskilling and reskilling opportunities are always in abundance.
  • Keep the conversation going with the leadership team, and people managers.
  • The 70/90 rule - if you have 70% of the ingredients and confidence, go ahead and do it. Don’t wait until you are 90% sure.

Teh also affirmed the importance of continuously motivating and encouraging employees, and ensuring upskilling and reskilling are always in abundance. Keep the conversation going with leaders and people managers too.

These, she shared, are the cornerstone of culture.

Enhancing leadership capability in developing future leaders

How do you ensure leadership buy-in when implementing a leadership development programme? Here are some tips shared by the panellists in one of our panel discussions:

  • Make learning bite-sized, for the time-pressed leader.
  • Carry out learning consulting – find out the skills leaders need and are looking for; and the kind of learning they seek. This, one speaker said, is a great way to encourage buy-in.
  • Cultivate a culture of trust – when it starts from the top, it sets the example for the rest of the organisation.

Additionally, when it comes to ROI, one key way to measure the success or returns on a programme is to look for observable change – for instance, how they apply the skills acquired in real-life situations.

Another way, we learnt, is to measure their readiness for succession - if you have a strong succession pipeline and a strong leadership development programme, then look at how ready your leaders are for their next role after undergoing the programme.

Panellists and moderator of this session:

  • Manas Mainrai, Head of Enterprise Business, APAC, Emeritus;
  • Lisa Askwith, Chief People Officer, Love, Bonito;
  • Arthur Lam, Director, Global Learning & Development, Asia, Micron Technology, and
  • Moderator: Benjamin Cheng, Learning and Development Lead, NEC Asia Pacific.

Making hybrid learning more effective

Think about the last time you needed to figure out a new Excel formula at work or troubleshoot a plumbing problem at home? You probably YouTubed it. Chances are, it wasn’t a polished training presentation, but a self-recorded DIY video.

"Video is the new standard for engaging and effective learning," affirmed Christophe Randy, Vice President Asia Pacific, Panopto.

"What’s more, in this distributed environment, employees have also come to expect flexibility and choice in how they communicate and collaborate in the workplace. It comes as no surprise that video has undoubtedly become the foundation for working and learning in a hybrid world," he added.

According to research cited by Christophe, 78% of L&D professionals agree that most learning is not used after the programme is conducted.

Further research also showed that most L&D teams (81%) don’t have data to show that they are making a difference in their organisation.

And with virtual and hybrid work now all too common even as organisations are trying to return to some sense of normalcy, video and virtual learning have become all the more important as the new standard for engaging and effective training.

But it poses its own challenges – resistance to self-directed learning, and making learning applicable across borders.

In tackling these, L&D teams can leverage technology deeper, and encourage employees through sharings & case studies of those who have benefitted from it.

Driving the shift to employee-centred, active learning

In today’s talent landscape, leaders are faced with two challenges that are at odds, but urgent to resolve: employees are struggling to make time for upskilling, yet lack of career development is a key reason they cite for leaving the organisation.

How can L&D teams address this?

One way, Fitrah Muhammad, Regional Director, Asia, Coursera shared, is to allow learners to learn in the flow of their work. For instance, by making learning bite-sized so they can learn on the go and in between their tasks.

For the audience's benefit, he highlighted the major digital disruptors in the industry and key talent trends:

  • A digital-first strategy for a digitally-enabled customer: 54% of people say they use digital banking services even more due to the pandemic and reported that it saves time and provides an easier way to manage their finances.
  • Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing: Operations-intensive sectors such as manufacturing have 1.3x the automation potential of many other sectors, using technology that has already been developed.
  • Business are paying heavily for tech skills: Singapore employers from the banking and finance sector are willing to entice potential new entrants with increments of up to 25%, especially if these candidates are also holding multiple concurrent offers.
  • Hybrid workplace model is here to stay: 6 out of 10 firms surveyed in April 2022 said that they would retain their present hybrid work arrangements, while one said that its employees would continue with remote work completely.

The talent gap is only widening: There is a growing number of unfulfilled jobs due to a skill mismatch. Among nearly 700 professionals surveyed, almost a third (31%) said they were thinking of leaving their job even though they didnʼt have another one lined up.

Overall, as we learnt from the session, workplace learning must drive business goals:

• It must involve measurable, role-based skills development
• Virtual training and hybrid teams should be the new default
• Companies must build diverse talent pipelines
• Bring on L&D as a talent partner

Creating opportunities for inclusive development

In today’s fragmented world, creating developing opportunities suited to the different needs of employees is challenging. L&D professionals have to take great care in navigating a landmine of new biases and inequalities.

As such, Lisa Low, Regional Talent Management Director, Asia, Carlsberg Group set us out on the SAIL ‘27 journey, the company’s five-year plan for the future workforce.

"What’s important to set sail? Crew. A happy boat is a fast boat,” she said. She spoke about addressing the varied needs and preferences of employees, and developing the entire workforce through effective design and delivery of an inclusive learning programme.

This is done through: a purpose-driven culture, the right skills & talents, leadership capability, and inclusive & diverse teams.

The leaders drive a performance-based culture where everyone delivers today, whilst taking care of tomorrow, through a focus on actions such as:

  • Setting stretch objectives linked to the company strategy,
  • Rewarding performance by clearly differentiating between high-performers and others,
  • Leading with care, by being a role model of purpose, pride, and performance.

Placing greater focus on internal training expertise

One of our post-lunch sessions of the day was a mini-workshop hosted by Standard Chartered Bank's Suman Sharma, Head of Non Mandatory Learning People Capability. In this engaging session, he led the discussion with the audience on how L&D teams can raise the bar on internal training expertise, where the challenge admittedly is more about making the workforce understand the importance of building skills in the flow of work.

In Suman’s personal view, context is more important than content. "When you look at building any capability, traditionally we are very skewed towards picking up content in isolation. There are tons of great courses out there – but what’s going to make the difference in the organisation if you really want to drive performance?

"Before putting the content out there, identify your context," he reminded us. 

Cultivating a culture of internal mobility

In the second-last session of the day one, Sureish Nathan, Managing Director, LHH, took the stage to share how leaders can multiply the positive impact of a culture that enables internal mobility.

"When we think about the transition and flux in the market, and leaders not getting the right training to coach their people, it gives us pause for cause. There is no question that our talent is key to whether our organisations succeed or fail," he pointed out.

"But that responsibility is a shared one," he highlighted.

In that vein, he stressed that leaders, employees, and the organisation must all pull together in the same direction. "If you take out either one of these parts, the model falls apart. It's a perfect triangle where each one plays a significant role in the outcome you’re trying to drive towards.”

The five steps (and some sample action items) to building a culture that supports internal mobility, as he shared, are:

  1. Leadership culture and mindset
    • Define what Future Success Looks Like
    • Walking the Talk on Internal Mobility
    • Leaders as Talent Champions, Mentors (skip-level mentoring) and Connectors
  2. Build Career Coaching Skills in Leaders
    • Leaders must drive regular developmental conversations
    • Organisations must provide opportunities for leaders to develop their coaching skills
    • Use a structured and consistent approach for developing short / long-term goals
  3. Formalise a strategic framework for internal mobility
    • The framework should organise activities and resources to drive career mobility actions
  4. Forecast and Promote Career Mobility Opportunities
    • Build a career lattice for your people
    • Encourage employees to seek different opportunities
    • Non-linear career development grows readiness for future roles
  5. Empower Your Employees
    • Ensure employees share the responsibility & take accountability for their career development
    • Provide access to career coaching and mentors
    • Provide relevant "self-service" resources to promote career options and build a plan of action

Elevating the role of CLOs as business strategic partners

"Leaders cannot be trained. They are developed over time. Just like good wine, they mature over time," said our final speaker of day one, Richmond Kok, Corporate Director, Learning and Talent Development, Capella Hotels and Resorts.

He urged the audience to think about how learning practitioners can be business partners by looking at the P&L, and consulting all our different stakeholders, making a case to sustain the training budget.

Human Resources Online would like to thank all speakers, panellists, and moderators for their immense time and mind space invested in leading the industry conversations. We would also like to thank all sponsors & partners for putting their innovative might behind this event and supporting HRO all the way:

  • Gold sponsors 
    • Coursera for Business
    • LHH
    • Panopto
    • StoryIQ
  • Silver sponsors
    • Class
    • Emeritus
    • Leadership Trust Singapore
  • Exhibitor
    • NUS

Photos / Learning and Development Asia 2022, held at Regent Singapore

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