How Shell is powering the leaders of tomorrow by developing diverse talent
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How Shell is powering the leaders of tomorrow by developing diverse talent

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A framework that caters not just to leaders and emerging talent, but equally to critical roles, backed by open and frequent conversations, is at the heart of Shell’s leadership development programmes, Ernest Lee, Head of HR, Shell Companies in Singapore and Indonesia, tells us.

In today’s market, talents have choices. People move on not just for higher salaries or better employment terms and conditions, but also for a sense of purpose. Global energy player Shell believes in the need to be transparent with employees in terms of development, expectations of leaders, their performance, and their potential.

In this conversation with Ernest Lee, Head of HR, Shell Companies in Singapore and Indonesia, facilitated by the experts from TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices), we find out how Shell fuels its employees’ drive for growth and development through a range of opportunities in leadership roles, succession planning, and more.

The foundation lies in how Shell views talent under three broad buckets:

  • Leaders with team leadership accountabilities,
  • Critical talent or roles with deep insights and skill sets, and
  • Emerging talent.

The first group are individuals who already possess the right capabilities to take on leadership roles.

The second group are the ‘ready later’ candidates, who may take about three to five years of development. These individuals may be in roles that require critical capabilities or subject matter expertise. “We will have open conversations with them on their development areas, be it technical or functional, and we will be focused on developing their experiences and competencies,” Lee says.

he third would be emerging talent – individuals that Shell would like to develop early in their careers. They usually come in new, and show potential to take on bigger roles in the future. While there will be slight differences in terms of the experiences offered to them, and the moves offered from a career perspective, the idea is that they are better informed and equipped to take on bigger roles at a faster pace.

Lighting up the talent pipeline

Succession planning at Shell is about thinking ahead on how to develop its talent to support future business needs. Lee adds: "Equally, it is about how we sustain our businesses now so that we progress to the future, and talent is a key enabler to get us there."

To support talent development, the 36-month ‘Talent Acceleration Programme for Asia’ (TAPA) is in place. Specifically curated to develop Asian leaders, it was designed using extensive research as well as a belief in the value that Asian leaders bring to the global organisation. Lee shares: “As a global company, we need multiple perspectives, and the Asian lens is increasingly relevant given the forecast by the World Economic Forum that by 2040, Asia is likely to generate more than 50% of world GDP, and could account for nearly 40% of global consumption.”

As one of the key hubs for the Shell Group, Shell Singapore is viewed as a key partner in developing a robust talent pipeline of Asian leaders to lead effectively in a global setting, and build on Asian strengths such as culture attributes, value systems, and different perspectives from a diversity of races and religions.

The four developmental themes of the TAPA programme are building courage, encouraging curiosity, enhancing strategic storytelling, and making a global impact.

TAPA is structured to provide continuous assessment and feedback, with 360-degree assessments conducted at the start, and end of the programme. The scores from the exit assessment are compared to the initial assessment to evaluate the impact of the curriculum on the talent and the businesses they lead. These indicators also serve as additional data points when the individual’s readiness to progress into the next role is reviewed.

Specific tools and learning interventions employed in TAPA include the Leading to Engage and Deliver (LEAD) programme which covers core leadership foundation skills; fundamentals of storytelling and powerful one-on-ones, coaching to build one’s personal leadership narrative; a global senior leader assigned as a mentor; and peer group coaching.

Turbocharging the future of leadership

Among the unique actions Shell is taking is its Asian Talent Council (ATC), akin to an in-house company-wide talent council for Asia, which brings to life the outcome of succession planning, and identification and growth of leaders.

Lee explains the concept: "Shell Singapore operates in a global ecosystem, and even more so in the region. Using the access to opportunities in the region as an extension of Singapore, the ATC sets out to bring meaningful, strategic career opportunities to our talents."

Putting all of its might behind it are the most senior global leaders in Shell in Asia who, not only sponsor the initiative, but through the ATC platform focus on facilitating and inspiring cross-business and functional development moves to enable future talents and leaders in Shell to be exposed to a diverse range of career development moves that broaden and prepare them for senior leadership roles.

Milestones in an electrifying journey

Shell believes that real diversity is about bringing different perspectives to the table, which is why the energy giant has dedicated real resources to nurture as many segments of talent as possible, such as through TAPA.

At Shell Singapore, which is recognised as an exemplary employer under the Human Capital Partnership Programme, 30% of the workforce is female and women comprise 39% of senior leadership roles. In addition to a living, breathing inclusive community, female talent benefits from development opportunities such as the Women’s Career Development Programme, and Senior Women’s Connect.

The Chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore, Aw Kah Peng, Senior Vice-President Chemicals & Products, Shirley Yap, and GM, Aviation Asia, Doris Tan, are just some examples of capable women who have successfully advanced their careers at Shell.

Fadhiilah Abdul Wahab, is another shining example. She is one of the only two Singaporean female marine engineers – out of a group of 15 globally – who is currently on her exciting, development journey with Shell.

Reasons to celebrate also come in the form of Shell’s communities and partners acknowledging its culture of honesty, integrity, and respect. Lee opens up: “While Shell is not immune to the dynamism of market forces and the evolution of societies, we continue to offer good, planned career pathways for our talent. We continue to provide a good mix of development options to retain and attract quality talent into our mix."

Key takeaways

In a nutshell, talent management does not need to be complex. It’s about starting, starting small, and starting simple. Lee emphasises the importance of showing your talent that their development as individuals is important to the company. In fact, talent identification and categorisation allows leaders and talents to share a common language. It is an appreciation of the distinct edge and contribution that individuals bring to the role, their teams, and the community.

While this sets the tone for talent development, it is authentic, transparent engagement and the commitment to action of its leaders that hits home for the talent.

"Having authentic conversations with talents lets us share with them that talent potential can change. We innovate on career options in the near and longer term, and also set clear expectations of the individuals’ commitment to deliver,” Lee says.

“If you are not transparent with your talent or keen to develop them, someone else will.”


The Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme is a tripartite initiative that brings together a community of exemplary employers in Singapore who have progressive employment practices in their organisations and are committed to developing their human capital. Visit to find out more about the HCP Programme.

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