Structured learning roadmaps, workshops to equip managers with the right skills for a hybrid setting, and knowledge transfers are some of the interventions that Ng Ying Yuan, Chief Operating Officer, Group HR, DBS has led, as Priya Sunil finds out.

At DBS Bank (DBS), a multinational banking and financial services firm headquartered in Singapore, flexible work arrangements have always been a norm for employees. When COVID-19 hit and hybrid became mainstream, however, the firm saw an accelerated acceptance and adoption of such arrangements among employees.

"As the saying goes, never waste a good crisis. We saw a golden opportunity to transition to a permanent hybrid work model, and since February 2021, all employees have been given the flexibility to work remotely up to 40% of the time," Ng Ying Yuan, Chief Operating Officer, Group Human Resources, DBS tells Priya Sunil.

Further, caregivers and young parents have the option to work remotely completely for up to six months at a stretch. "We were also the first Singapore bank to offer a formal job-sharing scheme where two employees share the responsibilities of one full-time role while still receiving full medical benefits and coverage under the bank's insurance plans," she shares. 

"We see our hybrid work model and flexible work arrangements as a boon to our employee value proposition as it helps our people better balance their work and personal lives."

Our employees tell us that such arrangements support their needs and aspirations, which tend to change along with their life stages and personal circumstances.

In this interview, let's learn how Ng and her team are driving employee engagement and retention through structured learning roadmaps, workshops to equip managers with the right skills for a hybrid setting, knowledge transfers, and more.

Q How are your strategies to hire, engage, retain, develop, and transform talent evolving? 

DBS believes in the importance of getting everyone on board in the future of work. In fact, when we began our digital transformation journey in the bank more than eight years ago, we upskilled and reskilled over 1,200 employees to help them build career resilience and prepare for a world where the pace of change has accelerated which impacts the jobs and skills. Since the onset of COVID-19, we further stepped up our efforts to develop a future-ready workforce by getting our employees to embrace a growth mindset, build resilience, and adopt new ways of working so as to thrive in the new normal.

We further announced that we will upskill over 8,600 employees in recognition of the rapidly evolving banking landscape and the new types of roles that are being introduced.

Employees will be trained in data, digital, functional, people, and leadership skills. Even our technology workforce will need to be constantly equipped with the most cutting-edge skills to shape the future of banking. The DBS Tech Academy was launched last year to equip our technology employees with skills in six areas: site reliability engineering, AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning), cybersecurity, cloud, blockchain, and IoT (Internet of things).

In addition, structured learning roadmaps and thoughtfully curated curricula are offered to support employees acquire new capabilities in the bank’s key areas of focus such as risk and sustainability.

At DBS, we are committed to building the career resilience of our employees and providing them with many ways to learn and career opportunities. Today, over one-third of all job vacancies in the bank are filled by internal candidates.

Q How are you as the HR leader co-creating the future of work for your organisation – while revamping how employees work, the type of work they do, and even, where they work? What are you doing differently now as compared to, say, three years ago?

At DBS, we believe in embedding ourselves deeply into our customers’ journeys, and this is the same approach we take with our employees, who are truly our most important ‘customers’. Employee experience is something we take very seriously, and it calls for a holistic approach to managing work and the workplace.

DBS has mapped employee journeys based on different personas, which are then reviewed from end-to-end to enable interoperability and cross-pollination across departments with continuous feedback from employees as end users. We then have dedicated teams to design solutions around these employee journeys. For instance, we look at software and hardware issues that employees face, and design solutions to alleviate these problems to enhance employee experience. We also have UX designers within our HR department who continuously work to improve our employee touchpoints.

Q At the same time, how are you equipping your line managers — the middlemen between leadership and the employees — to better manage and engage their teams?

We have spared no effort in engaging our employees at all levels as they prepared to return to the office more regularly. Coming back to the office, you have to relearn some habits, so we have been sharing simple actionable tips to help our employees adjust. We have regular sharing sessions for employees to learn from each other and to recognise that there is a broader community that they can tap on for support and encouragement.

The bank also runs regular workshops to equip our managers with new skills to better engage their teams in a hybrid setting. We avail a plethora of resources on our internal employee portal that managers can refer to if they need a quick knowledge refresher.

We also have regular town halls, both at the bank level, and at the department level, where our leaders share their own personal experiences adapting to a hybrid work model with the hope of providing a role model from which managers can take reference as they manage their own hybrid teams.

Q What’s your approach to measuring the effectiveness of your talent strategy?

We look at a number of metrics, both internal as well as industry benchmarks.

Our voluntary attrition rates in 2021 were comparable to pre-pandemic levels and were in fact either on par or lower than the market average in our core markets. The numbers appear to be similar so far for 2022. Our employees continue to build their careers in DBS, with more than one-third of our job vacancies filled by our own people. These speak to the attractiveness of our holistic employee value proposition, and in the industry, DBS is seen as the place to be if you’re looking to do purposeful, innovative work that intersects the finance and technology spheres.

In fact, just a few months back, DBS was recognised by Fast Company as the Best Workplace for Innovators 2022.

Q Finally, how do you envision the future of work, workplace, and workforce? Tell us how you expect each dimension in evolve further – what's next?

It is apparent to us that there are clear merits of remote working and working in the office. To DBS, it is not a binary decision of choosing one mode over the other. That is why we implemented a permanent hybrid work model as early as February 2021 to blend the best of what each configuration has to offer. Being an early adopter also gave us a head start to refine our policies through the peaks and troughs of the pandemic, and as the world started to live with COVID-19 from the middle of 2022, our people were already well accustomed to hybrid working and we had a seamless transition back to the office.

Consequently, the workplace will evolve to be more purpose-built for hybrid work models. Workplace infrastructure, policies, and rituals all need to go hand-in-hand to help employees make the most of their time at work and to enable greater productivity and innovation. DBS has already been doing this with our JoySpace workspace initiative which started in 2016.

We have been tracking employee satisfaction with their hybrid working arrangements through a monthly employee survey and the score has continued to improve since the beginning of the year to 92% in July 2022.

On the workforce, we believe that skills are the new currency of tomorrow. It is important for employees to adopt a growth mindset and a positive attitude towards lifelong learning and career reinvention. At the same time, it is incumbent on companies to empower their employees to continually improve themselves.

DBS adopts a “Triple E” approach (through Education, Exposure, and Experience) to help employees future-proof their careers, with a focus on providing the right education, exposure, and experience opportunities. We also leverage artificial learning and machine learning to develop an in-house platform to help employees identify their future career aspirations, map the skills needed to reach those goals, and even recommend personalised development options.


Photo / Shutterstock

Follow us on Telegram @humanresourcesonline or click here for all the latest weekly HR and manpower news from around the region!