Identifying the must-have capabilities is just the first component of the career development process. 

Abacus is proud to be born and bred in Asia, with the company now having expanded to 31 markets and 20,000 agency locations across Asia Pacific. Owned by a consortium of Asia’s leading airlines, and backed by US-owned Sabre, we are proud of our achievements.

These have been made possible by our team of engaged and equipped employees, who are trained and developed on an ongoing basis to help them do their jobs effectively.

At Abacus, every individual counts. People are our most valuable assets, bringing to Abacus a wealth of experience, knowledge, strengths and talents that are paramount to Abacus’ success. Our diversity and shared passion for excellence makes us a winning team.

Kicking it into first gear

The learning life cycle for our employees starts with the learning team picking up on the key organisational needs through consultation with the division heads. This process kick-starts only once the organisation’s business plan has been published.

Together we identify which capabilities we need – the “must-haves” – which include hard skills, new skills (because of new business requirements), people management skills, and others.

In parallel, a learning and development survey is conducted at the beginning of each year to extract the feedback of key skills expected by the managers against employees’ assessment of their own abilities.

The top one or two gaps across the organisation will be addressed with defined content as the key organisational learning for all employees for the year.

Ask the individual

Independent of all the above is an assessment of individual learning needs. These needs, be they job-related or around individual development, will be discussed between the employees and their immediate managers during the objective-setting time at the beginning of the year.

Abacus’ competency-based performance management tool is also aligned with the organisation’s values. Employees are clear about the key competencies required of their individual roles (single contributor, team leader or manager) and they continue to build on their strengths and close identified gaps.

Once mutually agreed, this information will be captured and tracked for fulfillment during the year.

We have several channels for employee development such as special projects, stretch assignments, job rotations, e-learning (that includes courses with business simulations, videos, audio and books), instructor-led courses, coaching and targeted education, among others. Each year we map e-learning topics to individual learning needs and we have been able to fulfil about 70% of these needs.

The learning mandate is then rolled out and cascaded across the organisation in the form of the organisation’s learning plan.

The vital skills for managers

In my personal experience, hard skills are easier to identify as well as acquire, and they are considered must-do when they are work-related.

Soft skills, on the other hand, depict what is needed in moving from one level to the other. They include a majority of vital skills needed for people managers to be successful.

At Abacus, we have a business excellence people ambassador team represented by divisions, and this is instrumental in leading the division learning journey and ensuring effective learning progress and achievements.

The company takes pride in fostering a stimulating and supportive environment for excellence. We empower our employees to learn and innovate as they grow and succeed in their career with us.

As a learning team, we are committed to people development. We maximise our employees’ potential with career development and advancement opportunities. Our business excellence (people niche) standard, awarded by SPRING Singapore, affirms our commitment.

This column was contributed by Helen Sim, VP of human resources at Abacus International.