In an organisation where people are at the heart of managing complex, scientific instruments, learning resonates across all employees. Teng Teng Lim, regional HR director at AB SCIEX, assesses the company’s training and development progress through the years.
Training and development is very important to us. We do not have a lot of machinery – instead, we depend on our people’s skills and knowledge to manage complex scientific instruments. They are our key resource to be successful, so we develop them to maximise their potential. This, in order, ensures they feel excited to join and stay with us.
We require expertise from our employees, be it a technician or a PhD scientist. We are an equal opportunity employer, which hires talent based on their knowledge, skills and attitude. Our teams comprise four major functions – operations (manufacturing and supply chain), commercial (sales, marketing and service), support (HR, IT and finance) and R&D.
In Singapore, and the rest of Asia, we have an HR team of four to support nearly 500 regional employees, and growing every year. To constantly upgrade our employees’ skills and knowledge is paramount for us to cope with rapid expansion plans.
AB SCIEX, which focuses on life sciences and diagnostics, is a subsidiary of the Washington-based Danaher Corporation. It established operations in Singapore nine years ago, and has expanded immensely as a result of equipping our people with the right skills and expertise.
Technical training is the foundation to this success and we use a lot of structured on-the-job training to sustain it. During the development of new products, we invest extensively in sending our employees to our global R&D centre in Canada to be involved in all stages – from prototype development to design.
Our engineers, technicians, assistant engineers, and R&D associates participate in intensive training – from one to three months – depending on the complexity of the instrument.
Once the product design is completed, the products are transferred to Singapore, and we assemble a core team to disseminate information about them. Project scientists from our global R&D centre visit Singapore and provide additional training to the team.
The core team is strong in terms of technical skills and knowledge, and the members could be involved in the launch of various products.
In addition, we have product trainers to conduct structured on-the-job training, and skills and knowledge certification for our employees. This is to ensure our highly complex scientific instruments are produced at the highest quality and meet all regulatory requirements.
We have also spent considerable time and resources to train our support teams, such as field service engineers. All new hires undergo three phases of training, starting with on-site mentorship by experienced service engineers to classroom training. Upon completion, they will continuously obtain the latest product, skills and knowledge training via our online learning portal, myDevelopment.
For our applications specialist group, we adopt a highly customised training approach depending on the incumbent’s skills and knowledge level. This includes on-site mentorship by a senior applications specialist, one-to-one coaching, classroom training, e-learning and cross-regional training.
We also encourage continuous education and reimburse the tuition fees. The input for this comes from our rigorous talent assessment and performance management processes, both of which are conducted twice a year, which help us to identify talent and map out their career paths and the appropriate development plan.
The softer side
Training is not complete without soft skills. Based on a learning needs analysis, we identify core soft skills that we need to inculcate into our employees. The performance review, involving the manager and employee, is an opportunity to discuss learning needs and agree on a plan to develop them, be it through on-the-job, project, technical or soft skills training.
Globally, we have just launched a set of new leadership anchors. They provide us a clear and concise common language for selecting, assessing and developing our associates. They set clear expectations about the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to succeed at AB SCIEX, both in their current role and as they progress in their career. Development will be tied to this set of anchors.
As a Danaher company, we embrace Danaher Business Systems (DBS) very aggressively. We use DBS to guide what we do, measure how well we execute, and create options for doing even better. This includes the mandatory aspects applicable to all subsidiaries, and the optional ones that depend on each particular industry. This system allows us to develop our employees to maximise their potential.
Knowledge for life
Clearly, learning and development enables us to ensure our people are continuously successful. We believe in an ongoing learning cycle, which is evident from the fact that we started from ground zero nine years ago, and we now have a robust training structure that includes various learning models.
At every stage of learning, we have to keep in mind we are part of a highly regulated industry – as our products touch human life, be it through new drugs discovery, testing food or water, or ensuring product quality. Given the highly compliance-based environment, it is important for everyone to be well-trained and process-driven.
As we continue to expand, we will work hard to ensure our associates have the skills and knowledge needed. Further, we have sponsored many employees for leadership training, which has allowed us to build a strong team.
Our rationale, going forward, is not only to retain these employees through new training and our career path approach, but also to attract new talent.
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