Reading the future of corporate training

Reading the future of corporate training

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HR leaders from Citi Singapore, Kantar, Unilever, Maxis, NETS, Schroders, and T-Systems Malaysia share some of 2018’s biggest and most anticipated L&D trends, with Jerene Ang and Wani Azahar, and how they plan to leverage them.

With Singapore moving towards its Smart Nation ambition and Malaysia’s 2020 skilled-workers vision, it is critical for companies to build their team’s skills to stay relevant in this competitive digital age.

“As the business landscape advances towards digitalisation, it is important for our talent to be prepared and build skill sets that are futureready,” says Cindy Dermawan, the head of talent and learning development at Citi Singapore.

One of the things Jeffrey Goh, CEO of Network for Electronic Transfers (Singapore), more widely known as NETS in Singapore, believes in is continuous learning.

“In this fast-changing environment, we do not want our employees to get caught by and feel that things have been changing without their knowledge – especially when it comes to tech trends or the way Millennials operate and consume,” he says.

But it is not only employees who have to keep up with the times; the corporate training landscape itself is ever changing with new trends emerging every other year.

In fact, according to Udemy’s 2018 Learning Index Report, L&D managers are constantly upgrading their learning toolbox. In the next few years, more are planning to leverage on tools such as machine learning (24% compared with 11% already utilising it today); gamification (31% compared with 8% today); and virtual reality (20% versus 4% today).

Additionally, more are planning to implement social learning (13% compared with 8% today), and 50% are planning to provide personalised learning paths (versus 46% today).

On that note, Human Resources spoke to key leaders from Citi Singapore, Kantar, Unilever, Maxis, NETS, Schroders, and T-Systems Malaysia, to unravel some of 2018’s biggest L&D trends and see how companies are leveraging them.

No.1 Learning agility

One organisation that has successfully leveraged on learning agility is NETS. With the purpose of being a thinking organisation that wants to make payments simple, efficient and stress-free, NETS is all about continuous learning in an agile way.

Says Goh: “In a thinking organisation, what we are asking for is that employees continue to learn. I don’t think that this means we should have a very academic structured programme. Rather, we need to keep these programmes flexible, and inject something new and or interesting as and when we need it.”

The payments company launched its own NETS Academy last year to provide such programmes to its employees.

We need to keep these programmes flexible, and inject something new and or interesting as and when we need it.
- Jeffrey Goh, CEO, NETS (Singapore)

Explaining the decision to set up the academy, Bernard Chung, head of learning and organisational development at NETS, says: “When a fresh graduate joins a company or a new hire joins a new industry, they struggle on their job as they are not equipped with the basics of the industry. Basically, they have to fail or fall a couple of times on the job and learn from there. This seems to be the common learning process, but we think that there is a better way to learn.”

As a result, NETS decided to get its internal subject matter experts to put together a curriculum for the academy with new modules added as the industry evolves.

“The objective is to connect our internal experts with the new hire and put them through a foundational module so they can quickly equip themselves with the basics at an early stage of their career with NETS. It’s really about shortening the learning curve and equipping them to succeed,” Chung says.

“NETS Academy is also about mindset change. Hence, in addition to the foundational modules that our employees have to go through, our CEO also conducts numerous CEO dialogues with our employees to share ideas, trends or industry developments that are typically outside of what will be taught in a classroom.”

Moving forward, he adds that with the basics already established, the company is starting to look for external partners to work with to take the NETS Academy to the next phase.

No.2 Customised learning

When it comes to designing an L&D programme, Narelle Burke, HR director for APAC at Kantar, expressed how one of the greatest opportunities HR has in the learning space is to help all employees access the right content, at the right time, through the best learning platforms to help them perform at their best.

“If we can help learners navigate the overwhelming options available, and help them access what they need in real-time, we will help them to focus on what is important to maximise their performance,” she says.

She envisions how employees will access a chatbot in the future where they are able to provide details of the project, and how they would like to learn.

“It will provide a customised learning plan with podcasts, readings, an online buddy or mentor, and case studies on what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to their specific project,” she says.

Not only that, this chatbot will help to partner with them throughout the experience and provide real-time feedback to them.

No.3 Creating a learning culture

Unilever’s global learning director Betty Lau believes that L&D professionals should focus on learning that helps to solve “pain points”, drive business results and foster a lifelong learning culture.

“If people aren’t continuous to learn, unlearn and relearn, there is no way that companies can sustain their businesses through disruptions,” she says.

Malaysia-based Nadia Nishaa Shamsuri, head of learning and development for Maxis, believes the role of L&D is changing with the times.

She observes: “Traditionally, L&D practitioners act as ‘middlemen’ – you tell us what learning you need, we go and find them for you. This is no longer enough. The first big shift is in putting more emphasis in developing a learning culture within a company. Aside from providing all the best learning tools and programmes, we need to help people understand that learning and developing oneself goes beyond company requirements.”

If people aren’t continuous to learn, unlearn and relearn, there is no way that companies can sustain their businesses through disruptions.
- Betty Lau, global learning director, Unilever

At Maxis, this espouses the concept of the “personal growth agenda” where the company tells its people their biggest agenda is making their performance, growth and development, the most important thing.

“We keep telling them this and we help them make it happen.”

Another organisation that believes in creating a learning culture is Citi Singapore. Dermawan, the bank’s head of talent and learning development, says: “In order to help them (be future-ready), we work closely with the business heads to discuss their future business needs and skills gap and collectively identify future competencies and areas of continued development of our people.”

In 2017, Citi rolled out several career and learning development initiatives to help its employees become forward-compatible.

This included “fast and curious”, an initiative for its consumer employees to inculcate an inquisitive learning culture by encouraging them to step out of their daily routine to embrace curiosity and develop the skills to adapt, learn and innovate.

“Fast and curious learning can be done in a lot of ways – through online learning courses, researching best practices, listening to a fascinating podcast, reading a great book or expanding an individual’s network by meeting with a new colleague,” she says.

As part of the initiative, the bank also launched a Forward Compatible Resource Centre which is regularly updated with fresh content.

No.4 Collaborative learning

Janet Ko, regional manager for talent and development at Schroders, thinks that many organisations still focus on classroom learning.

Though there is nothing wrong with that, she says modern learners may be overwhelmed with information in such settings.

“There is a limit on how much you can remember when staff are participating in three to four intensive sessions,” she says.

“With that said, L&D professionals should think how to creatively deliver content to learners. When it comes to the interaction of content, you’d want to create opportunities for staff to share freely. This allows them to both challenge each other and yet bring diverse content to the table.”

ALSO READ: SG Tech and SIM GE partner up to develop tech talent

No.5 Technology

One of the emerging trends for 2018 includes the evolution of the workspace. With many companies implementing mobile learning apps for their employees, work has moved e-learning to a new level.

Vaclav Koranda, VP of human resources at T-Systems Malaysia, says: “With mobile learning, you can literally learn from anywhere and at anytime. This will utilise employees’ otherwise unproductive times (for example, commuting via public transport, waiting in a queue …) and convert them into something beneficial for their growth.”

He adds that mobile learning can also be made more attractive by implementing a gamification and micro-learning approach. Because of that, it supports course completion rates and overall learning penetration.

With mobile learning, you can literally learn from anywhere and at anytime.
- Vaclav Koranda, VP of human resources, T-Systems Malaysia

A good way to leverage on technology and encourage collaborative learning is through learning platforms such as the one soon to be implemented at Citi in 2018.

The bank’s new one-stop learning platform Degreed can be accessed via a desktop, smartphone or tablet and allows its employees to quickly and easily discover, share and track a myriad of learning resources – from courses to videos to articles.

Upon registration, employees will be asked to set up a profile, including areas of interest, and over time, the platform will be able to provide learning suggestions based on the individual’s daily learning feed.

“Degreed also has a social element where it allows employees to connect with like-minded colleagues and discover learning their colleagues found useful,” Dermawan says.

“Additionally, this platform ties in all other internal learning management systems so that employees can also access existing required trainings assigned to them in just one portal.”

Now that the trends have been laid out, it’s time to address the elephant in the room – when times get tough, training budgets get cut.

To that end, NETS’ Goh advises organisations to prepare ahead to ensure that training can continue when there are tough times.

“We need to be flexible in the approach, but don’t change the direction,” he says.

One solution Goh suggests is to train employees to be trainers instead of engaging an external coach.

“Internal training is much more affordable than engaging an external trainer. You shouldn’t just give up because times are tough," he said. 

Maybe the head of a department is very good at marketing – why don’t we get him or her to train employees in marketing rather than engaging an external trainer?

“Like how we prepare our roofs to be ready for rainy days during days of sunshine, we need to continue to train our people when times are challenging and business is slow. This way, when the economy turns around, we have good people to go after a bigger piece of the pie.”

Photo / 123RF

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