"We recognised from the start that we should not go digital simply for the sake of doing so, but to ensure that our digital training programmes would be beneficial to and used by our people," says Dean Tong, Head of Group Human Resources, UOB.

Q What is the current business need for L&D in UOB and why is it so important for the future workforce?

At UOB, our commitment to our people is reflected in our future-focused learning and development programmes, which are designed to encourage a growth mindset and to build skillsets that can help them pursue successful careers in the digital age. The COVID-19 pandemic has only reaffirmed the importance of preparing our people with skills for the future.

While it is generally agreed that the future of work will be digitally-led, no one has a crystal ball on how the landscape of work will look like in the next ten years, much less further into the future. As technologies fall into obsolescence, people will need to remain agile in learning new technical skills or upgrading the skillsets that they already have.

This is why we place an emphasis on encouraging adaptability to be ready for future challenges in our learning and development programmes at UOB. For example, one of our award-winning flagship training programmes for our people across the Group, Better U, was the first such initiative by a bank in Singapore to focus on equipping people with soft skills such as a growth mindset and complex problem-solving skills in addition to technical skills when we launched it in October 2019. 

Q I understand that UOB has fully digitalised two Group-wide flagship training programmes including Better U. Was this move to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, or has it been in the works all along?

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, our training programmes and resource library were already predominantly digital as this enables our people across the Bank’s global network to learn anytime and anywhere through bite-sized, interactive training content.

This digital learning is typically supplemented by face-to-face checkpoint meetings to address any questions and to continue to encourage their learning journey. Since the outbreak, we have tapped the Bank’s digital mobility tools such as Microsoft Teams to run these sessions virtually.

Q How did UOB go about moving to virtual learning?

Empowering our colleagues to learn and to develop professionally and to drive a culture of learning at UOB have always been key focus areas for us.

We recognised from the start that we should not go digital simply for the sake of doing so, but to ensure that our digital training programmes would be beneficial to and used by our people. We needed to help colleagues to adapt and to adopt a digital learning mindset, and to encourage a culture of learning through various digital channels across the Bank.

We started by digitalising our compulsory training modules that all UOB employees must undertake as part of our regulatory requirements.

In 2018, we decided to take digital learning to a whole new level through our award-winning Group-wide flagship training programme, Leadership Right By You – Leading Self, which is designed to empower colleagues to take the lead in developing their careers at UOB.

As our colleagues became comfortable with the ease and convenience at which they could learn digitally at UOB, we also launched an online resource library for all UOB employees, including our trainees and interns. Our online resource library holds both in-house content as well as access to LinkedIn Learning’s robust catalogue of more than 5,000 digital training resources and courses.

Our move towards digital learning has been welcomed by our people. Since we launched our online resource library in January 2019, our colleagues have accumulatively completed close to 330,000 modules and almost 12,500 courses on LinkedIn Learning – above the financial industry’s average globally.

Q Please share your key takeaways from this experience. How will this help you approach similar projects in the future?

It is important to keep your people at the centre of every learning and development programme. Ultimately they need to benefit from the programme, otherwise, your work will be for nought.

For example, we embarked on our digital learning journey because we found that our people wanted to take charge of their learning in their own time and at their own pace. Beyond the recommended modules to help them, our people are also able to participate in courses of their choice.

We also see through our Better U and Leadership Right By You programmes that while all courses can be held digitally, we cannot simply go digital for digital’s sake. We have to evaluate the best learning experience and outcome that we want for our colleagues and then determine the format that can help us achieve that. This could be digital learning, or face-to-face coaching or peer-to-peer learning, or a combination of these.

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