Work becomes work when it's no longer fun - agree? Well, so does Kevin McGuigan, Managing Director, SEA Region and Country Leader, Singapore at 3M. In conversation with Priya Sunil, he tells us why this is a vital mindset shift that will never fail you in and outside the workplace.

Q How has your learning strategy today evolved from what you’d planned out last year?

While a lot has changed, we remain committed to empowering our employees’ growth and helping them build meaningful careers at 3M. There are two ways we’ve adapted our learning strategy since last year – what and how we train.

First, we focused our training areas to the ones that would better help our employees overcome COVID-related challenges. These include areas of growth mindset, change, agility, remote supervision, inter-cultural collaboration, virtual collaboration, amongst others.

In particular, I want to highlight how we focused on growth mindset philosophy and principles to help our employees during this challenging time. We started the training with our leadership team, and then a multi-month campaign to help our employees cultivate new learning habits in this area.

Next, we expanded our learning and training platforms online and sought employee feedback to improve upon them. Not only does our bespoke learning portal Develop U now offer thousands of resources ranging from e-modules, book abstracts and video training, we also sought employee feedback on how we can improve these tools.

Of course, I look forward to more changes as we continue to look for better ways to value and support all our employees’ unique career journeys.

Q What are the hottest, function-agnostic skills in your industry today – skills that will never fail you?

3M is all about scientific exploration to solve problems in fun and meaningful ways. Having spent over 18 years here, I recommend two skills – scientific thinking and simply embracing fun.

First, the skill of scientific thinking. Knowledge-seeking, logical reasoning, and critical thinking processes - these benefit any organisation in the field of science or not.

Second, embrace fun in the workplace. More a mindset shift than a skill, I’m a firm believer of having fun. Work becomes work when it's no longer fun.

In my opinion, they are two vital skills that will never fail you. At 3M, we are always learning, discovering, exploring and innovating together. Scientific thinking coupled with a ‘fun’ outlook breeds productivity, innovation, and keeps our employees excited for work every day.

Q How are you building these skills in your workforce? Essentially, how do you help employees accelerate their learning (especially when it comes to soft skills)?

We’ve taken a bi-directional approach in helping employees accelerate their learning.

Firstly, we are constantly building scientific skills and thinking through our ‘Develop U’ learning platform, which I mentioned earlier, offers over 10,000 courses in areas such as data science and digitalisation.

Second, we build these skills through diversity and inclusion. New and diverse perspectives increase innovation, collaboration, building upon scientific exploration, curiosity and simply having fun.

We support employee communities that champion inclusion and work across the company to engage and empower our people and enrich our culture.

Thirdly, to facilitate open and fruitful interaction, we’ve provided communication tools and guidelines to encourage open collaboration and communication. These include regular planning meetings and monthly 1:1 meetings that help employees share updates or concerns they may have regarding projects they are working on. We also adopt virtual means to strengthen team bonds.

Q On the HR front - what are the top three critical skills for HR to have in and beyond 2021?

On the HR front, the three critical skills to have in and beyond 2021 would be maintaining the human touch amidst social distancing, driving equal opportunities for all, and upskilling.

Firstly, HR needs to help bridge the gap to encourage open collaboration and communication, especially amidst the shift to a ‘virtual world’ of work. With face-to-face meetings replaced with screen time, it’s important for HR to drive formal policies and informal company culture to help our workforce feel connected through regular townhalls, roundtables, catch-ups and more.

Secondly, 3M continues to drive diversity and inclusion, with a level playing field for all to thrive. This acts as a platform in developing our dedication to employees – and their innovative achievements – creates boundless opportunities to thrive.

Lastly, with regards to upskilling, I’m sharping hard and soft skills through two primary sources.

First, I have enlisted the help of a reverse mentor. She is in her early to mid-twenties and has been with the company for under five years. She and I meet monthly and I must say, she has served as a wonderful mentor for me. She offers candid feedback regarding the current state of the company (from her and her peers’ perspective) as well as insights regarding the things I, along with other leaders at 3M can be doing to attract, retain and empower our younger employees.

Second, I have an external executive coach. I have been working with her since late 2019 and she has helped me a tremendous amount to determine key areas I should be focusing on to improve my effectiveness. We have solicited feedback from my manager and colleagues as well as her general observations during our coaching sessions.

Q Lastly, if there was a magic wand and you could do anything within your power to build a future-fit workforce, what action would you take?

Thanks for the fun question!

If there was a magic wand, I’d first like to ensure completely flexible work arrangements for all our 3Mers.

Fortunately, we are seeing this in action with our 'FlexAbility programme' which was refreshed and deepened in the wake of COVID-19 to reflect our new normal. Our employees have even more autonomy to customise when and where they work best, empowering them to work in ways that offer flexibility and balance.

Besides increased productivity, increased flexibility complements our 15% initiative perfectly. Our long-standing 15% culture encourages our employees to work on projects of their choosing outside of their regular scope of work. Having that flexibility enables deeper creativity, risk-taking and collaboration.

In short, my wish is for an even better work-life balance for staff so that they can utilise their potential and expertise to apply science to making lives better, easier, and more complete.


Photo / Provided by 3M [Pictured: Kevin McGuigan - MD, SEA Region and Country Leader, Singapore, 3M]

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