Jeffrey Chiam, Global Head of Human Resources, Bank of Singapore

Bank of Singapore took home the silver award for 'Excellence in Learning & Development' and the bronze award as 'Employer of the Year' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Jeffrey Chiam, Global Head of Human Resources, Bank of Singapore (pictured above), tells us about the bank's future-oriented strategy that includes transformation pathways and signature programmes tohelp bankers gain insights into the new digital economy.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey? 

Our HR strategy is future oriented. We are focused on developing a learning organisation where our colleagues are motivated to learn and have the right support to do so. We believe that this will in turn create value for our clients and our community.

In pursuit of this goal, we ramped up our efforts to push out bite-sized learning content to our colleagues and expanded their access to digital libraries to facilitate self-directed learning, to name a few. To create awareness of these initiatives, we launched a campaign internally where we challenged our colleagues to be 'addicted' to learning. We have also launched transformation pathways and signature programmes like the 'Digital Banker programme' which helps bankers gain insights into the new digital economy, and the 'Professional Conversion Programme 'that enables our mid-career PMETs to remain relevant as job roles change due to automation. 

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality? 

Our strategy means that we go beyond just ensuring that our colleagues have the skills necessary for today.

Rather, we want to imbue a growth mindset so that they will always be able to adapt to the changing demands of business and stay ahead of the curve – that is our priority. 

For any strategy to be effective, top management support is important. In BOS, our senior leaders are involved in our overall HR strategy discussions so that we can better map out programmes and implement initiatives that meet business objectives. For instance, their championing of ESG led to the collaboration with WWF, making us the first private bank to launch a responsible investing module to educate our bankers on ESG strategies.

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?  

One of the difficulties we face in developing and rolling out HR programmes is finding the right external partner to work with. We need someone who understands the nature of our business, keeps abreast of trending developments, and can craft case studies to make the programme relevant for our business. To ensure relevancy, we always work closely with our external partners to contextualise programmes to our environment. 

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?  

Thanks to the team’s holistic efforts to build a learning organisation, we have seen a marked improvement in completion rates for our digital learning programmes.

There has been a staggering 3,000% increase in completions in digital learning, and the usage rates of or digital learning libraries has spiked, indicating that more of our colleagues are voluntarily using these resources for self-directed learning.

In addition, 700 of our colleagues have completed transformation pathways and more than 100 learners have gone through Professional Conversion Programmes.

I feel really happy when candidates tell me during interviews that our learning and development initiatives are well-known and highly regarded in the industry. This is indeed a true validation of our efforts and accomplishments. 

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO? 

The landscape and ecosystem of financial services are rapidly changing. Likewise, we must understand the business to partner with our key stakeholders effectively. Today, we talk about sustainability, next-gen clients, and cryptocurrencies so we must keep learning. Being adaptable and being able to take a long-term view are critical to our success as partners to the business. Likewise, the CHRO needs to build a team with this growth mindset to be adaptable to the ever-changing requirements of HR and business. 

A successful CHRO must also be an agent of change for the organisation. He or she must have a vision and set up programmes that prepare the organisation and its employees for the future. This is easier said than done given all the challenges and dependencies, but it is important that he or she does not just 'settle' for what is good now. 

But most importantly, I think empathy is key. HR must embody the heart of an organisation. We need to understand that everyone faces different stresses at work and outside work. Besides reskilling and upskilling, wellness is therefore going to be an area of growing importance and HR professionals are in the position to generate positive change in this regard.


Photo / Provided by BoS

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