Winning Secrets: How UOB continues to fill skills gaps in the workforce while staying lean

Winning Secrets: How UOB continues to fill skills gaps in the workforce while staying lean

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The Bank's Gig+U programme has not only helped manage seasonal peaks by tapping on gig workers, but it has also helped expand the Bank's talent supply sources to better support the business, shares Sara Tiew, Head of Workforce Transformation and Analytics, UOB.

UOB, a bank which has been operating for more than eight decades, has a global network of around 500 offices in 19 countries and territories in Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. Since its incorporation in 1935, UOB has grown organically and through a series of strategic acquisitions.

In Asia, UOB operates through its head office in Singapore and banking subsidiaries in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as branches and representative offices across the region.

One of the many things the Bank takes pride in is the development of its employees, through constant innovation and the launch of various initiatives to cater to diverse groups of the workforce. Attesting this commitment, UOB took home two wins at the HR Excellence Awards 2022, in Singapore - silver for Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and silver for Excellence in HR Innovation.

In this interview, let's hear from Sara Tiew, Head of Workforce Transformation and Analytics, UOB, who talks about strategies to support experimentation, roll out new people initiatives to support the Bank’s growth agenda, enrich colleagues’ journey, and offer comprehensive employment opportunities in the markets of operation.

Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs and lows of your people strategy?

Thank you! It is indeed a mammoth effort and we appreciate the collaboration from the team and stakeholders to contribute to its success. It excites us as a team to experiment and roll out new people initiatives to support the Bank’s growth agenda, enrich our colleagues’ journey and offer employment opportunities in the markets we operate in. This is in line with our Bank’s purpose to build the future of ASEAN. As with every organisation’s transformation journey, we had our fair share of challenges such as change fatigue, burnout, and achieving real buy-in from our stakeholders to co-own the people transformation agenda.

Helping our stakeholders to prioritise is key as we work to strike the right balance across the multiple initiatives and new ideas.

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Q How did the HR team identify and align the business & employee needs, and craft this perfect solution?

We recognise that the rapid transformation of the Bank and the external trends impacting our workforce have stressed the need to nimbly reimagine our people initiatives. We also understand that the workforce and the industry will evolve into a more flexible model and hence, we need to ensure that our people initiatives can keep up with these changes.

Gig+U was designed to help our business react to the rise of the gig economy while understanding that work demands can be seasonal. The initiative enables us to temporarily augment our workforce to manage the seasonal peaks. At the same time, we expand our talent supply sources to better support our business.

Q Could you share the results that your strategy has delivered – be it on the business, HR, or people side?

Gig+U complements the Bank’s current employment approaches, being a form of on-demand talent programme. Through external partners such as Upwork, we gain access to a much wider global talent pool to support our work.

The “pay-per-use” model is more cost-effective than having to incur overheads for permanent hires or professional services fees. Through this new avenue, we can fill skills gaps while staying lean. We can even expect speedier turnaround, particularly with external gig workers. For instance, we hired a gig worker to help develop collaterals and the turnaround time was only 24 hours.

We understand that employees’ needs change throughout various life stages. The Gig+U Retirees initiative offers a more flexible work arrangement for our retirees while enabling the Bank to retain their extensive experience. We have also recently expanded the initiative to Gig+U Women, creating 200 jobs with flexible work arrangements for those with familial and caretaking duties.

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Q What is your message to all the stakeholders who have supported you in this journey?

We appreciate their willingness to experiment and champion the initiative with us. The rising adoption rate is a strong testament to the valuable contributions of the business champions within the Bank.

Q What are you most excited about when you think about the future of HR?

This is a pivoting period for the HR community as we continue to align people practices and initiatives with the industry’s trends and the organisation’s transformation journey. HR’s capabilities have also evolved significantly over years. A competent, future-ready HR needs to be proficient in a few areas – human-centred or journey-based design, change management, and technology. Exciting times are ahead as we blend these core elements together to uplift and transform the people experience.

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All photos / Provided by UOB

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region! 


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Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

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