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Companies today devote time, effort and money into corporate training, but such training can drive a competitive advantage only if done effectively.

That is why the Human Resources Excellence Awards 2015 lauded those firms who have demonstrated measurable results which prove the effectiveness of their learning campaigns. 

We reveal their award-winning initiatives.

Businesses worldwide have woken up to the fact that change is the new and perhaps only norm today.

Because of this, the learning and development (L&D) function has become even more integral in the process of equipping staff with the skills they need to deal with such change.

For instance, the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study commissioned by Spherion Staffing found that among 225 employers, 77% had put more training and career development opportunities in place in 2015 compared with 2014.

But solely increasing the number of training sessions will be inadequate if bosses don’t simultaneously adjust their learning policies and priorities to suit today’s current talent climate.

That is, in fact, exactly what the winners and finalists of 2015’s excellence in the training, learning and development category at the Human Resources’ Excellence Awards (HREA) did.

The celebration of the region’s best HR teams lauded the firms that demonstrated significant impact from their cutting-edge training practices.

To highlight the best practices they are adopting in their award-winning L&D initiatives, these firms have shared with us their success stories.

Case one: Unilever

Having been titled as the best training, learning and development team in Asia at HREA 2015, Unilever’s vision is to double the size of the company by 2020 while reducing its environmental impact and improving its social impact.

The learning strategy of Unilever is founded on ‘winning with people’, ultimately helping them to develop and grow to become the best versions of themselves.

To achieve this corporate vision, Unilever’s HR strategy, aptly defined as “winning with people”, was captured in the firm’s roadmap for the future – also known as “the compass”.

“The learning strategy of Unilever is founded on ‘winning with people’, ultimately helping them to develop and grow to become the best versions of themselves. The best part is, everyone has access to these learning opportunities, anytime, anywhere, and the leadership commitment to this is strong, with the senior leadership leading by example,” says Tricia Duran, HR director, Unilever Asia.

Unilever’s L&D framework is fully integrated within its “four acres leadership curriculum”, the Unilever future leaders programme (UFLP) and the newly launched learning hub.

Between Four Acres and UFLP, Unilever is developing a new generation of leaders who embrace the future with principles, purpose and direction in achieving an ambitious compass vision, and continuously home-growing graduates into business leaders for the future.

Delivering in London and Singapore, Four Acres designs leadership development programmes to accelerate the development of high potentials (for all work levels) and to increase the exposure of fast-track employee “listers”. These are activated globally to ensure the highest quality is delivered in scale.

In 2013, Four Acres delivered nearly 200 programme sessions touching almost 4,000 executives globally.

To ensure the inflow of the best “raw” talent, the company implemented the Unilever future leaders programme (UFLP) across its offices, globally.

Those selected to participate in the UFLP are known as Unilever future leaders (UFLPs).

It is a fast-tracked leadership development programme that balances the developmental rotations with real jobs and real responsibilities from day one.

The UFLP trainees undergo a one-week induction programme and are quickly brought up to speed on business operations and are expected to quickly learn and deliver.

Overall in 2014 alone, 4000 employees in Southeast Asia and Australasia took training and leadership development programmes in Four Acres Singapore.

More recently, with the launch of its new learning hubsystem (available online or as an app for learning anytime, anywhere), the company is also enabling employees to take charge of their own development and career through more engaging learning experiences.

With more than 5,000 learning programmes available, development can be tailor-made into an employee’s learning preferences.

Overall in 2014 alone, 4000 employees in Southeast Asia and Australasia took training and leadership development programmes in Four Acres Singapore.

Additionally, with the introduction of the new learning hub in June, the firm has since (as at 1 July) seen:

– 36,400 unique hits.
– 18,400 users (49% returning visitors; 51% new visitors).
– 19,300 e-books downloaded.
– 189 videos watched.

Additionally, with the introduction of the UFLP, there has been a natural change in mindsets to grow leaders from within Unilever. All UFLPs have access to mentors and line managers who provide them the necessary tools to flourish in the organisation.

More recently, this has been formalised in the form of the trainee development group, which provides a network of committed functional mentors, of which UFLPs have access to.

Under the programme, there were about 250 promotions globally of UFLPs into more senior managerial roles in 2014 and nearly 160 promotions (as at end of June) in 2015.

Case two: ANZ

Winning the bronze award in the category, ANZ Retail Bank Singapore’s (ARBS) vision is to be the best connected and most respected bank across the region.

The bank’s purpose is to understand people’s aspirations, build connections that matter, make banking easy and deliver insights that enhance outcomes.

While the retail banking business remains core to ANZ’s super regional strategy, the local business environment in which ARBS operates in is extremely regulated and competitive.

While the retail banking business remains core to ANZ’s super regional strategy, the local business environment in which ARBS operates in is extremely regulated and competitive.

First, there is stiff competition from the rise of “local” banks, the emergence of “regional” banks, as well as the established presence of “global banks”. This causes stiff competition not only for customers, but also for talent.

Second, on the customer front, increased urbanisation and mobility have become a trend and customers are more comfortable having multiple banking relationships instead of being loyal to one.

Customers are demanding a greater level of service when comparing what different banks can offer. Asian customers are also becoming more financially competent and technologically savvy, with access to a myriad financial information and tools online.

Third, the bank is facing an ever tightening regulatory landscape in the retail banking industry post the global financial crisis. This growing consumer “protectionism” means increasing eligibility controls on the development and distribution of retail investment, insurance and credit products.

All the aforementioned challenges demanded a robust learning system to be made available in Singapore.

“We at ANZ Retail banking Singapore encourage continuous learning as this is essential in today’s world. This allows our folks to see things with a wider lens and the result is our folks can be more productive and relevant to our customers,” says Philip Lim, head of retail banking in Singapore.

In a bid to cater to these needs, the retail academy was established in October 2013, reporting to business assurance, one of the seven major business units within ARBS.

To minimise the time taken for a new hire to become productive, the retail academy partnered hiring managers along ANZ’s 70-20-10 pedagogy.

The first task for the retail academy was to establish quality standards around learning processes, policies and frameworks.

The next phase was to implement an intensive and relevant new hire training curriculum for each unit.

To minimise the time taken for a new hire to become productive, the retail academy partnered hiring managers along ANZ’s 70-20-10 pedagogy.

To ensure learners achieve a meaningful transfer of knowledge, skills and mindset, they must complete and pass multiple-choice question assessments after each module.

A final two-hour role-play accreditation assessment is conducted jointly by the assessor and line manager to ensure the employee is ready to serve the bank’s customers.

The last phase is to support the business with a suite of tailored learning interventions to elevate staff competencies along the levers of knowledge, business skills and mindset.

All these efforts to train employees certainly seemed to have paid off.

One indicator of this was the ARBS 2015 employee engagement survey result released last August. Retail Singapore scored 80% for overall employee engagement in 2015, up from 71% in 2014 and 62% in 2011.

The number of service-related training has grown in tandem with 23 new courses. Using customer surveys as an indication of customer satisfaction, the bank has stayed ahead of its targets despite a more demanding clientele.

“It comes as no surprise that Retail Banking Singapore has done well in terms of their staff engagement scores and positive business results, with their strong emphasis on employee development,” says John Augustine Ong, Singapore learning lead at ANZ.

“A critical success factor is the visible leadership and strong endorsement of people development by their management team, which is evident through their presence during and co-facilitation of training workshops, coaching conversations with their team or giving time off for staff to attend the relevant programmes based on their learning needs.”

Retail Singapore scored 80% for overall employee engagement in 2015, up from 71% in 2014 and 62% in 2011.

Case three: SATS

With a staff strength of more than 15,000, SATS is Asia’s leading food solutions and gateway services company, with an annual turnover of about S$1.8 billion.

People are an organisation’s most valuable asset – an observation which is especially relevant for SATS, a large organisation that is heavily dependent on human resources to execute its business strategies.

The company’s vision for the human capital (HC) department is to engage and develop employees in an open environment of learning and sharing, with managers who lead by example.

To deliver its HC strategy, SATS has established a people development system, comprising the company’s learning principle, policy, learning centre, training framework, learning roadmap, learning initiatives and learning management system.

An employee engagement survey was also conducted in 2012, which identified two key areas that SATS needed to work on to ensure its continued success – strengthening the company identity and culture, and enhancing communications.

The senior management team thus concluded that employees’ sense of identity and belonging to the company needed to be enhanced, and leadership at all levels needed to be strengthened for a culture to be nurtured.

To strengthen leadership from the top, new key programmes for leaders at critical turning points in their leadership development were implemented. These new programmes were called the SATS connect series.

To deliver its HC strategy, SATS has established a people development system, comprising the company’s learning principle, policy, learning centre, training framework, learning roadmap, learning initiatives and learning management system.

Fundamentally, the series aims to get SATS leaders to re-evaluate their own leadership styles with the aim to achieve business goals that enable SATS to fulfil its vision and mission. The series focuses on strengthening leadership by improving communication and bringing visibility to the brand identity which is represented by the company’s brand promise “passion to delight” and its core values.

Another prong was to nurture and inculcate in all employees an understanding of SATS’ core values and its related service standards.

Since 2013, the SATS ambassador programme has served as a platform to consistently heighten the awareness of the SATS philosophy among its employees, hence, building an esprit de corps among them.

The goal was for it to be a learning carnival.

To translate SATS’ core values to actionable behavioural statements and service standards, HC worked together with the company’s corporate communications department to study ways to help employees more easily understand and relate to the core values.

A set of behavioural statements were established and endorsed by the senior management team.

The programme has certainly delivered in terms of the feedback and results it has garnered.
An engagement survey carried out in November 2015 showed the overall engagement score for SATS had improved significantly – from 40% in 2012 to 72% in 2015.

Looking specifically at the key drivers for engagement, the score for brand identity improved significantly from 37% in 2012 to 83% in 2015.

The score for communication rose from 32% in 2012 to 76% (intra-department) and 61% (inter-department) in 2015. These contribute saliently to the improvements of SATS’ overall engagement scores.

Fundamentally, the series aims to get SATS leaders to re-evaluate their own leadership styles with the aim to achieve business goals that enable SATS to fulfil its vision and mission.

Case four: SMRT

The role of L&D at SMRT has evolved over the past few years, beyond the traditional delivery of training courses.

To develop a competent and engaged workforce in an increasingly complex operating landscape, SMRT has been making significant investments in its L&D capabilities and plans. It now takes a long-term view towards L&D – from the perspectives of both the company and its employees, and integrates its L&D and HR strategies into a coherent and mutually reinforcing one.

“More than conventional training courses, we create learning experiences that motivate and engage employees, and inspire them to a higher level of excellence,” says Kang Huey Ling, principal at SMRT Institute.

The challenges and changes in the operating landscape that SMRT faces are numerous and multi-faceted. These include the doubling of the rail network by 2030, heightened regulatory standards, increasing ridership and commuter expectations, alongside an ageing infrastructure and workforce.

To overcome these challenges, the firm took deliberate steps to grow and professionalise its railway workforce, especially in railway engineering.

One key L&D initiative towards achieving this was to establish strategic academia-industry partnerships to grow and sustain the rail engineering workforce pipeline.

The firm has established Memorandums of Understanding and co-launched courses with academic institutions such as the Institute of Technical Education, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, and Singapore Institute of Technology.

Besides strengthening its L&D capabilities to develop staff’s functional competencies, SMRT also bolstered its L&D capabilities to develop staff’s leadership competencies and facilitate a company wide culture revolution.

The parties work closely together to co-design the course curriculum, exchange instructional services, and create industrial attachment opportunities for students.

SMRT has also been enhancing its own professional roadmaps and training programmes.

In May 2015, the company launched the SMRT train engineer professionalisation (STEP) roadmap, which not only provides development opportunities for staff to gain internationally recognised professional accreditation, but also grooms them to become well-rounded individuals.

SMRT has also made significant L&D progress and investments for its bus professionals, leveraging technology to enhance its L&D effectiveness. In July 2015, SMRT launched its bus training and evaluation centre – Singapore’s first team-based bus training centre.

Besides strengthening its L&D capabilities to develop staff’s functional competencies, SMRT also bolstered its L&D capabilities to develop staff’s leadership competencies and facilitate a company wide culture revolution.

To re-engage its staff and rebuild trust with the public and other stakeholders in the aftermath of the 2011 rail disruptions and 2012 illegal bus strike, SMRT embarked on a “service excellence” campaign to inspire and achieve higher service quality.

Key to this culture-shaping campaign was SMRT’s service excellence training programme, which was co-developed by SMRT, NTUC Learning Hub and Disney Institute, and attended by all SMRT employees.
Service excellence and other SMRT core values were further weaved into its other L&D programmes to reinforce key messages and catalyse the culture change.

The staff’s leadership development roadmap and programmes were also refreshed to develop leaders with the agility and leadership competencies to transform and grow SMRT in the new operating landscape.

The staff’s leadership development roadmap and programmes were also refreshed to develop leaders with the agility and leadership competencies to transform and grow SMRT in the new operating landscape.

As a result of these initiatives, the company’s headcount grew by 30% despite a tight labour market. In addition, voluntary attrition rates halved to reach a low of 5.5% in 2015.

Employee engagement scores are currently at best-in-class levels, with nine in 10 staff being proud to serve in SMRT, and 86% of staff being sustainably engaged – a noteworthy increase from 82% in 2013, placing the company way above the Singapore norm of 80%.

Moving forward, the company will build upon its strong L&D foundation to groom Singapore’s rail and bus professionals so as to enhance reliability and the commuters’ travel experience.

Image: Shutterstock

Don’t miss Talent Management Asia, Asia’s leading HR strategy conference — top HR management issues solved with cutting edge techniques from respected HR leaders.
In Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in March –
Register Now »

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