Professional of the Year 2007: Learning & Development
Employee retention is seen as a major challenge for companies, irrespective of the nature of their business. In an environment where it is relatively hard to find the right talent, companies may need to look at different ways of talent retention, beyond compensation and benefits or a constructive environment. Regular training or learning on the job is seen as a fundamental part of people development, engaging employees and contributing to their better performance.
“Learning begins the moment an employee joins the company and continues throughout his or her career,” Wong Sau Lin, VP of HR SingTel says, Education lays the foundation, enriching an employee’s stay within an organisation. It helps employees learn the business and its demands and equips them with the right tools to cope with changing industry needs and demands.
Moreover, regular training and development helps companies identify future leaders and paves the way for sound succession planning.
Training and development is also becoming a tool to attract talent, with firms citing
this as one of their main differentiating factors from the competition.
Helen Lim-Yang, CEO, OTi Consulting says, “With talent management being a key business issue, many organisations are also paying attention to career aspiration needs though learning and development plans.” Lastly, the job market by itself has created and instilled the need for constant upgrading of skill sets. Creating and maintaining regular training and development programmes is often a challenge for
companies and one that requires serious investment. While initial investment may seem large, the benefits are multiple and effective in the long run, with more
engaged employees and enhanced performance.
HP, IBM and Singapore Airlines receive the highest recognition for their training and
development strategies in the HR Professional of the Year survey. HP receives 10.97% of the overall vote, IBM 8.66% and Singapore Airlines 5.56%. The Ritz-
Carlton, Motorola, Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), Shell, Citibank, McDonald’s and GE complete the top 10 list. Companies in the top 10 come from varying industry segments, unlike certain categories where some industries dominate the top 10.
Local companies give HP 10.73% of their vote but only 5.37% to its strongest contender IBM. On the other hand, foreign companies vote in favour of
the first runner-up, giving it 12.63% of their vote.
HP receives a large share of the foreign business vote (11.26%). Third-ranked Singapore Airlines does better with local companies, winning 6.21% of their vote and wins only 4.78% of the foreign business vote. GE does relatively well with foreign companies, winning 4.44% of their vote that puts it straight after Singapore Airlines in the top 10.
The industry vote is split unevenly amongst the top three, with some industries voting heavily in favour of HP or IBM and some giving no votes at all to Singapore Airlines. Take business & personal services that gives its majority vote to HP of 14.06%. The same industry gives only 3.91% to both IBM and Singapore
Airlines. Similarly, financial services gives HP 12.00% of its vote, IBM 6.00% but zero votes to Singapore Airlines. The IT & telecommunications vote is pretty
unbalanced, with IBM receiving 17.14% of the vote, HP 9.52% and Singapore Airlines nil.
On the other hand, government & community services vote more equally, giving HP 23.08% and IBM and Singapore Airlines 15.38%. Engineering, mining & construction gives its majority vote to Singapore Airlines (12.61%) and gives IBM the least percentage of 7.56% in the top three.
The retail & hospitality vote is equally divided amongst the top three, with HP receiving 8.57% and IBM and Singapore Airlines receiving 7.14% each. General manufacturing gives its majority vote of 7.35% to IBM and Singapore Airlines
the least percentage of votes, 3.68%. HP tops the vote of all HR personnel, receiving
its highest vote of 18.97%. IBM, Singapore Airlines and seventh ranked Shell receive 8.62% each of this segment's vote. HP receives 12.00% of the vote from HR management, while IBM and Singapore Airlines receive 7.11%. Senior HR personnel (VPs and HR directors) give HP 7.37% of their vote.
Interestingly, The Ritz-Carlton, ranked fourth, wins more than IBM and Singapore Airlines, with 6.84% of the senior HR vote. Training management give 11.57% of their vote to HP and 6.61% each to IBM, Motorola and Citibank. Singapore Airlines receives just 4.13% of this vote.
Finance and administration management give IBM 28.30% of their vote, HP 9.43% and Singapore Airlines none. Large companies with a headcount of over 500 give
HP 14.43% of their vote, IBM 7.46% and Singapore Airlines 3.48%. IBM receives the majority vote of 11.25% from companies with a headcount of 101-250. HP receives 8.13% and Singapore Airlines 3.75% in this category. Small companies give their majority vote of 11.17% to HP but Singapore Airlines does its personal best in this category, with 8.94%. Companies with a headcount of 251-500 once again give HP the majority vote of 8.41%, IBM 7.48% and Singapore Airlines 6.54%.
While these figures seem complex, they tell a simple story. Some companies are highly valued for their training and development policies, making a conscious effort to keep their staff engaged and motivated. SingTel’s approach is to start induction
from day one and maintain this synergy throughout an employee’s stay in the organisation. Its Integration Programme is for new hires and stretches beyond simple orientation.
It includes a one-day SingTel induction programme and a two-day/one night Connect@Forum, within the first six months. New employees are also given a support system, whereby they are attached to a “buddy” from the same
department and a more senior “guide” who serves as a mentor.
SingTel’s Wong explains that this programme is very important from an employee lifecycle perspective and is more copious than “attending a class programme.” In order to evaluate the efficacy of this programme, SingTel conducts a survey after an
employee has spent six months within the firm.
Other areas that SingTel focuses on include technical skills upgrading and career
development. Being a technology company asks for employees to be up-to-date with the latest technological developments and the company has specifically created the “IP Factory”, that gives staff different levels of IP training. The programme includes tie-ups with polytechnics and short courses with vendors, with staff taking exams at the end of the course.
On the other hand, 10th-ranked GE believes its core competency lies in leadership development. June Koh, GE’s leadership training and development leader, Southeast Asia, says, “It’s about developing our current and next generation of leaders.”
She says it is important to create an innovative environment to equip employees with the requisite tools to enhance their relationship with customers. As part of this, “GE has grown its commercial team, revitalising it to better assess and meet market
demands.” Another initiative she cites is the Inclusive Workshop, which brings managers together to exchange ideas.
Asked about the challenges of training and development, Koh identifies two areas, “Development takes time and it varies from one individual to another.” The challenge would be to “overcome the time factor”, so employees can answer the needs of the market. Another challenge is the “global mindset of talent”. She asks,
“How do we ensure that a talent in a business or industry can also be the same talent in another?”
Wong feels talent is hard to come by and the telco industry faces severe competition. With technologies changing quickly, employees also need to “continuously upgrade their skills”, she adds. Beyond the actual training, comes the challenge of educating managers that training is not a “cure-all”. She believes
the company needs to “encourage application of new learning from training” and to ensure that managers guide their people on a daily basis.
For training and development to be effective, it needs to be consistent and considered a main factor of organisational development. As organisational
development is not possible in the short-term, the approach and investment to training and development would need to be long-term and in keeping with an
organisation’s business objectives.
- General Electric
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