Upskilling UOB's employees is a good idea, it's Head of Learning thinks. Source: Shutterstock

Upskilling UOB’s employees is a good idea, it’s Head of Learning thinks. Source: Shutterstock

Why UOB is investing in a long term, inclusive reskilling program

TO PREPARE for the future, organizations need to reskill their employees today. That’s the message that all of the leading think tanks, analysts, and experts have been spreading in recent years — and companies finally seem to be taking that advice on board.

Recently, UOB, a Singaporean multinational bank with more than 500 offices in 19 countries, launched a new training program consisting of five modules to help staff learn new skills.

The company’s Head of Group HR Dean Tong took a few minutes to speak to Tech Wire Asia to explain the rationale and philosophy behind the program and share some thoughts on the future of its reskilling program.

“Our philosophy as we head into the digital-first era is simple. We’re not going to leave any employee behind. That’s why our training program is designed to cater to members of staff, irrespective of their age and their comfort level with both technology as well as learning.”

Tong said that the UOB’s management understands that digital is the driver of business today and that trend isn’t likely to change. Further, he admitted that the course that technology takes and what impact it has on the banking and financial services industry isn’t something anyone can predict with any certainty.

Hence, the company has decided to invest in fostering a culture that is focused on innovation, understands the needs and demands in the digital age, and is comfortable with technology.

Since UOB’s staff comprises of employees of different ages, backgrounds, and skills, the company’s initial training is offered as a blended learning program — “it starts off with a classroom session where the first module is taught, but we use part of the time to introduce employees to the online e-learning platform as well.”

Tong thought that asking employees to get acquainted with the e-learning platform might seem counter-intuitive to some, but it’s actually brilliant because it helps ensure that users can find their way around the platform, troubleshoot difficulties, and ask questions to jumpstart their learning.

After the initial classroom session, employees are divided into groups of five and spend twelve weeks learning from the remaining modules through the e-learning platform.

“Gamification makes learning fun, so we’ve brought some of that into our training course. The groups that are formed actually take part in an online community and their performance helps rank the teams on a leaderboard, enhancing the experience and naturally boosting engagement among staff.

“To further incentivize employees, we’re offering an additional day of annual leave credit to employees that successfully and satisfactorily complete the training — including all assessments.”

While the initial training program doesn’t involve important digital skills, UOB’s team said it made a conscious decision to design the reskilling program in this way.

The aim, the team explained, is to help employees get back to learning, and use technology to do it.

“At the end of the 12-week program, we’ve got additional deep-dive training programs organized,” revealed Tong. For now, the deep-dive programs include data analytics and project management. However, in the future, the company expects to offer more digitally-focused courses to employees via its e-learning platform.

Reskilling means investing in employees for the long-term

When creating new training programs, companies often worry about employees gaining new skills and then leaving. UOB doesn’t see that as a problem — “we’re more concerned with reskilling our employees so that the ones that stay are able to help steer the company past the competition in the digital age.”

“To be frank, we’re not investing in reskilling with an ROI target. We see it as a long-term investment that will help stand the company in good stead in the years ahead of us.”

Speaking of long-term, Tong clarified to Tech Wire Asia that the company is indeed thinking in terms of years not months for its reskilling program.

UOB is working with universities in Singapore such as the National University of Singapore (NUS) to create professional and management development programs that support the future learning needs of employees and help them with reskilling.

Of course, going back to school represents a massive investment for most employees — and Tong claimed that UOB is not only prepared for it but is working on encouraging employees to invest in themselves.

“A regular technology program offered by a university is usually a two- to four-year engagement, full-time. That’s why we’re collaborating with universities to create programs that are stackable and help acquire new, tangible skills that can be acquired over time, in a way that is suitable to a working professional in today’s competitive ecosystem.”

Tong clarified that the company will invest in its employees’ training, but wants to see employees invest in themselves too.

“Training isn’t easy — you can put someone through a training program and they could learn nothing. We want employees to invest their time and energy into the programs that interest them while we make the financial investment in their future.”

In an age where employees drive business transformation and growth and ultimately craft the experiences that customers seek, the new upskilling program can go a long way to help UOB stay ahead.