Article: A learning culture starts with giving people autonomy to carve their own learning path: Aye Wee Yap, OCBC Bank

Learning & Development

A learning culture starts with giving people autonomy to carve their own learning path: Aye Wee Yap, OCBC Bank

Aye Wee Yap from OCBC Bank who is joining us at People Matters L&D SEA Conference 2021 believes that COVID-19 also foregrounded the importance of the learning experience itself. Read on to know her insights on what are some of the non-negotiables for improving learning culture in organizations.
A learning culture starts with giving people autonomy to carve their own learning path:  Aye Wee Yap, OCBC Bank

Aye Wee Yap spearheads the Learning and Development at the OCBC Bank. A believer in the power of "why not?”, she traverses life with the passion of an intrepid adventurer. She made the leap into the banking industry 10 years ago and has headed Service Transformation, led a 400-strong team of dedicated Contact Centre professionals across Singapore and Malaysia, dabbled as a Data Protection Officer, and is now Head of the OCBC Campus – the only Corporate City Campus in Singapore. She continues to inspire and be inspired by her vibrant team, hell-bent on making a positive change to OCBC and to the world.

At the People Matters L&D SEA Conference 2021, Aye Wee Yap is joining us for an exclusive session and will focus on the cultural pillars of OCBC Bank that led to continuous learning during COVID-19. 

In an exclusive interaction with us, Aye Wee Yap shares her insights on reimagining learning and what are some of the non-negotiables for improving learning culture in their organizations.

The pandemic has brought back the importance of reskilling and upskilling of resources as part of the larger business transformation in the wake of the crisis. What do you think are some of the trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID-19?

OCBC started its business and human capital transformation some years before COVID-19 and I think that the skill domains of focus are largely unchanged. However what COVID-19 did was to bring into sharper focus some of the following skill domains for obvious reasons: Leadership in an uncertain world, cognitive, emotional and behavioral agility, tech-savvy and collaboration.  

Separately, COVID-19 also foregrounded the importance of the learning experience itself –how you bring a virtual or blended learning format to life and ensure learning outcomes continue to be met.

Organizations that invested in learning technology as a core L&D competency probably saw less disruption to organizational learning.

How is the role of L&D professionals changing?

The ability of an organization to learn has become recognized as an important component of competitiveness, and hence the demand for learning has grown exponentially.

L&D professionals should be conversant in the learning sciences, adept at designing superior learning experiences that deliver real learning gains and business value. They should be ambassadors of a culture of learning and growth and be expected to walk the talk. They should know the business, the geopolitics, and trends shaping businesses and hence learning needs. They are professional consultants to business heads and a caring advisor to employees. And if they are to fulfill these roles, then they must be smart enough and care enough to make that difference to employees and the culture.

Companies that continue to invest in training and offer learning opportunities for their talent will emerge as winners on the other side of this crisis. What are some of the L&D initiatives initiated at your organization in this pandemic?

We re-platformed our Group Learning Management System in 2018 in readiness for virtualizing learning and have been digitalizing our content since then. When the DORSCON alert was raised to Orange in on 7th February 2020 , we re-grouped and shifted all resources online. One of our most critical onboarding programs – a 16-week fully physical program – was converted in two weeks. In all we converted 85% of all physical programs to virtual. We launched initiatives like “Campus Goes Virtual” and “Around the World” where we connected our countries across the OCBC Group in virtual learning fests. 

We had three objectives: To make sure learning remained accessible, to provide a way for employees to stay connected with each other, and to help employees make sense of the crisis. Our large-scale virtual learning programs allowed employees around the world to meet and interact. Webinars on wellness (including intense work-out sessions), lessons on working from home, mastering virtual working tools, developing trust with colleagues remotely, were well-received. Employees felt topics were just-in-time and that they were cared for by the bank. In all, we saw more than 442,000 attendances in more than 6,100 virtual programs last year.  

The pandemic also highlights the need to reskill and upskill workers towards stronger data science skills, a better understanding of artificial intelligence, and to expand digital literacy overall. What is your organization doing in that direction?

We’ve always championed the value of being forward-looking as a bank towards our customers and our employees. For example, we were one of the first banks in Singapore to start a dedicated customer analytics department in 2004 to make informed business decisions. 

In 2018, we launched Future Smart Future Workforce, a 3-year initiative that invested $20 Mn in upskilling and reskilling all 30,000 of our employees with future skills. This year, we will embark on our next 3-year phase of Future Smart Future Workforce. We have rolled out a wide range of programs across proficiency levels, and mindset and skillset pillars to offer depth and breadth to our employees’ learning experience. In 2018, we partnered Ngee Ann Polytechnic and CFTE to create a tailored AI in Finance professional certification program. In 2019, we launched the data and cyber certification pathways so employees can work as data analysts and specialists, cyber risk analysts, and cybersecurity specialists. 

We’re not stopping here. More pathways are being created for different functions that operate in an increasingly digitalized world. Beyond content, we invested in change management through a series of campaigns within the organization. We increased awareness of the urgency to adopt future skills, publicized the benefits of learning opportunities and told stories of learning champions who went through learning journeys to transform their skills, roles or took part in collaborative projects that transform the way the bank works. All these gave our employees a strong sense of the organization’s commitment to leave no one behind.

About the point on digital literacy, I think it’s important not to get swept away by the rhetoric surrounding digital. There is really quite a lot of noise out there and we need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

 What is most critical is the way we think about the changes coming our way. What does it mean when customer service is now delivered online? How do we manage businesses and lead teams virtually? How will our culture cope with the exponential speed and scale of change that the digital medium brings? How do we make sure we bring everyone along? How do we form opinions and plan when technology and services change at the speed of light? The frames for thinking in a complex world and the growth mindset we strive to develop in our people are what we believe will serve them well in these times.

As talent leaders, reimagine workplace learning, what are some of the non-negotiables for improving the learning culture in their organizations?

We believe a learning culture starts with giving people autonomy to carve their own learning path, with guidance from their managers. But this belief must be supported by process and policy.

To give an example, if we want our employees to be proactive about learning, then our processes and policies must support this principle. In our bank, there is no need for managerial approval for anyone to attend training. Everything that is offered by the Campus is good for consumption, our employees are trusted to do the right thing, and the manager has to trust his team as well. 

We also start from the belief that people all want to learn and grow, but that they may have lost the zest to learn, or are prevented from doing so perhaps because of work commitments. Our focus here is to figure out what these are and to remove these impediments. Mandating learning is not our preferred modus operandi.

Finally, we believe that community is key to learning. Honest immediate feedback, encouragement, teaching others what one knows and learning yet from others, go a long way to creating a “kind” learning environment where more people can thrive and grow.  

Join us at People Matters L&D SEA Conference 2021 coming to your screens on 4rth March 2021. Click here to register.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #PMLnDSEA

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