‘The future of learning would be self-paced and lifelong’
As SVP at Siam Commercial Bank, Aek Ussivakul has extensive experience in organisational development, people transformation, talent management and mobility work as well as the capability development work stream.
He is in charge of the Learning Platform and Data and the bank’s Learning Labs, armed with a quest to find the right and latest tools to take organisational health and people capabilities to the next level. Aek is also on the lookout for the right strategy, framework and tools to support HR business partners in driving the implementation of organizational development programs. He has also played a pivotal role in establishing the SCB Digital Academy with the aim to upskill all SCB people.
Aek is currently working with startups to build exponential learning platforms aiming to disrupt the education system and the way people learn. He is also passionate about grooming the next generation of OD and learning practitioners.
In this exclusive interaction, Aek gives us an overview of the talent scenario in Thailand, the skill gaps that are found majorly here, how SCB is driving a learning culture and what the future of work looks like.
What talent trends do you see in South East Asia, especially Thailand?
It is interesting to note that the trends now have stopped spreading from the West, and are growing more from within the region. Many organizations in Thailand are talking about new ways of working, design thinking and agility. The talent that they are looking for in the past was divided into the 80:20 ratio where 80% was focused on their short-term performance or their skills and expertise and the rest on their ability to grow. The ratios keep changing in between organizations ranging from 80:20 to 60:40. The trend now, however, has shifted to 20:80 since the skills have become less relevant as compared to their ability to learn, be more agile, and handle heavy pressures.
How difficult is it to find talent in Thailand?
While there is no dearth of talent in Thailand, it is challenging to find the right talent from the outside and then align it to the culture of the company.
What about turnover? Are people more stable in their jobs here or do they change jobs frequently?
It depends on the functions and the nature of business. For the frontline, it is still high turnover. But, based on my personal observation and conversations with my colleagues, apart from the frontline, I think the turnover is less than the past. People feel more secure staying in the same place I believe.
What are the skill gaps you find in the talent market in Thailand?
There are two skill gaps that I see. One is the lack of future technical skills like understanding data and emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, robotics, etc. and learning how to leverage those capabilities to deliver business outcomes. The second gap is the lack of soft skills like creativity, compassions, empathy and agility.
How is the leadership scenario like - are there more homegrown leaders or expats? How is succession planning working here?
According to me, if the company is of a similar size like Siam Commercial Bank, the ratio between homegrown and expat leaders is 50:50, especially when we have a huge gap in future skills and we haven’t been able to build a pipeline of leaders from within the country. For example, in SCB, there are certain unique skills that we could not find in any other organization, so we had to hire expats. But if the company’s size is smaller and they are growing very fast, they would probably need to hire more from the outside.
Since you have spent a large part of your career in the Learning and Development space and your focus in SCB is also on L&D, can you share some key L&D trends that you have observed?
The big trend is definitely moving towards lifelong and self-paced learning. In Thailand, there is a big gap. At SCB, we are aiming to be at the forefront. We aren't successful in implementing it yet, but we really believe in this and are learning to build on it. Some companies are starting to move from e-learning to mobile learning, and are looking for platforms for quick learning. Some organizations are still very traditional and are trying to find platforms for people to learn by themselves. However, there are some organizations who are at the forefront like Unilever since they are making use of multiple platforms. They are also making use one of the learning experience platforms, and thus, are pretty much ahead of others.
What is the learning culture at SCB like?
At SCB, we are very good at getting people to learn, but more on the mandatory learning and on asking them to complete certain skills training. We can actually help 27,000 people complete certain programs within just three months, depending on the content. People are used to learning online and on mobile. They are comfortable with the kind of learning we provide, but if we have to shift the model, then they will have to relearn how to use it. But, what we are trying to achieve is to move forward by getting people to learn by themselves. We have an objective at the SCB Academy which is about building a lifelong learning community. Last year, we tried to get as many learning resources as possible plus the platforms for people to learn. These platforms that we chose are not mandatory and are open to people who are interested. According to our internal definition, an ‘active learner’ is a person who would spend at least 4 hours of learning every month and we are trying to build this community of learners. Next year, we plan to promote this group of people to influence others and hence increase the reach and scope of learning within the organization. If everything goes as planned, it should take 2-3 years to skill about 27,000 people. In this way, we are trying to not give them the fish, but are giving them the tools to catch the fish. The future of learning is learning in the flow of work. That is the lifelong journey we are hoping our people to take.
What would the workplace of the future look like?
The workplace of the future would be something we do not even know of yet. I believe there would be jobs that don't exist as yet. It would be heavily relying on future skills like data, new technologies and people may have to work alongside machines. Skills like creativity and compassion will still be in demand and might spin off in some other types of jobs. One of the critical components we must focus on before focusing on skills is on ensuring people have the right mindset. It is about giving them a glimpse of what is really happening around us with regards to the exponential change we are witnessing and then encourage them to shift their mindset to be more exponential. We need to provide our people with the purpose and will to do something exponential.