Learning as a Continuous Part of Employee Development: Interview with Dorothy Yiu, COO of EngageRocket

August 7, 201910:12 am
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There is a general consensus that continuous learning is no longer an option for an organisation to implement, but a must. Yet, for both individuals and company, continuous learning could be a hard-to-achieve program due to some reasons such as tight budget or limited time, as mentioned in a survey.

Thusly, to discuss further about the crucial issues regarding employee development, we sought answers from the professional, Dorothy Yiu, COO of EngageRocket, to shed a light for industries on how to create, improve, and retain worthwhile development programs.

Hi, Dorothy. As a COO in an IT company, why do you think it is important for talents to pursue continuous learning in their expertise?

Many jobs today did not exist just 1 to 2 decades ago. As the world of business continues to evolve and new jobs are created, it is pertinent that we remain agile with the ability to unlearn, learn and relearn.

In addition, the world is also melting into a giant pool of talent. What this means is that organisations today can hire someone at half the cost and with more experience, to get specialised work done on a “project” basis. To remain competitive, talents should continually upskill themselves and stay relevant.

Learning from your own experience, how do you maximise your time to personally and professionally develop yourself?

Stay curious. Learning is no longer considered a stand-alone, unconnected event that occurs occasionally. It is a continuous, deliberate process that can be worked into your daily life.

Firstly, I have found audio books to be a great way for me to continuously learn and a more efficient use of time while commuting.

Secondly, I have adopted a ‘lead-with-yes’ attitude when it comes to taking on requests for work that I have no experience in. It may be daunting to try something new but once you have done it, you’d have gained the experience you didn’t have before starting.

Lastly, I was given some practical advice on gaining wisdom internally through introspection and reflection. It is as simple as building within your daily routine some time to write down an intention to kickstart the day and a reflection to end the day.

Dorothy Yiu, Co-founder and COO of EngageRocket

It is said that lack of time becomes the number one barrier for individuals to professional development. How do you see this issue? And what is the best suggestion you can offer to mitigate the problem?

It is not the lack of time that is the barrier to development, it is the lack of intention.

Be intentional in your own development. This includes having a conversation with your manager to build in development opportunities within your scope of work, taking on projects or tasks that allow you to expand your skillset and actively seeking mentors to support your growth.

What are the best approaches HR department can do to help and motivate their employees to pursue learning without sacrificing their personal lives?

Build in flexibility in the schemes that support your employees’ development. It can be setting aside a budget for employees that can be used to pursue learning programmes that support their role at work or if there are budget constraints, allocating time off from work for employees dedicated to learning and development activities.

Additionally, encourage and enable managers to take on the role of a coach by upskilling them in mentoring or coaching programmes. Not only will having a coach at work enable more personalised developmental conversations, it will also strengthen employees engagement at work which has a direct positive impact on performance and retention.

In line with your previous answer, what kind of effective learning culture a company can embrace? Can you share an example?

A successful company does not only provide formal training for employees, but builds a culture that promotes informal and continuous learning.

At EngageRocket, we promote a continuous learning culture by first adopting a no-blame policy. We intentionally allow for an environment where employees can experiment, take risks and fail without fear of being marginalised. We recognise that failing is part of learning and we empower our employees to dare to fail. Not only does this aid in their personal growth but we find this promotes creativity and innovation within our organisation.

Companies are more diverse than ever in terms of technology adoption, workforce characteristics, and culture. Thusly, in this diverse workplace, what do you think are the best tools to cater employee’s learning needs?

With the explosion of the gig economy and the presence of multi-generations in the workforce, we are seeing greater divserity and complexity in our workplace.

A one-size-fits-all training programme is no longer effective. It is important to better understand each employee’s persona in order to access the learning needs and fine-tune the employee’s experience and learning journey. To obtain relevant data on employees’ learning needs, organisations can adopt continuous listening tools that provide capabilities such as agile pulse surveys, multi-rater feedback reviews and multi-dimensional analysis.

For instance, as part of its digitisation road-map, our customer EM Services is also deploying EngageRocket’s solutions to collect, analyse and act on employee feedback in real-time. With a wide range of professional skill sets within the group, they needed a single view of employee experience and well-being.

It is also important for HR to share the data back with managers so that they can personalise the learning experience for each and every employee in their team. Additionally, communication tools such as Slack help to facilitate continuous conversation and check-ins to track progress.

Last but not least, feedback is crucial to match between company’s expectations and employee’s demands. In terms of personal development, how should feedback be given?

First, feedback should always be given alongside facts and recommendations. Providing context and specifics will greatly help to objectify the feedback and to visualise an action plan to improve.

Secondly, feedback is best given one-on-one, ideally in an informal setting. This creates a safe environment where communication is more open and free, and feedback can be more readily accepted.

Thirdly, feedback should be mutual. Encouraging the receiver of the feedback to also provide you with feedback will help build trust and a mutually beneficial learning journey for both of you.

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