By Corporate English Solutions

08 May 2023 - 14:34

Success story: How Singtel is using small innovations to increase L&D impact

To meet the demands of modern workplaces, it's crucial to take your learning solutions to the next level. Little time, expertise or budget? There's a solution: small innovations in learning that can make a big impact over time.

Discover how one of Asia’s leading communications technology companies is using these to build a future-ready workforce in our interview with Zu Hui Yap, Associate Director (People Transformation) at Singtel.


Reading time: 5 minutes

We know that it’s time to rethink our learning solutions. New types of jobs, technological transformation, globalisation, hybrid working and increased workforce diversity mean that our existing learning solutions may no longer meet our organisations’ needs

But how many of us have huge budgets, long timelines, technical expertise and multiple resources, let alone no resistance to change or risk-taking?

It’s time to explore small innovations in learning: cost-effective, quicker-to-implement methods and tweaks that can make incremental improvements to our learning programmes over time.

Which small innovations are essential for 2023? We surveyed L&D and HR leaders to find out which small innovations they are prioritising in order to make big impact. The results are in:

Coming out on top is informal learning (56% of respondents use this), followed by hyper personalisation and mobile learning (17% each) and nano learning (10%). 

L&D leaders reported that informal learning is impactful as it can provide learners with the autonomy and flexibility to choose what, how, and when they learn, and can also encourage continuous learning and collaboration. It can be easily integrated into existing systems and infrastructure, providing a flexible, cost-effective, learner-centred approach. 

Hyper-personalisation and mobile learning are also gaining popularity, indicating a growing demand for tailored and accessible learning experiences. While some may see nano learning as a potentially expensive trend or just a buzzword, others are beginning to recognise its potential to deliver bite-sized, just-in-time learning experiences that can fit seamlessly into employees' busy schedules.

Our survey shows the importance of offering a variety of learning methods to cater to diverse learning styles and preferences. This can ensure that learners receive the best possible learning experiences and increase its impact. 

So how does this work in practice? 

We caught up with Zu Hui Yap, Associate Director (People Transformation) at Singtel. Read on to discover how one of Asia’s leading communications technology groups is incorporating small innovations in learning their learning and development cycle to make a big impact.

How would you define innovative learning?

Some people say it’s about adopting the latest technologies, metaverse learning, AI, ChatGPT. For me, it’s about taking a design thinking approach. This may involve using innovative learning technologies or not. 

More important is to consider learners’ needs, skills gaps, profiles, and the level of skills and knowledge they need to achieve. Then you find or develop the right content, format and tools for them to learn. 

So for me, having new ways for people to learn that really work for them is innovative.

Why is it important to rethink workplace learning and shake up learning and development solutions in 2023?

In only a few years, we have seen dramatic changes in how people expect work to be. The Covid pandemic forced us to rethink the future of work and by extension, how people learn and develop.

If there is one overall theme that best captures the moment, it’s flexibility – reports state that over 50% of people would leave their job if they lose the flexibility to work from home. This needs to be translated into learning flexibility. So, hybrid and virtual learning are definitely here to stay. Yet face-to-face learning still has its advantages. Going forward, we need to find the optimal mix so that people learn better.

Organisations need to reconsider how they measure learning. We need to go beyond tests, smile sheets and survey questions and continue to work on how to measure behavioural change. What works well in a fully in-person set-up will need to be adapted to new contexts. 

Can you tell us more about the innovative learning methods used or planned at Singtel? 

At Singtel, we have over 23,000 employees worldwide, a very diverse and highly spread-out workforce. Last year, we decided to commit S$20m every year to training and development. Our approach to innovative learning is defined by our ACT strategy

  • Accelerating skills development
  • Co-creating learning developmental pathway
  • Transforming the way we learn

We take an agile approach to implementing our people development tools. We start by considering what will fulfil people’s deeper sense of purpose and launch a minimum viable product (MVP). We then test the MVP to get feedback before reaching out to other technology providers. And we don’t just look at learning; we take a holistic approach to building portfolios of skills that align with employees’ career aspirations. 

What’s critical for us is ensuring we select and implement innovative learning methods that work for our people.

Hyper personalised learning

This is crucial to individualising the learning experience, which drives impact. Our LMS allows employees create their own learning pathways, or use recommended pathways based on their job function and what they have learned in the past. Helping people create the system and structure gives them greater autonomy, which increases motivation and builds a culture of continuous learning. 

We are also looking at how we can equip managers to be coaches – they know their direct reports’ current levels of performance, skills and what they need to develop. By developing a coaching management style, having regular conversations focused on specific areas of strength and growth, learning can be more personalised and targeted. It also increases managers’ accountability, keeping the momentum going and responding at pace to under-performance. 

Informal learning

Managers are also key to enabling informal learning strategies. Their knowledge of the business and talent with expertise make them an important resource for informal learning opportunities. They can support L&D teams to facilitate informal learning,  recognise and reward their teams’ efforts, and create a learning culture in their teams. This can drive skills improvement and increase the impact of informal learning tools. 

We are exploring informal learning opportunities such as cross-functional collaboration, project work, knowledge sharing and mobility as a learning tool. For these to have an impact, it’s important to create structures and look at HR policies, change management initiatives and how to measure the impact of informal learning. 

Mobile learning

As a leading communications organisation, it’s important that our employees are empowered to use their mobile as well as other devices for learning. We have an app that can connect to our LMS so they can learn on-the-go, providing increased flexibility for onsite and hybrid teams. 

We also use software for social learning, where employees can share information, ask questions and give each other advice. Social learning has been particularly important since the pandemic, as many learners worldwide were feeling disconnected from others. Social learning platforms can re-engage these teams in learning, which in turn, has a positive impact on their engagement at work.

Where do you see learning solutions going in the next 5 years? What is Singtel doing to prepare for this now?

Will we all be working and learning in an alternate, virtual universe? 

We know that in physical environments, it's easier to pick up skills because all senses are activated, you can feel more and are more likely to remember the experience. This enhances learning and application and is crucial to agile skills development. We are investigating whether virtual environments facilitate similar interactions: can you have deep, rich conversations, understand feelings and perceive micro expressions? 

With the new low latency technologies available, communication, interaction and feedback are instantaneous. With this, remote learning can replicate some of the benefits of in-person learning to bring about the “embodiment of learning” where the senses can be activated, and learners are more likely to remember and transfer knowledge and skills learned. 

Last year we became the first in the world to achieve full 5G coverage in Singapore. So, it’s critical for us to help our workforce understand 5G. We’ve developed highly targeted learning solutions to train people in 5G and other emerging technologies. This is helping us develop talent with the skills needed for future jobs and to meet our future digital needs.

And finally, what one piece of advice do you have for teams thinking about implementing small learning innovations?

Decide as a team a stretched desired end-state, determine the most important features that you can deliver quickly and test them out. You might be surprised about what you think people want vs. how they respond.

British Council has been partnering with organisations to develop their talent for more than 80 years. Through our 4-step process, we work closely with teams to ensure learning programmes are engaging, relevant and develop the skills your people and organisation need for now and the future.


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