Our regular User Clinics gather ArcLab customers and users to connect, learn and share all the benefits that Nano Learning and Just-in-Time Training has brought to their workforce and organisation. The ArcLab team also shares new features that we developed since our User Clinic, and explore how these can be used to create even better and more engaging training for organisations’ workforces.
Our first User Clinic of 2023 centred around Learner Analytics and the Measurement of Training Return on Investment (ROI).
We had the pleasure to welcome ArcLab’s Advisory Board Member – Dr Karin Avnit, Associate Professor at Singapore Institute of Technology (“SIT”) and Deputy Director (Tech-Enabled Learning) of SIT’s Centre of Learner Assessment & Development – to share on how we think about Measuring & Improving the ROI of Training.
Our broad framework on Training ROI: 1. Do employees: – find the training useful? – feel motivated by the training?
2. Do employees: – show an understanding of the learnt content? – perform better after a training?
3. Can I get: – the same training done in less training time? – more learning in the same training time?
Here’s the full details of what Dr Karin shared:
Our CEO James also shared about ArcLab’s Learner Analytics Features, which you can read in detail via our Knowledge Base:
ArcLab is a team of educators, designers and technologists working together to create the world’s simplest training system to upskill the world’s deskless workforce.
It’s a huge endeavour – there are 2.7 billion of such workers in the world, 250 million in Southeast Asia alone. We’ve gotten great results, achieving solid results with a very lean team to-date.
We’re now growing the team to so we can accelerate our growth in Southeast Asia (Malaysia and Vietnam in 2023), and help many more organisations to onboard, train and support their workforces in a fuss-free & effective way.
Who we're looking for
To help us achieve our mission, we’re looking for talented folks for these roles:
1. UI/UX Design Lead – Our design philosophy is Simplicity, because the Deskless Workforce doesn’t have bandwidth or infrastructure for Complexity. If you have a passion for understanding users’ needs and pain points, and can design the simplest way to get the job done, there’s a product design role waiting for you. Check the ArcLab platform out too: https://builder.arclab.io
2. Learning Design Lead – ArcLab is a tech platform but ultimately a skilling company. If you can help us build up our mobile learning andragogical practice (see ArcLab Discover: https://builder.arclab.io/discover), and work with & educate customers on their L&D frameworks and training rollouts, we want to hear from you. [Update: Position filled! ☺️ ]
4. Sales & Marketing Lead (based in Malaysia 🇲🇾) – ArcLab is a product-led growth (“PLG”) company. The majority of businesses find us through stellar content marketing (notice how this blog post has targetted keywords so searchers can find us…). So if you’re passionate about inbound, and can get into the weeds with SEO (e.g. ArcLab ranks on Google’s Page 1 for “Train F&B staff”), get in touch.
5. Software Engineer – We’re a well-architected SaaS platform. If you like simple-to-use software, love building and experimenting, and are passionate about organisation and maintainability of the codebase, our CTO Steven (who is ex-PayPal and had successfully exited a business to Rocket Internet before) is looking for you. Work with, and learn from Steven.
If you are (or know someone who can be) a good fit, we’re interested to speak with you.
We don’t need you to have years of experience, and you’ll notice the job listings don’t ask for any minimum academic or formal qualifications – that’s because we believe that (i) passion for your chosen discipline, (ii) a great attitude towards people and (iii) the drive to learn whatever you need to do you job – are the most important traits for a would-be ArcLab-er.
If we can sync up on these 3 areas above, we’re ready to work with you and give you time to grow into the role that you join us for.
We’re a disciplined business – We don’t subscribe to the scorched-earth, grow-at-all-costs business model. We build efficiently, do a lot with very little and are here to build a sustainable, profitable and impactful business that will be around for a long time.
Remote Work, Work-from-Home (“WFH”), Work-from-Anywhere were almost alien concepts. For many of us, work took place in an office or worksite, in a different place from our homes. Employers expected staff to work together in a common location.
COVID-19 upended the world we knew. But the early days of battling with COVID-19 have also passed, as better knowledge about the virus helped scientists and healthcare professionals to develop vaccines and medical treatment.
We learnt to live with the virus these past 3 years.
In our personal lives – we wore face masks, practised social distancing, learnt how to self-test, got vaccinated.
Today, we live in a COVID-normal world, almost no different from pre-2020 (with the notable exception of China).No more lockdowns, social distancing or masking requirements. International travel resumed even as Zoom and Google Meet video conferences became second nature. The ArcLab team ourselves have travelled twice to visit our customers in Malaysia, and plan for more visits next year.
Work-from-Anywhere, I will.
As the economy reopened, we resumed international travel with a vengeance.
But workers were reluctant to make a shorter journey – that of returning to the office.
Many workers had gotten used to not having to commute, to having much more flexibility to manage our time & tasks, to having more time & interaction with the family and loved ones.
Technology played a part – why do we need to meet and work together in person when tools like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams helped us to communicate with co-workers, and project management software like Notion and Asana kept everyone on task?
In fact, work-from-anywhere has now being brought to a whole new level. “Workations”, where professionals travel to a different country to work for an extended period while enjoying leisure travel is “an upcoming workforce train” (quote from this Straits Times article). If you live in a high-cost country, moving to a lower-cost economy to discharge your work duties (without changing job) can end up being financially-productive.
Flexible Work Arrangements like these had now become mainstream. We can now well-and-truly integrate work and play, though there are also downsides from being “always-on”, with no natural break between the workplace and the home (now one and the same).
From the worker’s perspective – it’s the output that matters. Don’t micromanage HOW I do my work, or WHERE i work, as long as I deliver on my responsibilities.
Remote Work, you can't (any more).
Not all employers were 100% comfortable with remote work, even when mandated during early-COVID days in 2020.
For supervisors used to managing by “line-of-sight”, this new WFH setup was tough. How would I know if my staff was indeed working, or slacking / shirking / “relak one corner” (Singaporean slang)? Some managers had resorted to compulsory “video-on” Zooms, where staff needed to be in front of the computer camera, as “proof-of-work” (pardon the blockchain reference).
From the employer’s perspective – I’m paying your salary, so I have the right to mandate how (and where) you work. In 2021, my hands were tied because of COVID restrictions, and also because the economy and job market was hot. In late 2022, with rising interest rates, slowing economies and a loosening labour market, employers could now call the shots.
If a worker insisted on remote work, companies can now easily find someone else who will work in the office. And if it’s really work-from-anywhere, this also means companies can also give one worker’s job to another from a country where wage demands are lower.
So holding out for remote work also cuts both ways.
Hybrid Work (Give some, take some).
As with most things, the optimal arrangement is probably somewhere in the middle.
We’re an output-driven company, but we also believe there is magic when people come together. So we continue to maintain a hybrid approach. 1 or 2 days per week where everyone comes in (no need for the whole day even), rest of the time work-from-anywhere.
Additionally, ArcLab is not ruling out letting our team members work out of different locations (and countries) for a period of time – as we also take steps towards establishing presence in Southeast Asia, starting with Malaysia next year.
Having worked in 3 countries, I KNOW for a fact that working abroad can be a great professional experience, and helps us broaden our perspectives as we build out the platform for our customers. I want to provide this opportunity for my team as well.
As long as employers and employees have a shared vision, and recognise we are all playing on the same team – then there’s no us vs them.
Together, we achieve more. Together, Stronger – as the Welsh football team’s motto proclaims (condolences to Gareth Bale & team at their World Cup 2022 1st round exit at the hands of Harry Kane & England).
For many, WFH is a pipe-dream.
Whatever we’ve read so far – is only for office workers. The white-collar. The professional. The knowledge worker. The digital nomad.
For 2.7 billion Deskless Workers in the world (250 million in Southeast Asia alone), also known as blue-collar, frontline workers – the concept of Remote Work is utterly irrelevant.
This makes remote work and work-from-anywhere a pipe-dream for our Deskless Workforce.
As employers and employees continue to hammer out optimal work arrangements that are productive yet flexible, spare a thought for our Deskless Workers – who toil in typically lower-wage jobs, on-site, cooking and serving your food, building your homes, and many other essential tasks that keep our economies and our comfortable lives humming.
For employers who employ teams of blue-collar, frontline workers – can we also help them achieve more for the company with the same / less time at the work place?
We certainly can.
One important component is making workers more productive through effective, efficient training programmes so they don’t spend more time at the worksite in unproductive tasks.
Here are some tips:
1. Making sure businesses processes are streamlined and aptly-communicated. This can be done by devising well-documented Standard Operating Procedures. These SOPs can then be sent directly to Workers’ smartphones, so that they can easily access performance support materials in a fast, easy and accessible manner.
2. Providing workers with continuous training so they are well-equipped to do their jobs. To avoid more time commitment by the workers, which is also time away from the shop floor, Digitalising Training is a great way to improve the efficiency of the training process so more of the knowledge component can be consumed in a “flipped” setting, without the need for in-person training (here’s how F&B companies can do so)
3. Giving Local Language Support for worker training so they can consume training in the native language they are most comfortable with. ArcLab SmartTranslate helps companies train workers in any language, solving the current training roadblocks where too much off-the-shelf training content is in English, and all-too-general for individual companies.
These simple steps go a long way towards creating an effective, productive workforce, who achieve more for your organisation while working on-site, whom you can now justifiably pay the higher salaries, which promote greater company loyalty while improving their lives & livelihoods at the same time.
Uplift your (Deskless) Workforce.
To conclude, ArcLab believes that for the White-Collar workforce – hybrid work arrangements are here to stay, with the exact mix and mechanics the purview of individual employers & employees to agree on.
At the same time, for our Blue-Collar workforce – there is no such hybrid work arrangement yet.
Deskless Work still needs to be performed on site, at least for the foreseeable future. We believe employers must ensure that workers’ time spent at the workforce be utterly productive, and that can in good part be achieved by creating a continuously upskilled, productive workforce, with organised SOPs that are well-communicated to streamline business processes.
ArcLab exists because of of forward-thinking customer organisations who trust us these past 3 years to upskill their workforces. Through contextual, continuous and calibrated training in-the-flow-of-work, they nurture well-trained workers who are more productive for their businesses.
This is especially important as costs rise in our new higher-inflation economy. For businesses to be viable, new technologies, processes and business models need to be put in place. All these require effective training – so staff know what to do, and how to do it better for the business.
ArcLab’s data from serving our customers show higher productivity though better-trained workers means better bottom-line for the business. This hopefully means firms can now justifiably pay higher salaries to workers who have contributed more to the business. This is important for thelower-wage workers – where higher costs can very well mean meals skipped, pulling a kid out of school, or worse.
Looking at this another way – wages have in fact risen due to market forces, especially in labour-constrained economies. Companies who invest in staff training create more productive workforces, meaning getting more bang for their buck for every dollar in wage paid.
Still Day 1 of ArcLab's journey to Upskill the World's Deskless Workforce
I remember ArcLab’s earliest days, from our first POC (built in 6 weeks) to the platform’s commercial launch and our first customer The Hour Glass in late-2019.
The early ArcLab platform was fuss-free and no-frills – with a single-minded purpose to solve organisations’ needs in onboarding, L&D and HR (e.g. Appraisals & Pulse Surveys).
Along the way, we take in feedback from customers and users, and keep improving the platform, yet retaining our fuss-free and no-frills design pillar. I’ve kept snapshots of our platform through its different development stages. It was a nice trip down memory lane putting them together for this blog post.
Here’s how we’ve been improving ArcLab these past 3 years:
2 years after COVID-19 became part of our lexicon – there’re good signs that we’ve moved back (almost) to life as we used to know it. Life B.C. (Before COVID).
COVID-19 & Work from Home
The COVID-19 pandemic changed our workplaces. Lockdowns (Referred to as Circuit Breakers or Movement Control Orders in some countries) meant Work-From-Home (”WFH”) became a default for many of us who used to work in offices. Even post-lockdowns, COVID-19 restrictions kept some of us working from home.
WFH gave us flexibility and bought us time. Among other things:
We no longer needed to brave the morning and evening commute; we could in fact put that time saved into a more efficient workday, and see our loved ones who lived in our homes a lot more (while they also busied with their lives).
We no longer needed to “beat the office lunch crowd”. In fact, we could prepare our own (healthier?) meals. Many of us started exercising more too.
We could still collaborate with our teammates, almost as efficiently as before – with Zooms, Slacks, Teams, Meets – whatever platform our organisations used. Digital adoption became mainstream, and scanning QR codes became 2nd nature. ArcLab ourselves had the opportunity to serve a lot more organisations to onboard, train & understand their workforces.
Yet there were also drawbacks:
Zoom fatigue replaced commute fatigue. While a decent substitute for in-person meetings, it was not perfect. There was only so much one could bear staring into a screen.
The boundaries between Work and Personal Life are blurred. Some of us ended up working a lot more because there was no longer that office commute to put a natural ‘break’ to the workday. Travelling time saved ended up being ploughed into more back-to-back meetings (not all of which were productive or necessary).
Too much overlapping time at home could create tension. Many of us breathed a sigh of relief when schools reopened and welcomed our children back to the classroom. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Return to Office
With COVID restrictions gradually lifted in the past year and a half, employers in Singapore and all over the world had to decide whether / when / how much to have teams return to the office
While there’s never a perfect system, we think the office does have its place. Most of us are in fact glad to spend some time in the office with our co-workers. We might not miss the commute, but we miss the discussions and brainstorming that we could do with our teammates in the office. No amount of Zooms or Slacks can replace this.
Each of our organisations will have to make our own decisions.
At ArcLab, here’s how we think about WFH vs Return To Office (”RTO”):
We’re an output-driven company – so we don’t police time spent at the desk. If we can finish the work we’d set out to do for the day in 6 hours instead of 8, all power to us. Take that last 2 hours to work on a personal project, or prepare dinner for the family.
We believe in personal integrity & pride – As a software firm, our team members can work from anywhere. So for personal tasks and independent work, we don’t need our team to Return to Office. WFH (or Work from Anywhere) is perfectly fine. This includes every member of our team taking turns to man our User Support Chat (that blue bubble at the bottom of your screen) – so everyone talks to the customer. Obviously, we don’t need to RTO for that. And Point (1) above continues to apply.
We believe in “water-cooler moments”. In spite of Points 1 & 2, much magic can happen when people get together. As we execute our development roadmap to keep building out ArcLab, there are times that we need to brainstorm and think together as a team. Slack message threads can get inexorably long & inefficient, and Zoom Whiteboards just can’t bring out that ‘spark’ moment that can take place when everyone gathers around a physical whiteboard with post-its.
Eventually, after some iteration – we decided as a team to have 20-30% of the time each month be spent in the office, together.
So we now have a hybrid work model – we meet once a week in the office, spending the day working on common problems together, or just working in the same place. In that way, we create opportunities for banter, “water-cooler” conversations (OK, so we don’t actually have a water-cooler), and out of these – sometimes magic happens. We can’t mandate these situations, but we can create the environment for it.
We also have a monthly Lunch-and-Learn – where different team members take turns to share a topic of their choosing – be it their current project, something they learnt, their hobby, anything at all. The firm buys lunch (always from one of ArcLab’s F&B customers ), and we get to spend time together as a team and learn from one another.
So far, we find this flexible work arrangement a good balance. If the situation evolves, we’d adapt as a firm. That’s what we’d all do.
Now, regardless of whether you’re an employer or an employee, it’s not us vs them.
We all need one another.
The market may be in the employee’s favour today, but I’ve worked long enough to know that the economy moves in cycles. There’ll come a day when there are more workers than jobs available. So always conduct ourselves reasonably.
To Conclude RTO vs WFH - Remembering our Deskless Workforce
Now even as we contemplate RTO for our businesses, let’s remember the workers around us where WFH was NEVER an option – the baristas who make your coffee, the servers who serve your meals, the construction workers who build your homes. And many more.
For these – our Deskless Workers – their jobs are time-specific and location-specific. All these discussions of RTO or WFH are irrelevant to them.
For our Deskless Workforce – work continues, often ignored by the majority of society. Yet, we’d come to realise the crucial role that they play in our economies. On average, they earn lower salaries, because they are often lower-educated, and are less highly skilled (at least in the skills that command high pay). Businesses find it hard to pay them more because their productivity is so low.
This is a vicious cycle that we as an economy and society must break. This is the problem that ArcLab is solving.
Last week, Singapore online publication Mothership published an article of a TikTok user’s video. This video narrated untruths about a woman calling out the user’s parent for opening a sealed bottle of Vicks VapoRub ointment at an NTUC Fairprice outlet without intention to purchase it.
Mothership published the article without fact-checks with the Fairprice outlet in question nor the woman being maligned. We’ll not include the article link here because I don’t want to send more undeserved traffic to a click-bait-y site whose staff did not even follow the basics of Journalism 101 (fact-checking & getting all sides of the story).
Point to note: many online comments supported the woman who was maligned. After all, who wants to purchase an item previously opened by another? For what it’s worth, the TikTok user’s account is no longer active, and the video is no longer available. I am not sure why but perhaps the person realised his plan for online sympathy did not get any. The public can be very discerning when it comes to online bullying.
Mothership eventually apologised to the woman and attempted to salvage the situation by publishing a follow-on article: “The woman’s side to the story”. We’ll leave it at that.
Lessons we could learn: NTUC Fairprice
An NTUC Fairprice staff had seen the perp open the Vicks VapoRub ointment and then put it back on the shelf. However, said staff did not approach the perp on-the-spot to ask if he was intending to buy the item. Instead, the perp was given time and space to shat at the woman, and generally be unreasonable.
Besides the negative publicity, this incident ended up hurting the business’ bottom-line. Let’s unpack it:
Goods are displayed on shelves for shoppers to browse. But opening sealed bottles of goods are definitely a no-no. Opened goods cannot in good conscience be sold to another shopper. So this tainted item now has to be discarded. This means waste (so much for sustainability) and adds to business costs which inevitably has to be pass one – certainly no help for consumers with inflation at multi-year highs today.
What can NTUC Fairprice do? Put in place a comprehensive training programme.
Well-trained staff would be made to understand that shoppers who open sealed goods hurts bottomline (which fund salaries!) and create a worse shopping experience for other shoppers.
It’s also important to train staff how to deal with difficult customers. These always exist. Effective mediation techniques can go a long way to keeping situations calm, and make sure things do not go out of hand. It is the business’ responsibility to equip staff with this training.
With NTUC Fairprice’s workforce on the shopfloor, it is tough to be able to schedule time away from work to attend training. Here’s where a mobile learning solution like ArcLab can empower organisations like Fairprice to upskill staff in the flow of work.
I like shopping for groceries at NTUC Fairprice. Most of their staff in our neighbourhood outlet are good folks whom we’ve gotten to know in our years living in our neighbourhood. Many of them are great ambassadors for NTUC Fairprice – knowledgeable, efficient, friendly to customers.
I hope NTUC Fairprice can take my suggestion to upskill their workforce so the minority of staff can be just like the rest I described above.
Lessons we could learn: Mothership
Let’s talk briefly about Mothership, whose press accreditation was suspended after they broke a press embargo by publishing market-sensitive information on the Goods & Services Tax increase earlier-than-permitted.
Mothership’s boo-boos may be symptomatic of a less-than-adequate staff onboarding & training programme.
Here’s where a good Standard Operating Procedures (“SOP”) framework could be useful for Mothership to ensure that staff are trained adequately, can refer to said SOPs as-and-when needed, and generally remain onside when discharging their journalistic duties.
Given Mothership’s digital operations, a Digital SOP Solution (ArcLab modules can be created for this too) is probably best for the organisation and staff.
I hope Mothership can step up. Some of their articles can be genuinely quite entertaining.
Today, businesses’ operating environment are fundamentally changed. Technology in one form or another is needed to keep our businesses relevant in the Digital Age.
Technology is a tool. Tech needs talent to operate and utilise it, to further the organisations’ goals. Talent that is trained continuously and effectively. This is true whether you are a digital media agency or a supermarket. Or any business for that matter.
As we transform our businesses for the Digital Economy, the foundation for all innovation is ALWAYS a well-trained workforce.
Editor’s Note: ArcLab works alongside Experts and Training Providers to help businesses upskill workforces, improve staff performance to achieve more for the business, and digitally transform for the future.
We’re glad to co-author this article with Lauren Wan of Passioneat Hospitality, a hospitality driven consulting company motivated to ignite lasting memories for teams and guests using the power of culture-based training and positive leadership to create consistently excellent experiences.
The Biggest Asset of your F&B Business
A trained workforce is the biggest contributor to the success of your F&B Business.
Be it front-of-house or back-of-house, well-trained staff make your business operations smooth as butter (pun intended). Customers are attended to promptly, orders accurate and well-cooked, and your staff creates an excellent experience that delights your (returning) customers over and over again.
Returning customers means higher and more consistent topline. So it’s absolutely crucial to train your staff – to achieve more for your business.
Yet despite all the acknowledged benefits of training our workers, 1/3 of businesses surveyed by POS platform Toast encounter challenges in implementing training programmes.
It is perhaps understandable given the lack of time, resources, and manpower, a perennial problem in the Food Services industry – now exacerbated by COVID-19 and the Great Resignation.
How can F&B operators leverage these insights and provide training that enriches both their business and their teams?
Training your F&B Workforce
F&B training can be divided into two main categories – (1) onboarding, and (2) ongoing training and support, both of which have very different objectives.
Onboarding and induction programmes typically offers the following:
Sense of confidence with the product, brand, and company values
Compliance with health and safety standards
Faster competence with guest service
Acknowledgement of operating procedures
Digitising certain aspects of onboarding allows you to:
Engage and excite your new hire before their first day
Make the best use of downtime when your on-the-job trainers are occupied with other tasks
Ensure consistency between different trainers and locations
Allow access to training content in multiple languages
Where digital training can really shine is with ongoing training and culture support, because it allows you to create rhythm and repetition that is essential for developing a strong culture and high levels of consistency and accuracy.
One of Passioneat Hospitality’s clients is a multi-concept Japanese restaurant group. We created interventions for Day 0, Day 1, Day 7, Day 30, and Day 90 so that new hires would feel welcomed and supported.
We made use of various mediums to ensure information was consistently shared and recalled by the new hires.
We used static cards to convey operational information like uniform and grooming standards, floor plans, and menu items and company information like Who Am I? introductions so that new hires could learn names and faces more easily, along with fun notes about each person in the team.
We harnessed videos for demonstrating procedures, especially for the kitchen team, so they could see preparation methods, presentation standards, and hygiene integrated in one shot, which is particularly helpful for action learners.
Multiple choice questions help to test retention quickly and develop a sense of personal ownership over information and agency for closing any knowledge gaps.
We complemented the digital with scheduled in-person check-ins with leaders at various levels of the organisation to ensure that new hires truly felt supported.
Approaches to F&B Workforce Training
While there are many approaches to staff training, some work particularly well in F&B and in tandem with digital training.
Digital training often features best practices and ideal scenarios, when coupled with real, on-the-ground implementation that is consistent with what is advertised in the digital learning space the learner feels a sense of security and trust with the organisation.
Allowing your team to engage in their own learning within their area of curiosity has great benefits for their personal development and contribution to your business. You can use digital tools to set up the project process with an overview of the guidelines, support available, tips for success, and preferred reporting back formats.
Developing online content can feel overwhelming at first, but if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be able to maximise your online learning space:
Keep it light and fun – the digital content we consume is filled with entertainment. No one wants to engage with a text book that has been split into dozens of small screens. Use all kinds of media to drive your learning objectives – make your content dynamic, moving, and interesting
Mimic reality – don’t worry about making sure everything feels like a hollywood production. While professionalism is important, being fixated on being overly polished is often hurtful. Tap on your team to share their experiences, best practices, and stories of what it’s really like to work at your company. Creating too much of a divide between the online and offline worlds will create a disconnect for your team member and result in disengagement
If you cover everything, you’ll cover nothing – how much can we really remember? If we’re being honest, it’s not much. Keep things that can be looked up optional so they can be used as and when they are needed. Understand the importance of being selective on the mandatory parts of your onboarding and ongoing training content and emphasise the how and why of your business
Remember that training doesn’t exist in a vacuum – training is vital and accomplishes an important role – it helps us know what we don’t already know. However, there are two equally important pieces of the puzzle that also need to be addressed to create consistent, high-quality guest experiences – operational culture and performance management. It’s important to place equal value on all three parts, otherwise you’ll end up with a sophisticated training program that either collects dust on a shelf or is scanned through once and never actioned upon.
Related: Read more about Digital SOPs for your workforce – step-by-step manuals that instruct your kitchen staff and food servers on basic procedures for different tasks
Incorporating Mobile Learning
Training should continue for the entirety of your staffs’ employment journey. As pointed out above, ongoing F&B Staff Training improves your workers’ skills and productivity, contributing to better business performance.
As your F&B staff grow into their roles and get promoted, their training needs will also change, as there are now new and higher-level knowledge and skills that they need to be trained in.
Hence, there’s a need for your F&B Business to invest in a system to manage training for different staff in different roles and at different career stages. A good training technology platform will be useful for your organisation to do this.
There are some excellent training tools in the market that complement instructor-facilitated training described above, and workplace learning.
ArcLab is one such innovative training tool that allows you to create, distribute and track Food and Beverage Training for your workforce, fast & easy.
While there are other tools around, one crucial advantage: ArcLab is built for the Deskless Workforce, which comprises virtually all of the workers in your F&B business. In this way, you do not implement a clunky training system which is difficult to onboard for your L&D / Ops / HR administrators and high-friction for your workers to learn how to use – posing unnecessary barriers in their training.
Instead, the ArcLab platform is simple to use for administrators. Your L&D team uses the ArcLab Editor Dashboard to easily create training modules and distribute them to designated staff (your authorised learners). Best of all, ArcLab’s SmartTranslate feature helps you to create multi-lingual modules with the click of a button – to best suit your learners’ individual language preferences and competencies.
Your learners then receive a notification in their email of SMS inbox, and start their ArcLab training module via their personalised secure access link. Content is presented via text, video, pictures, infographics and other rich media, and tested via multiple choice, open-ended and other forms of questions / assessment.
Each learner’s progress is tracked and credentialed, and your L&D / Ops / HR administrators receive a top-level overview and dive into each learner’s detailed journey via ArcLab’s Learner Analytics.
Invest in your F&B Workforce today!
Training your workforce is an important initiative that your F&B Business critically needs.
It’s simple to start, and your F&B Business can too.
If you’ve ever baked a cake (oooh… hunger pangs…), you most probably followed a recipe – what are the ingredients, what are the steps to make the dough, what temperature to set the oven at, how long to put it the cake mix in the oven… etc.
This recipe that you followed to make that delicious cake – that’s in fact a Standard Operating Procedure, or “SOP”.
The Master Baker documented step-by-step instructions to make it simple for bakers like you and me to follow and recreate that same cake on our own. Simple, and delicious!
SOPs in the Workplace
Businesses use SOPs to outline how workers should perform different tasks in the workplace.
An SOP helps a new worker unfamiliar with the task to be done to simply follow the instructions step-by-step and perform the task without assistance or additional instructions.
A good SOP is very defined and focused. Just like how a cake recipe describes how to bake just ONE type of cake, an SOP documents very clearly on just that one particular work task. It does so in a step-by-step manner that is easy to follow and does not leave the worker guessing.
An even better SOP also describes contingency situations and how to respond to such What-If scenarios.
Here’s an example of an SOP instructing cashier staff how to use the Point-of-Sale (“POS”) System:
In terms of usage, you would expect staff that are new to the task to refer to the digital SOP more often. As he/she gets familiar with the task, this will happen less often, and is perfectly in line with the pedagogical concept of “fading“. This is when the SOP has fulfilled its objective. It has trained your staff on what to do, and how to do it well.
As you can see, SOPs help your workers to learn what is expected of them, how to perform the tasks in their jobs, and ultimately contribute positively to your business.
Your new workers hit the ground running.
Your managers’ time is freed up for more strategic areas of the business.
This helps your business to move ahead of your competition.
In summary, SOPs increase your organisation’s productivity because instructions do not have to be repeated to new workers over and over again.
Paper SOPs vs Digital SOPs
SOPs have traditionally been written in paper format.
Hard copies of procedure manuals are typically put together by an operations or line manager, and filed in a folder for staff to be trained, and to refer to before they start on the shop or factory floor.
There are several disadvantages if you choose paper-based SOPs for your business:
1. It takes a lot of time and effort to create these hard-copy SOPs.
2. It’s expensive and non-environmentally friendly to print out multiple copies of the SOPs for different outlets or branches; even more so if each staff is provided with a personal copy.
Not many companies would shoulder the cost of providing SOPs for individual workers – who end up needing to refer to shared copies, and many end up not doing so. This results in some workers not being proficient in the task, and more time is needed to (re-)train these workers, meaning more effort and cost.
3. It is difficult for workers to search for specific information on a particular task if you don’t know exactly where to look (“Ctrl-F” searches don’t work on hard copies)
4. Physical copies of SOPs in the F&B or construction work environment get dirty and grimy with repeated use.
5. Adding to / Updating SOPs means another round of intensive effort to print out multiple copies for multiple outlets.
6. Errors in (or missing out) replacing specific SOP pages means some workers may end up referring to outdated SOPs. This introduces risks to your business, workers and potentially to the customers too.
In short, paper SOPs are not feasible for your business in the modern age, especially as processes continually get refined and changed in our digital economy.
A Digital SOP framework is definitely required for your business to do well today.
Creating your 1st Digital SOP
There are different tools in the market that you can use to create your digital SOPs. Today, we will learn how to use ArcLab, our cloud-based mobile learning SaaS platform – to create your first Digital SOP – fast & easy.
Before crafting your SOP, it is useful to watch the task being performed by an expert or someone competent in the task. Write down everything they do, or better yet – take a video clip of them performing the task.
1. Include this video in your ArcLab Digital SOP module as your first demo of the task to be performed, and the sequence of actions – step-by-step.
2. Break the video up into segments, including an explanation for each step. Make sure that each step is described as simply and as to-the-point as possible.
By this stage the learner has seen what he/she is required to do in totality, and the individual steps required.
3. Test understanding of the knowledge required in the work procedure by including assessment questions.
Your first draft of SOP is ready to be tested.
Send this 1st draft to a group of staff. Ask them to review that the steps covered are correct and clear. It is very important that the steps be simple to follow for someone with absolutely no background knowledge of the task to be performed.
If your staff pilot group are able to perform the task correctly, your SOP is ready to be rolled out. If not, take in the feedback to improve the SOP further. Then test the 2nd draft of the SOP again – repeating until ready.
In the ArcLab Mobile Learning platform – you can go toArcLab Discover and pick Digital SOP templates that you can use for your company’s specific needs. Simply select the Digital SOPs menu tab:
Review the SOP template and pick the ones that fit your company’s needs.
Click “Remix” to add it to your ArcLab Dashboard, where you can adapt to your business’ specific circumstances and workflow.
Once your Digital SOP module is complete, save them to a Folder in ArcLab, and designate which staff to invite to access the Digital SOPs.
It’s that fast and easy, not to mention secure, as access is limited to only who you designate.
Your Digital SOPs can now be accessed by staff on their mobile devices, ready to be referred to as-and-when needed.
The best part: whenever there are changes to your processes, you can simply update your SOP in your ArcLab dashboard. Since the SOP modules are cloud-based, staff will always be able to access the most up-to-date SOP modules.
Anytime, anywhere, in any language.
Examples of good Digital SOPs for training
You’ve seen how important SOPs are to your business processes.
You’ve also seen how easy it is to create Digital SOPs on the ArcLab platform, with templates from ArcLab Discover. Here are some that may be applicable for your business:
Before we can go into Nano Learning to understand how it is being increasingly used by companies, we must first look at the situation that is resulting to increase in wages of blue-collar workers and subsequently, higher costs. This is to help us see how Nano Learning comes in to help businesses save cost in training and provide a more effective training programme for their workers. Hence, leading to an increase in workforce productivity.
Is everyone quitting their jobs?
Is the #GreatResignation only taking place among higher-salaried knowledge workers?
A reasonable line of thought is these are the workers who’ve managed to build savings buffers during COVID-enforced travel bans and rising asset markets, giving them enough runway to resign from jobs that they may be tired of & reassess their lives.
Apparently, that’s not quite true.
Blue-collar workers are leaving their jobs too. In countries like the US and Singapore, job openings in food services and other deskless workforce-heavy industries are rising – as workers quit and there’s no ready pool of unemployed workers to take these traditionally low-end jobs. Singapore’s F&B businesses face the double-whammy of being reliant on non-local workers, and their increasing unavailability due to tightening work visa requirements etc., has hurt businesses’ daily operations, not to mention any possible expansion plans.
As a result, the manpower crunch is driving up wages in “blue-collar” vocations.
Rising wages (both market-driven and legislation-driven) is good for workers. However, compounded with supply-chain bottle-necks, rising real-estate prices (read: rentals) all exacerbate the increase in costs for employers – which would have to be passed on in some part to the end-consumer.
Ultimately, these all contribute to the rising inflation in many countries today, which hurts all of us as our paycheques (and business topline) don’t stretch as far as before. Left-unchecked, this becomes a vicious cycle of rising wage -> costs -> wages -> costs… which our Central Banks and Governments are now working hard to address at the macro-level.
Achieving more with a smaller but more productive workforce
On a micro-level, increased worker attrition means your business needs to hire replacement workers for critical roles, and onboard & train them with increased frequency.
This also means you need to train your staff to perform their roles well, and possibly cross-training them to do one another’s job during busy shifts, especially if higher market wages means your business may not be able to afford to hire as many workers as before.
Traditionally, this training was done in person but may no longer be possible in today’s COVID environment. A digital approach is often necessary. In fact, digital learning in bite-sizes (or what we term as Nano learning) is a simple, effective, scalable way to onboard and train new and replacement workers.
What is Nano Learning?
Nano Learning refers to breaking down learning materials into small units of information whilst increasing engagement, crafted to aid in learners’ understanding and information retention.
To break down our Nano Learning definition:
1. “Bite-sized” training modules lasting between 2 and 10 minutes
2. “Highly targeted” with each module focussed on ONE single learning objective
3. “Interactive” with rich media and on-the-spot digital assessments used to promote learner engagement and enhance learning retention.
The Nano Learning delivery method of training is a great andragogical framework which Engages Learners, Helps Learners Apply Knowledge and is Available On-Demand. It can be used for education, training, onboarding etc.
In a workplace setting, long periods of “training” or long text-based reading is hard to accomplish. This is especially true for our workers in operational (or Deskless) roles, who do not have workstations or computers. Hence, training and upskilling is best done via their mobile phones.
How to use Nano Learning in Staff Training?
That’s where a Nano Learning Tools like ArcLab helps your business – by giving you a one-stop tool to easily create, distribute and track training for your workforce – anytime, anywhere, in any language.
ArcLab’s Nano Learning platform data shows that our customers save an average of 11 hours of time per worker per month. Time that can be better-deployed to business operations, and focus on the ‘human’ aspects of the business, like delivering great customer service.
Workers interact with the digital training content, are tested on their knowledge via quizzes, and can apply it easily to their work. That’s learning in the flow of work in action. Staff training at its most efficient.
The end-result? A well-trained workforce that does more for your business.
In today’s #GreatResignation, it is crucial to have a scalable and effective way to onboard and upskill your new and replacement workers, and invest in your existing staff to achieve more for your business.
It becomes a strategy to implement and integrate nano learning courses and modules into your training programme. Here’s an example of how it can look:
Time to start Nano Learning for your workforce training!
Read More On Increasing Productivity with Nano Learning:
Did you know that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal?
This means we can communicate without even saying a single word. For staff in a customer-facing role, positive non-verbal communication can be a powerful amplifier to be more welcomed by customers.
What is Body Language?
Body Language refers to “gestures, movements, and mannerisms” by which a person communicates with others (definition from Merriam-Webster). These are your non-verbal cubes that communicate how you feel, and are typically performed subconsciously.
Fans of US crime dramas might remember the series “Lie To Me“, where Tim Roth’s character assists law enforcement agencies in investigations with his expertise in studying “micro-expressions” and body language.
What’s said can sometimes be different from what is unsaid. Our body communicates sub-consciously.
Body Language and Good Customer Service
Few of our businesses are in law enforcement or psychology. Why should we care about body language?
While a fundamental factor of a successful business is a product that solves customer problems, how a salesperson or a customer-facing staff communicates can be the key between a sale or a customer walking over.
Positive body language helps your workforce communicate better with customers, and affects how customers react. Hence, we need our salespeople to pay exceptional attention to body language.
This is true irrespective of whether you business is brick-and-mortar, or (increasingly today) an online business. That’s because body language CAN carry across the phone, or even an online chat. When your service rep is frustrated, he/she may end up with a very different chat message compared to when when he/she is a good frame of mind. The sub-conscious body language can translate into different choices of words – which CAN be misconstrued by customers over that chat.
Bottom line: All your customer-facing staff need to convey positive body language in their interaction with customers (and prospective customers as well)!
What are examples of positive body language that your staff should exhibit? Here are three:
1. Eye Contact
Make eye contact before speaking with a customer. This is to let the customer know that he/she is actively engaged and actively listening. Be careful not to overdo it though. Staring too intently can make the customer feel intimidated.
A good rule of thumb is to maintain eye contact 50% of the time while speaking and 70% of the time when listening.
2. Keep an Open Stance
An open stance signals friendliness and open-ness. That’s in contrast to body language like crossed arms, which is a closed, defensive posture.
Standing in an open manner makes the customer feel welcome, and also makes it easier to make & maintain eye contact (point 1 above)
3. Smile 😊
Smiling creates a positive effect on people. It makes one appear more approachable and positive. A prospective customer feels welcome and would be more willing to speak to your smiling salesperson rather than one who is sullen and disinterested.
What other examples of positive body language can you think of?
How to Train Body Language for Good Customer Service
Positive Body Language can be taught to your staff.
First – make staff aware of the different examples of body language – both positive ones that they should adopt, and negative ones that they should avoid.
Show pictures, or better yet – a video of each body language example so that staff know exactly what to do and what not to do.
Second – Make staff put what they have just seen into practice via role-play. The old adage “Practice Makes Perfect” is always true, especially for skills-based training.
Third – Provide an SOP of dos & don’ts of body language so staff can easily make reference to it, and after review, practice with colleagues or on their own – anytime, anywhere. Examples of Body Language and other SOPs can be found in ArcLab Discover.
Good body language is an important part of communication. Nowhere is this more crucial than when interacting with customers.
Ever encountered a problem and went to search for a 1-minute “How-to” video to solve it?
(drumroll…) You’d just done a session of Nano Learning. Well done!
We’ve been subconsciously incorporating Nano Learning in our day-to-day lives, and it has become increasingly popular in corporate training.
Nano Learning is Bite-sized Learning: a quick and efficient way for organisations to train their workforce and equip them with basic knowledge to perform their roles - with training conducted in the flow of work.
What separates Nano Learning from other types of training?
As its name suggests, “Nano” means small.
Nano Learning Definition = bite-sized pieces of training or learning.
Nano Learning can be as short as a minute for small learning ‘nuggets’ or up to 10-15 minutes for the learner to absorb longer pieces of information.
Simply put, Nano Learning refers to highly-focused training through bite-sized chunks of learning content, often in an engaging manner, with a single learning objective.
Why Nano Learning works - the science behind bite-sized learning
When large chunks of information are condensed into digestible content modules, learners can focus on key learning points instead of being bombarded with information that may not be directly relevant to their learning goal.
Furthermore, Nano Learning that is delivered digitally to your learners’ mobile devices also means the bite-sized training content can be easily accessible by your workforce, who can train in the flow of work, or learn at their own pace and in their own time.
Short durations of effective bite-sized learning can be also easily slotted into small pockets of free time amidst their hectic schedules, e.g. while on a commute.
This reduces the need for businesses to take staff away from the shop or restaurant floor to attend day-long (or longer…) training sessions.
This improves workforce productivity to help meet your organisation’s goals, and helps your team to grow their output and improve your business’ bottom-line.
The focussed nature of NanoLearning makes it easy for specific groups of your workforce to be targetted with learning goals and bite-sized training content catered specifically for them.
(i) Just-in-time Learning: Your staff can apply what they learn immediately to a task or problem at hand.
(ii) Closes Skills Gaps: You can identify and close any margin skills gaps your staff may have.
(iii) Fits Modern Workforce: With shortening attention spans, bite-sized training modules makes it easier for your staff to slot learning into their schedules.
2. Reduces learning & development cost and effort
Nano learning saves your organisation time and money.
It is far cheaper to roll out Nano Learning to your staff. No more logistically-intensive classroom bookings or external trainer fees. Modern Nano learning SaaS like ArcLab also means no more expensive courseware development fees from vendors who might charge an arm and a leg to build training modules for your workforce.
With training content made available on the cloud, staff can access the bite-sized learning modules repeatedly, without repeat cost.
It also takes significantly less time to author and refresh training modules when content needs to change. E.g when a new workflow procedure is instituted. This ensures your training content is always current, and there’s no time wasted by your staff in learning old content that is no longer relevant.
Viewed holistically, by saving time and training cost, organisations like you can effectively gain funded headcount, which you can then use to increase your firm’s output and topline.
You now have a clear idea of how Nano Learning (or bite-sized training) helps to complement your organisation's L&D framework.
Employers are always on the lookout for prospective hires with skills for the job at hand, and have potential to grow into larger roles.
Unfortunately information is asymmetric, and it’s not easy to know ex ante who in our applicant pool are adequately-skilled, and who are insufficiently so. Some hires will fit well and do the job. Others won’t. That’s the risk we take.
Here’s something I’m starting to think about… isn’t hiring similar to investing?
It is hard to consistently generate alpha in markets. In fact, investment disclaimers tell us that ‘past history is not indicative of future performance’. Yet we do the very opposite for hiring!
Pedigree is not a precursor of performance.
I am starting to wonder if for hiring, instead of attempting to pick ‘alphas’, we can consider building a team of ‘betas’ that are coachable.
Hirers never truly know. There are no sure-wins. In professional football, not even ‘proven winners’ like Jose Mourinho could do the job at Tottenham Hotspur, while then-unproven upstarts like Mauricio Pochettino outperformed and brought 4 years of Champions League to North London.
Is Skills-based Hiring a myth?
LinkedIn recently announced “Skills Path“, a pilot skills-based hiring programme, supported by Singapore’s National Jobs Council.
The topic of skills-based hiring is not new and comes up every few years. In fact, I co-wrote an opinion piece on Skills-Based Hiring 3 years ago.
LinkedIn’s announcement checks all the boxes. Unfortunately it doesn’t move the needle. There is a grand total of 8 companies under the programme offering a mere 6 job roles: customer service, data analyst, project manager, recruiter, supply chain coordinator and sales development.
To be fair, this initiative is a pilot. I fully support starting small, tracking the data, and if it looks like it works, scaling up only then.
As what I co-wrote above (and the LinkedIn initiative postures), the hope is for hirers to look past academic qualifications as a non-negotiable filtering tool for prospective candidates.
Otherwise, no matter what is said and done, incentives will drive behaviour, and every rational student will pursue the degree, because non-graduates continue to be disadvantaged at the hiring gate, and for career advancement.
Incentives drive behaviour.
Should we NOT try to pick winners?
Hiring well is crucial for every organisation. It’s also exceedingly-hard to do well, for reasons discussed above.
Which is why there’s so much money being spent on good hiring solutions, and much innovation in this space. The Singapore HRTech Market Map (brought to you by hrtech.sg & Adrian Tan) lists the different companies providing solutions for your organisation’s Talent Acquisition needs.
I wonder if we could take a different approach, and look further down the employee journey. I’m referring to the Talent Development area, where ArcLab has some track record (irony intended).
Since it’s so hard to bet on winners when hiring, could we adopt a more “portfolio” approach, especially if we are a large organisation. This means not optimising for the perfect ‘alpha’ candidate, since he/she does not exist. Rather, we do a few things to attract the ‘beta’ candidates:
Properly profile job requirements & packages. No ‘padding’, no ‘undercutting’
Set a minimum bar for the candidate. Everyone who meets this gets an interview (virtual or otherwise), which is more to assess team fit. Involve the team in the interview and give everyone an equal vote.
Suss out open-mindedness and ‘train-ability’. Look for evidences of picking up new skills and applying them.
Where possible, consider a work trial for demonstration of competency, softer skills and fit with potential colleagues.
Hiring a team of ‘betas’ means we don’t go all out to find Ivy League graduates. It means we put in place an exceptional learning & development programme, because we know that investing in our workforce gives our organisation the best chance of success.
Since people are the lifeblood of our organisations, we should put our money where our most important assets are, and invest in them, through training them to be the best professional that they can be.
The best part of this approach is, by hiring coachable people who have not yet been ‘proven winners’, we hire humble people, who are not afraid to admit they don’t know. They are then able to learn what’s needed to do their job so the organisation (and they) succeed. And when business requirements change, they change accordingly.
That means continuous, bite-sized training. Because no longer do we study for the first 10-20 years of our life and work for the rest. We study for a basic minimum, and keep learning as we work.
I submit to you that this is one good way for an organisation to succeed.
We’re building that sort of organisation at ArcLab, and helping many companies build theirs.
A few years ago, our girls’ kindergarten informed parents they would have to increase school fees, which had been kept the same for the previous 10 years.
We greatly appreciate the love, care and education our girls received from their kindergarten teachers, and believe the fee increase was justified. Otherwise, how could the kindergarten continue to pay competitive wages to hire and retain good teachers, of whom our girls were direct beneficiaries? Furthermore, having no fee increase for the previous 10 years in effect meant the school fees we paid had fallen year by year, when we take inflation into account.
We acknowledged the letter and agreed to the higher fees.
One parent was unhappy with the fee increase. The irony was this was a well-off family (I gathered this from watching the family roll up to the kindergarten in a Volvo most days). The parent started to canvas other parents to protest the kindergarten’s fee increase.
When the parent-in-question came round to us, we politely informed her:
“It was unfair to expect OUR OWN WAGES to continually rise, but expect our kindergarten teachers’ wages (aka our costs) to remain unfairly low.
That was hypocritical, not to mention foolish; not paying market-level fees would only result in the school not being able to hire good teachers, and our children would be the ones losing out.”
I do not think we got through to that parent, who I don’t recall ever spoke to me again.
But I am thankful the fee increase went through, because it is fair to pay more for better goods and services, which our girls benefitted from. I am also grateful that we could afford that justifiable fee increase.
Accrediting companies that pay all their workers Progressive Wages with a new “Progressive Wage” Mark (a new requirement to sell to the public sector)
Lowering the qualifying age for Workfare Income Supplement from 35 to 30 (to help younger lower-wage workers)
These are significant steps, because (point 4 aside), the Singapore Government is now also looking at EMPLOYERS and CONSUMERS to foot the bill for the mandated-increased wages.
Paying higher wages to workers directly affects payroll costs for businesses. The higher costs might also be passed to customers in the form of higher prices, depending on the price elasticity of demand. That extra dollar must obviously come from somewhere.
Higher costs are not easy to bear, especially when many companies and many workers have been negatively-impacted by COVID. As a business ourselves, we understand it fully and feel it directly.
Higher wages for low productivity is unsustainable. The market will make sure of that. Neither is a race to the bottom for wages the way forward for Singapore.
Instead, what we must have is higher wages for higher productivity. This is the very mission statement of ArcLab:
Higher productivity is a positive sum game for the business and for the worker, because output increases and/or quality improves. This means justifiably higher prices for goods and services, which funds the higher wages. Higher wages also means better spending power, which flows back to businesses.
This data from the Economic Survey of Singapore speaks for itself:
Higher productivity simply makes good business sense.
Using ArcLab saves you training cost, cuts down training time, and helps your business do more with less. This means higher productivity and better bottom line.
The savings enables your business to pay better salaries to your workforce, who are then better taken care of, more highly-motivated, and have higher spending power too.
Singapore is taking our first step towards this virtuous cycle.
Higher Wages for a Better Economy. And a Better Society.
ArcLab is encouraged that societies are taking more concrete steps at addressing income (or rather opportunity)-inequality issues. That may be one of the silver linings of COVID-19, where we have newfound recognition for our frontline workers, many of whom are lower-income workers.
Yet more than inclusiveness, higher wages for higher productivity is simply good business, and a positive sum game for all.
ArcLab believes that’s the best way for our companies, our workers, and our society to succeed.
We’re building that sort of organisation at ArcLab, and helping many companies build theirs. Companies like Fei Siong Group, 4Fingers and many more.
Since we launched ArcLab, we’ve had the privilege to empower organisations to easily create, distribute and track training.
Adopting a #Day1 mentality, we’ve listened to our customers and users as we grew (our thanks to each and every one of you) and shape our development roadmap. Responding to all your feedback, we keep working on ArcLab, improving platform stability and introducing features to help managers reduce time in creating & delivering modules to your workforce.
Discover ArcLab Discover
I’m excited to introduce ArcLab Discover, a collection of 40+ (and growing!) templates that span Learning & Development, Human Resources and Operations, in English & other languages that best suit your workforce.
Review templates for Onboarding & Staff Induction, Training, Digital SOPs and HR use cases like EES etc. that suit your organisation’s needs. Remix them into your ArcLab Dashboard with the click of a button, saving you >50% of module creation time. Adapt the content to the specifics that fit your organisation or workforce.
We don’t take the credit for everything in ArcLab Discover.
Rather, we are grateful to tap on the wisdom of the ArcLab community, some of whom have made their modules public and given permission for us to “template-ise” modules for all ArcLab users to remix and use for your workforce.
I’m also glad to introduce a series of 6 complimentary Learning Modules by our friends at Business Academia, a consultancy who helps organisations and teams to diagnose, design, test and implements customer centric learning solutions and digital strategies led by design thinking and agility.
Discover Business Academia’s learning modules on ArcLab Discover
p/s ArcLab Discover is still in beta as we refine it to include upcoming improvements like industry/role-specific modules, favourites, ranking and others.
So let us know how you think ArcLab Discover can be improved for you, and what other templates or modules you wish to see in it, that can best support your workforce. Our goal as always is to keep solving your organisations’ problems, and remain useful to you.
We’re also happy to include any modules or templates that you might want to share with the ArcLab community. Simply send them to us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we gear up for tightened measures once again, one silver lining is that there has never been more support than ever for the adoption of digital, both at the individual level, and for businesses.
If your organisation hasn’t started digitalising your operations in one form or another to operate in the COVID-normal, there isn’t a better time to start. There are many different software in the market that are affordable and easy to adopt.
How to Go Digital today?
It’s important not to start with the technology, but go back to basics of what the tech solution is meant to address.
Here’s how we think about it:
Start with the problem — Is there a change in the business environment that is hurting your revenue or cost base? e.g. Is my business unable to serve dine-in customers thus impacting my topline? Or, is there a work process that is being done manually today, resulting in slowness, inefficiency or lost data or opportunities?
What might be needed to solve this problem? (Don’t think about technology or product yet — just the ‘thing’ or ‘ingredient’ you need to plug the gap in (1))
“Google it” — Chances are, yours is not the only company facing the problem. This means that there is probably already a tech tool in the market that has being developed and is being used by companies like you to solve the same problems that you face. This also means there’s usually no need for your business to have a “customised solution built for you” (which is likely expensive and most probably an overkill).
Fit the workflow. Speak to industry peers about their experience adopting the tech tool. If possible, ask for a referral to the tech provider. Or for self-serve SaaS like ArcLab, simply go to our landing page and sign up for a free account to try the free tier out.
Start small. Use the tech platform’s free (or lowest-cost) tier to try the product functionality. Test if it solves your problem in (1). Junk it if it doesn’t. Scale up if it does.
If you follow these steps, you will find that digital transformation for your business is very much possible without huge upfront investment (hurray for SaaS platforms!), and not at at daunting.
If you’ve been thinking of digitalising your business to stay relevant in our new COVID-normal world, there’s no better time to start.
Meanwhile, let us offer a few software suggestions for the office & HQs:
Contrary to what Business Consultants and more conventional System Integrators might tell you, Digital Transformation does NOT have to be an expensive exercise for your organisation. Don’t be taken for a ride.
Funding Support for Singapore firms
These are unprecedented times. If your business really cannot afford even the lowest-cost software that you’ve validated your business’ need for, there ARE schemes available to help.
For example, if you’re a Singapore business, there’s also funding support for specific areas, e.g. the Food Delivery Booster Package and E-Commerce Booster Package. Do tap on them to bring your F&B and retail business into the COVID-normal operating environment.
At ArcLab, while our full software is not free (read about the downsides of free software) we’re committed to making our software affordable for all businesses.
The English Premier League (“EPL”) is the world’s most-watched professional football league. Manchester United and Liverpool have traditionally been the most well-followed EPL clubs, while younger/more recent fans may support Chelsea and Manchester City, whose billionaire-owners’ bankrolled spending had bought them relative success.
March-April is typically when Tottenham’s season falls apart. By then, we would usually have lost a League Cup quarter/semi-final, got knocked out of the FA Cup and Europe, plus a series of losses in the league to fall out of the Top 4.
2021 was no different — disaster in the League which started even earlier than usual (in January), bested by Everton in the FA Cup; and even a 2–0 1st leg lead in the Europa League Round of 16 wasn’t enough to get Spurs across the line.
The only saving grace was Tottenham miraculously qualifying for the League Cup Final, though ominously our opponents were EPL champions-elect Manchester City (more on that later).
Yet for all the heartache, Tottenham fans ‘come back’ season after season. “This season will be different” — as we always say.
Ted is a fictional football coach from the US (not the football as we know globally, but the American kind), who gets hired to manage the fictitious EPL team Richmond FC despite having no experience whatsoever. OK, he did have a 1-day spell with Tottenham back in 2013…
Ted Lasso brought some laughs in a year where COVID-19 impacted us all.
Being a “goldfish” for that footballer meant not dwelling on the mistake he just made, so his mind is free to continue playing the game well.
That’s not a bad philosophy, as long as one learns from that mistake.
When “Being a Goldfish” doesn’t quite work
In today’s digital age, some might say there’s not much point in building knowledge banks when Google ‘remembers’ everything for you. If we’re honest, most of our memories would in fact get worse, because we no longer need to train our brains to remember (we just “Google” when we need it).
But while useful for the footballer above, a short memory isn’t quite as useful in the context of learning and development.
Especially in our COVID-normal world — where gathering staff in a room for 3-hour training sessions are no longer feasible (these were never that effective in the first place), we need to consider more effective delivery methods, built on the pedagogical framework of Nano Learning.
Nano Learning is learning that’s “just-enough, just-in-time, just-for-me”.
Another great use case we have seen is the creation of Digital Standard Operating Procedures (D-SOPs), such that staff have all the knowledge they need to do their jobs right in the palm of their hands.
We can’t run away from shortening memories and attention spans. But we CAN and SHOULD turn it to our favour, so that our workforce is continuously upskilled through effective bite-sized Nano Learning modules. To achieve more for our organisations.
Our team at ArcLab has made it easy for every organisation to get started. Right here: https://arclab.io
In the final episode of “Ted Lasso”, AFC Richmond lost to “the mighty” Manchester City, and got relegated.
IRL — Tottenham Hotspur did the same thing, and lost the 2021 League Cup Final to Manchester City. For Spurs fans, it’s another season where early promise again faltered. Another season that wasn’t different. Another season where we came close to a trophy, but fell at the final hurdle. 😢
It has now been 13 years (& counting) since I was at Wembley celebrating Tottenham’s last League Cup title.
Yet since supporting Tottenham ISN’T about learning & development — being a ‘goldfish’ works for me as a fan. I (and my fellow Spurs fans) will undoubtedly return next season for more joy, and heartache.
In industries like construction, manufacturing etc. — there’s real risk of injury or death if proper safety procedures aren’t followed. How is your company conducting WSH training?
When the average person’s attention span is supposedly under 10 seconds (less than a goldfish’s), no-one realistically believes we can pay full attention throughout a 2-hour lecture. Not even when the subject matter is as important as Workplace Safety and Health (“WSH”).
Yet many companies’ WSH trainings are 100-slide PowerPoints. How sure are we that staff are absorbing this important knowledge. Or even listening?!?
In industries like construction, manufacturing etc. — there’s real risk of injury or death if proper safety procedures aren’t followed.
So what can we do better to make sure that the training knowledge is effectively absorbed by our workforce so they can put it into practice?
Circle back to MOTIVATION
First and foremost, always emphasise to your staff that the reason why WSH training is necessary, is to protect THEIR lives.
For example, how do we motivate staff to be trained to wear earplugs properly?
(i) Emphasise that learning how to wearing earplugs correctly greatly reduces the chance of noise-induced deafness, or Tinnitus disease (permanent ringing sound in the ears).
(ii) Show workers a video of the much more difficult life of a hearing-impaired person using hearing aids.
(iii) Round it up by making it relevant for them. Emphasise that knowing the WSH measures and adhering to them means they can continue to be healthy, employed, and earn salaries to bring home for THEIR FAMILIES.
This first step is crucial, as it puts workers in the right frame of mind to receive their training.
Make Training Effective
Here are 4 simple steps that help you maximise your WSH training impact:
Keep it short. Training shouldn’t be conducted in a 2-hour stretch. Nobody can pay attention for that long. So break them up into shorter segments as schedules permit.
Use digital & multimedia for better learner engagement & knowledge retention. Create digital learning modules, and use simple pictures & infographics that often convey knowledge better than lots of text. Videos should also be used if resources permit (Lume5, which we use ourselves, is an example of affordable & easy-to-use video software).
Build in interactivity & assessment. After knowledge has been conveyed, test retention with simple assessment quizzes, which can be multiple-choice or open-ended. This gives your organisation the data to work more with staff who need more help.
Provide performance support. By making learning materials digital, these can now be housed in the cloud, readily accessible as Digital SOPs as-and-when your staff need it. A good time could be right before they start their construction project, to ensure they refresh all the WSH training knowledge, to keep themselves safe onsite.
Your workers are now able to absorb your important WSH training content in bite-sizes:
“Just-in-time, just-enough, just-for me”
You have certainty that they understand the material, and can help those who need a little more guidance.
Supervisors and foremen can then focus their attention on ensuring compliance, which should come automatically because workers know the importance of WHY they should comply, and are effectively trained on HOW to put into practice.
Editor’s note: ArcLab works alongside Work Tech platforms to help businesses better manage workforces, improve staff performance to achieve more for the business, and digitally transform for the future.
We’re glad to co-author this article with Andy Schmidt, CEO of 6i Communication, the authorised reseller of Beekeeper, an easy-to-use, inclusive and engaging internal communication platform — to share how businesses can better manage a deskless workforce.
It is far too easy to forget about our frontline workers because we’ve “trained ourselves” not to see them every day. Take a guess how many percent of the global workforce do not have a desk?
70 to 80% of workers globally — at least 1.7 billion people — are “deskless” handling jobs that do not require (or allow for) sitting in place.
If that number surprises you, think about all the industries this includes: retail, grocery, healthcare, hospitality, foodservice, construction, manufacturing, logistics and utilities.
These frontline workers have unique job demands, volatile working schedules, demanding customers, long hours standing and little to no access to task-critical information.
Your frontliners should be of primary importance to the business, considering they are often customer facing and your brand ambassadors.
Let’s face it, we see their jobs as routine and low-skilled. For far too long frontline employees just frankly haven’t been treated that well by their employers, or even by society itself.
For 2021, we predict that this Deskless Workforce will undergo an Employee Experience investment renaissance as companies are increasingly recognising the impact technology has on boosting deskless worker productivity, engagement and job satisfaction.
That said, there are still gaps when it comes to giving them that technology they need to do their best work.
Frontline worker characteristics like higher fluctuation, no corporate emails and lower computer literacy widen these gaps further.
Here’s where a lot of companies go wrong — they give desk workers and frontline workers the same tools and basically say, “Make it work.” Don’t fall into this trap.
Because giving your frontline team a tool built for desktop workers is like giving a fisherman a baseball bat. It doesn’t do the job, and quite frankly, it ends up being more of a burden to carry around than a useful tool that makes their life easier.
Frontline workforces have different requirements
Your frontline workers have unique communication needs covering the wide range of linguistic and cultural diversity and therefore require a communication platform built for them.
What if there was a way to connect everyone, monitor engagement, give your valuable frontline employees a voice, share feedback, take fast action with management and run transparent communication campaigns with your entire workforce — on one platform, without sending a single email?
Meet them where they are. With a mobile-first internal communication App that acts as a one-stop shop comes with inline translation features and can integrate with HR, payroll, workforce as well as learning management tools.
The Beekeeper Employee digital hub becomes a place for people, for communications, for recognition, for content and commenting, conversation and collaboration. It can be the primary platform for providing and discussing the strategy — and even refining it. Leaders can communicate the vision, project managers can explain current initiatives, and line managers can get their teams involved.
Given the high cost of recruiting new employees, and the significant amount of employee turnover that exists in many deskless-heavy industries, companies would be wise to consider how better technology might help them improve their ability to attract, connect and retain deskless workers.
You too can transform business agility, alignment and service quality with a single point of contact for your frontline sheroes and heroes.
Effective Communication & Training. For Deskless Workforces
We’ve just learnt about the Deskless Workforce and how their unique needs means companies cannot just provide a ‘desktop’ solution for employee communication. The same principles apply to workforce training, which is important if the business wants to do well.
Traditionally, training has been face-to-face and often time and labour-intensive, especially for onboarding and upskilling rank-and-file employees. We haven’t yet considered that training usually taking workers off the shopfloor, reducing productivity for the firm. Sometimes, as a result, firms skim on workforce training which isn’t a good thing for the organisation, because a poorly-trained workforce is often unproductive.
So the best organisations always invest in workforce training.
However, COVID-19 has made it now impossible to gather 1–200 people in a training room. Even with vaccination rollouts, it is unlikely that we revert to the pre-Covid normals. This means that organisations have to train the workforce more efficiently and effectively.
The way forward for workforce training is to leverage on the power of digital, and to stage out learning, through bite-sized modules, delivered directly to staff devices.
And remember that for the Deskless Workforce — there are no desktop computers or laptops to speak of. Hence, training needs to be designed with the smartphone as the core delivery platform.
Moving training to the mobile space helps businesses to reduce time and cost needed for training. This effectively funds free headcount for the business, through the resource & cost savings and productivity gains.
Importantly, mobile learning can bring great uptick for learner engagement, knowledge retention and most importantly, knowledge application. Some of these knowledge application metrics include — the drop in customer complaints, production errors etc, time spent on tasks. These are very tangible business objective metrics and provides a positive return on training investment.
70% of deskless workers surveyed report that more technology would help them do their jobs better. The parts of their work that they feel would benefit most from additional technology include communications, operations & logistics, onboarding, and training.
Frontline workers just plain deserve better — and they have for a long, long time. They deserve respect, transparency, and real access to economic mobility through professional advancement.
Most importantly, great businesses can only be built by great teams. It’s a win-win.
If you are a business employing a Deskless Workforce, let's start doing better for them, and your business.
4 Productivity Apps for Remote Working (and They're Free!)
Editor’s note: ArcLab works alongside HR Tech platforms to help businesses better manage workforces, improve staff performance to achieve more for the business, and digitally transform for the future.
We’re glad to share this guest article from the Talenox team. Talenox is an intuitive and fuss-free Payroll and Absence Management solution for small businesses.
Love it or hate it, remote working is here to stay for 2021 and the foreseeable future. If you’re working in a team to keep the business running, you need to ensure that your team is well-equipped to manoeuvre a remote work setting for the long haul.
At Talenox, we’ve always had the option to work from home. And we know for a fact that it is possible to keep productivity up and business running just as smoothly in a remote work setting. After all, you just need the right productivity apps that harness automation.
Here are our favourite productivity apps for working from home — namely remote communication, project management and human resource management.
1) For Remote Commuication: Slack
Slack is one of the most popular apps for remote communication and millions use it every day. We love it because it provides a single place for teams to share messages, tools and files as well as stay up to date. Aside from streamlining all working communication and contacts, Slack allows you to also create specific channels for certain projects which you can chat in publicly, within groups or in private.
With an instant messenger approach to communication, everyone can be contactable anywhere and anytime. Take for instance, Fox Sports’ use of the Slack app. From covering the FIFA World Cup across continents to organizing day-to-day communication, Fox Sports use Slack channels to keep on track. After all, the Slack channels allowed every producer to share crucial real-time coverage of the FIFA World Cup™, from highlights and notable celebrity tweets to videos of fans celebrating across the globe.
At the core of every organisation’s business ethic, paying employees on time is non-negotiable — regardless of the circumstances. Hence, it is important to ensure your payroll processes can execute on time and accurately regardless of any unplanned interruptions, even amid COVID-19.
It’s possible with an HR payroll software that helps you:
View and edit their employee information quickly and easily from a central location/dashboard
With Talenox as our HR payroll software product, we are glad that we can help thousands of companies reduce direct human interaction for these HR processes. After all, it is important that companies can still manage their HR tasks with ease during this difficult period.
Constant learning and upskilling is an important process that helps keep everyone within the company relevant in the industry and the workforce. The best way to help employees upskill in a dynamic, accelerated digital era is to help them become more effective and efficient learners.
Thankfully, there are nano learning platforms like ArcLab to help you with just that, by ensuring your learning modules for employees are:
Engaging to employees with the use of visuals and rich media; like infographics, stock photos, YouTube videos, training videos and more.
Accompanied with Extensive Assessment Templates to help you understand each learners’ understanding of your learning modules.
Able to automatically accredit your learners for attaining proficiency in the modules they take.
This way, your employees can upskill and even improve their work performance easily!
I first met LKY was when I was still in school, when he was still Singapore’s Prime Minister. I received the Prime Minister’s Book Prize from him — literally a set of books, which I read over the next few years, and still sit on my bookshelves.
The second time was years later, when I was working in the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) London Office, helping to manage our Foreign Reserves.
LKY was in town to meet then-Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King. As the MAS’ Reserve Manager (aka Financial Markets person) in London, I was invited to accompany LKY and Singapore’s then-High Commissioner to the UK to the dinner meeting.
To give some context, the meeting took place during the recovery from the Great Financial Crisis, so there was much policy thinking afoot on financial sector reform and improving Financial Stability. I can’t disclose much of what LKY said during the dinner, which were sensitive. Can’t quite remember what we ate, too.
But there’s something I can talk about, when after the official dinner meeting agenda had concluded — I brought up the idea of promoting manufacturing and how it can be a ballast and diversification for financial centres like London and Singapore.
This may have seemed far-fetched for 21st-century advanced economies, where manufacturing had been outsourced and offshored to developing economies. The Governor saw merit in my point, as we operated in the financial world and had seen how ‘financialisation’ had resulted in much misallocation of economic resources, excesses and financial instability.
LKY was not enthusiastic (to put it mildly), not that he did not agree, I think, but he looked at it from the human aspect — that workers would (quote) NEVER want that sort of menial life when office life is much more attractive and available.
To clarify, I wasn’t thinking about low-end manufacturing of sneakers and paper clips, but research-heavy, technologically-advanced manufacturing. Examples then were Rolls-Royce aircraft engines and Singapore’s cleanroom wafer fab plants.
Today’s examples would be vastly different, and I continue to believe that not everyone is geared for life in shirtsleeves and glass-paneled offices. In fact, much of our advanced manufacturing involves research and design which result in better products used to improve everyday life.
To do that well requires close collaboration between our education institutions and industry, such that we continue to produce industry-ready professionals for the manufacturing sector (I wrote of the good work being done by Singapore University of Technology and Design).
The last decade+ since the Great Financial Crisis had seen undeniable shifts. STEM-based disciplines are now just as, if not more, popular than Economics and Finance as a majors of choice. The top-paying graduate hire role in 2020 is in fact for Computer Science graduates, with Engineers in a close second. All these have contributed to more companies being founded, many in software, but also in hardware and advanced manufacturing.
I guess I was just ahead of my time, and wonder what LKY would have said to my point if that dinner were today.
From what I’d read of him, LKY always kept current, never stopped learning, and changed his mind when the data changed. So I believe LKY would have been open to changing his mind. In fact, I think he would have done it many years earlier.
LKY was visionary in Singapore’s early Post-Independence days in the 1960s, and remained so in the 21st-century, where he talked about climate change and the need to “open Singapore up a little bit more in the modern world of fast-moving technology and information and communications”.
All this was pre-iPhone, and pre-Greta Thunberg. That’s vision.
The work of LKY and his Pioneer Leaders laid the foundation for Singapore to carve our niche of relevance in the world and improve the standard of living for generations of Singaporeans. LKY ensured that Singapore always brought something to the table, so we were always needed. They created an environment where Singaporeans could earn a living, and entrepreneurs had the space to dream and create products and services of value and improve lives and livelihoods.
Unfortunately, I can’t turn back the clock. But more than that missed autograph, I am privileged to live in the legacy of LKY that is Singapore. This legacy is everywhere around me, in every direction I look.
Editor’s note: ArcLab works alongside HR Tech platforms to help businesses better manage workforces, improve staff performance to achieve more for the business, and digitally transform for the future.
We’re glad to co-author this article with Pang Jian Jie of Frontier e-HR, a leading vendor providing cloud-based HR and Talent Management System since 2000 — to share how Effective Casual Labour Management and Systemising Processes can help bring F&B Businesses onto the next lap.
Singapore is always known as a global city with a vibrant Food & Beverage (F&B) industry. However, 1 in 4 F&B businesses in Singapore go out of business, many within only their first year of operations. Ranging from hawkers, to cafes, to high-end fine dining restaurants and even reputable Michelin stars restaurants are not spared.
Despite the many ready-made tech and software solutions supported by the Singapore government grants, it is still a highly demanding industry to be in. These are some of the major challenges faced by HR in Singapore’s F&B industry:
1. Casual Labour Management
One of the biggest challenges faced by HR in F&B businesses is casual labour management. The employment laws are stringent and ever-changing, making it difficult to hire, train and retain people. Hence, businesses turn to casual labour which allows them to adapt to constant changes, from changing staff, changing competition to changing expectations of customers.
Having a consolidated and unified solution will save precious time in planning the working schedule and payroll processing. F&B businesses can reduce their labour costs as well by having an accurate and statutory compliance labour management system. Employees are empowered at a click of a button to view and swap their working schedules, removing the tedious process of manual approvals. Managers are also able to make use of dashboard tools which can assist them on future labour forecasting.
Bad workforce management can lead to undesirable consequences such as poor employee engagement, lack of visibility, increased stress for managers, lost revenue, and reputation for the business. This eventually leads to low employee morale, which can lead to good talent leaving your company.
2. Systemising Processes
The hallmark of any good F&B business: every dish sent in front of the diner is ALWAYS delicious.
To CONSISTENTLY produce good-quality food & beverage offerings, standard operating procedures (SOPs) are extremely important. SOPs systemise the workflow for the workforce so that the recipe in the Head Chef’s head can be replicated dish after dish for diners’ enjoyment. Teaching SOPs is in fact part of new employee onboarding and upskilling.
SOPs are essential not only for the actual production of the dish, but also every other process in F&B operation. Be it health-and-safety processes, or customer service — how to arrange the napkins etc to be ‘on-brand’. In today’s COVID-normal, other important SOPs are the arrangement of seating to ensure safe distancing, disinfecting the outlet, as well as new procedures related to food delivery operations.
Traditionally, SOPs are detailed in hard copy and often filed in folders. This presented a few problems for F&B businesses:
Takes up precious space in typically cramped back-of-house setups.
Can get oily and grimy from day-to-day F&B ops.
Gets outdated as SOPs change, and considerable effort is needed to update them.
A much better way is to have SOPs that are digital. This solves the 3 problems above, and it can now also be made available to every single staff in the outlet or restaurant. Staff can now access SOPs and other training material right on their smartphones.
Achieved efficiencies in time and cost can then be channelled towards improving the F&B business operations, and thrive in the competitive landscape.
Find out how Frontier e-HR solution will support you with the information on how to best staff your business during the busiest periods:https://www.frontier-ehr.com/
Circuit Breakers / Movement Control Orders & lockdowns in general forced shops all over the world to close for a number of months. Post-lockdown — social distancing requirements and income uncertainty reduced discretionary purchases initially and impacted retailers’ takings at the till.
In Singapore, there was some temporary financial respite with retailers (excluding supermarkets) receiving the highest tier of salary support from the Government, coupled with a small rental rebate (which hopefully retailers received…). This helped to mitigate some costs.
However, recovery ultimately depends on demand and topline, to which there is considerable headwind:
Retailers that rely on tourist traffic — Vaccinations have started globally, but there is no certainty when international leisure travel will resume.
Heartland retailers — the accelerated push to digital has resulted in less footfall as ‘stay-at-home’ families embraced e-commerce — which was more convenient and posed less exposure risk at the height of the pandemic last year. This greatly benefitted the marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada, as well as e-commerce enablers like Shopify and POS providers, and the e-commerce habit has stuck, post-lockdowns.
Some retailers pivoted quickly and opened digital stores on above-marketplaces to capture a share of growing online spend.
But it also takes resources to stand out in a crowded marketplace, especially if the retailer’s brand equity is not strong. Which is probably a reason why part of the household handouts from the Singapore Government’s Budget 2021 was given in the form of CDC vouchers, which can only be spent in heartland shops (see graphic beneath).
Embracing e-commerce (and m-comerce) is the only way forward for retailers.
For more tech-savvy retailers, the transition may not be all that hard. The Singapore Government has also offered a Digital Resilience Bonus to support retailers in making that change — through generous subsidies to adopt digital solutions.
On the ground, we find that many businesses do need a bit more than just the subsidy, especially if there was no digitalisation at all in the retailer pre-Covid. From basic things like how to operate a POS for cashless payments, and more involved endeavours like how to set up the e-commerce presence and link up inventory management and accounting, to working with delivery platforms and supply chain — all these require new processes and procedures, which need to be properly documented so staff can be trained and learn how to perform their transformed job roles in our COVID-normal.
An effective way is to set up Digital SOPs, which can be stored on the cloud and easily disseminated to staff across the retailers’ multiple branches, accessed on the staff’s smartphones.
Simple procedural 101s, ‘how-to’ guides which the retailer can easily set up, and serve as important references for staff. And if procedures change, just edit the information online, and it’s now current when staff next access.
The road ahead is uncertain for retailers, but the spirit of community remains important for us who grow up with ‘the shops’.
Yet it is important for our Retail Business Orders to acknowledge that the way forward is digital, and to get our workforce equipped with the knowledge to operate the retail business in the digital economy.
This is not the future, but is in fact the present.
"The Intern—starring SUTD student Sylvia (& ArcLab)"
As ArcLab is a Mobile Learning SaaS platform… we wouldn’t have much (tbh zero) mechanical engineering work for Sylvia to do . But Sylvia’s CV showcased various interesting design projects, she had strong interest in technology design & development and aspires to be an entrepreneur that improves the lives of others. Sylvia also built & included an ArcLab module of herself in her email (talk about impressing a prospective employer!). We Zoom-terviewed , and took Sylvia on as a UX/UI Design + Business intern.
Sylvia worked on a variety of projects for ArcLab. To quote from her internship report: “(she) worked on many feature designs, created a marketing sales pack, designed public education modules, and came up a plan to increase product virality”.
We incorporated several of Sylvia’s UX/UI Designs, e.g.:
(i) Unscramble — ArcLab’s newest Assessment Screen, used to test learners as a question midway between MCQ & OEQ difficulty levels. Sylvia’s design was improved upon by Estee (more about her beneath) when she implemented it.
ArcLab’s vision is to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce through building the World’s Simplest Learning System.
In ArcLab, there is no room for complexity, as it would get in the way of learning. Hence, great design always needs to be weaved in with our tech — so it is fuss-free and seamless to ArcLab’s users and learners.
Sylvia’s education in engineering intersected well with her interest and learning in design — she is what SUTD says on the box.
Estee is an SUTD Information Systems, Technology & Design Honours Graduate, who worked with ArcLab as a Software Engineer under the SGUnited Traineeship scheme.
Estee had impressive work ethic and quickly hit the ground running to build ArcLab features and fix challenging bugs. Ever thoughtful about good design to help the user adopt ArcLab, she took it upon herself to design and implement ArcLab features. Essentially she played the role of UX/UI designer AND developer, which made the features she built intuitively usable for ArcLab users & learners.
ArcLab features that Estee helped build and design included:
Estee augmented Sylvia’s original design by looking further into the unique requirements and problems faced by a Deskless Worker who would otherwise been forced to use a feature-rich but clunky alternative LMS made for desktop, on their phones.
So Estee designed the ArcLab Learner Dashboard from the ground up, taking into account the above, and making the UX seamless for the learner, as well as for the L&D Manager / Trainer building and assigning modules to staff.
Estee also applied her experience from working in larger teams at GovTech in her previous internships, and took great initiative to propose good product and project management processes for the ArcLab team which we had just started to build last year.
We lapped them up and eagerly took them on board, ever-learning as we build the ArcLab core team.
Estee’s education in (and love for) Tech & Design empowered her with a great toolkit as she put her skills to good use helping us build ArcLab — She is exactly what SUTD says on the box.
ArcLab is grateful for the opportunity to work with Sylvia and Estee. We credit them both in our alumni list, acknowledging their role in building (and imprinting SUTD’s DNA into) ArcLab’s early foundations. They were also pleasant young ladies whom the team enjoyed working with. We’re honoured they chose to spend time working with us.
"The Office" —starring SUTD OD & HR team (& ArcLab)
ArcLab also has the privilege to count SUTD as one of our platform’s customers. We first met the forward-thinking and energetic OD & HR team of Adeline & Sharon in late-2019, before COVID became a word.
I’m humbled to end this story by sharing Adeline’s review of ArcLab on G2. We’ll keep working to continue to earn her (and your) trust, by making ArcLab better and better.
We remain as always, in #Day1.
We’re grateful for the privilege to serve Singapore University of Technology & Design, one of Singapore’s youngest universities, and be part of their stories.
May SUTD continue to produce more Sylvias and more Estees — who are exactly what SUTD says on the box, and are instrumental in building impactful product that uplifts lives and livelihoods, as what ArcLab seeks to do — to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce.
The best things in life are free: Parents’ love. Sunshine. WhatsApp (wait; whatsapp?!?)
We’re wired to love a bargain. Indeed, why pay when you can get stuff for free?
The desire for FREE is especially true for software, exacerbated by the explosive rise of the smartphone. As consumers, many of us have never explicitly paid for our apps (aka software), with the majority *free* to download and use.
No only WhatsApp, but many software applications are *free* because they monetise our data; e.g. we don’t pay to search Google online either, because the data we give up (our search data, location, demographics etc.) is sold to advertisers who pay Google to serve us ads to publicise their product.
So this is not a new phenomenon, but many of us probably don’t value our privacy enough, or we view it as an acceptable trade-off; e.g. getting served an ad for the best coffee in your vicinity may not be a bad thing. But at the end of the day:
If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product.
ArcLab is a mobile learning Software-as-a-Service platform. So yes, we are in the B2B software business, and the practice of *Free* software troubles us.
The expectation of *Free* pretty much only extends to software. When purchasing furniture for the office, companies would never ask to have the tables and chairs for free. No landlord would be expected to provide office space for free. No F&B operator would ever be asked to cook and deliver meals to the office for free. Only software (read this excellent exposition from AngelCentral’s Huang Shao-Ning).
Selling software in a world of *free* is challenging. Because of *free* consumer software (which is not actually free, as we read above), when we introduce ArcLab to prospective customers, we’re sometimes asked to offer our platform for free, with no commitment to purchase.
This is obviously difficult, not to mention unfair, as our team which works hard to build and distribute a great workplace learning platform also need to bring money home to their families. Yet ArcLab’s cost incurred is not the main issue, since that’s in all honesty not a factor in buyers’ considerations.
However, what SHOULD be in buyers’ considerations — is the fact that good software like ArcLab Pro offers value to the organisation, which shouldn’t be for free. Using ArcLab Pro saves the company time, effort and cost in upskilling and supporting staff — to achieve more for your firm. Win-win.
And because ArcLab get compensated for the software we build to solve customers’ pain, we have the necessary funds to reinvest into making our SaaS platform better, and unlike other firms have no need to sell ArcLab Pro customers’ valuable data to advertisers. Neither do we sell the learning content that you create (though you can publish it to the world if you want — YOUR choice, not ours).
Finally, free software disappears when the developer runs out of money, leaving the user in the lurch. So companies should be VERY UNCOMFORTABLE with using free software. Paid software sticks around as the seller is building a sustainable business, and is committed to you.
That’s what ArcLab does. Building a sustainable business, and committed to helping organisations like yours upskill and support your workforce effectively and efficiently —SO THEY CAN ACHIEVE MORE FOR YOUR FIRM. Because great organisations can only be built by great teams.
Great question! We’re in the privileged position to share with you how we use ArcLab because…ahem, we built the tool (and continue to improve it as we receive feedback and iterate to solve customer needs).
Let’s walk you through how the ArcLab team uses ArcLab, and share some ideas on how you can stretch the limits of ArcLab to more easily & effectively train & support your workforce. Anytime, anywhere.
New Hire Onboarding & Training
We built ArcLab to empower organisations to easily create & distribute training. Naturally, we ‘dogfood’ ArcLab for our team’s onboarding & training.
New ArcLab-bers and interns receive a personalised link to an ArcLab module on their 1st day. The module walks through ArcLab’s vision & mission, introduces teammates and basic work processes. This particular link can be referenced again repeatedly so it serves as a reference in the early (or not so early) days.
Doing new-hire induction via the ArcLab mobile learning module beats having clunky ring-folders dumped on the new hire’s desk with no context whatsoever on the SOPs or training. In fact, a well-onboarded staff through ArcLab can get up-to-speed to begin work within the same day, helping your organisation’s operations much more quickly.
The onboarding module I talked about earlier is the new ArcLab-ber’s 1st digital manual.
As our organisation grows, more specific and targetted modules are getting created to document train team members. We call these Digital SOPs or Performance Support modules, which are used to support team members in their day-to-day work, as a reference guide. Hence — “Performance. Support”. They’re really useful as an SOP manual that’s always accessible on our phone (Say goodbye to bulky training manuals!).
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Performance Support modules aka Digital SOPs were of immense help to organisations who had to very quickly set up split teams and remote-work arrangements. ArcLab modules created by them, as well as by us (see ArcLab’s COVID-19-related modules in ArcLab Discover) helped workers thrust into unfamiliar working arrangements to set up their home workstations, and still have the resources (now digital) to do their work.
For ease of organisation, we group these Performance Support / Digital SOPs into folders right in the ArcLab dashboard, which are shared as a “Learner Dashboard” with specific groups of team members depending on job function. ArcLab-bers can then easily refer to their required modules when they need to reference or refresh their knowledge.
(One other Easter egg for you: I’ve converted several of our presentations from Powerpoint / Google Slides into ArcLab modules, which makes for much better presentations. E.g. this presentation for HR managers).
To help organisations to confirm staffs’ knowledge retention, we also built Assessment Screens like Multiple-Choice, Open-Ended Questions, Word Unscramble in the ArcLab platform (that’s for a start; we’re adding more!).
i.e., we use ArcLab modules to test and assess understanding of what had been trained before. Learner performance is then immediately reflected in the administrator’s dashboard, and any needed follow-up can be done quickly.
We saw a lot of this during COVID-19-induced lockdowns in 2020. Organisations whose staff had were not able to operate remotely (e.g. retail or F&B companies — how does one “remotely” cook/serve diners or man a shopfront?) took the ‘down time’ to train & assess their staff in product, service training etc. Obviously these now had to be done digitally.
Then when the lockdowns were lifted, staff were now refreshed in their knowledge, and many learnt new things too, to do their jobs better as many of these companies pivoted to delivery and e-commerce models. F&B operators saw food delivery helping to offset post-Covid impact of safe distancing reduced dine-in capacity, and e-commerce helped add back some topline to retailers.
These new business and operating models also require new skills and new training — and we can now use ArcLab learning modules to efficiently deliver them to staff and assess knowledge retention.
Employee Surveys, Polls and many more
We also use ArcLab as a Dipstick Polling Tool — via ArcLab’s Poll Screen and/or Likert Scale Screen. This can be votes on features, text copy choices, icon design, or even simply what to ‘tapao’ for lunch. With data at the forefront of companies’ decision-making, at ArcLab, we walk the talk and ‘dogfood’ it.
In fact, ArcLab’s customers have used our platform for Employee Appraisals, Peer Ratings, Employee Engagement Surveys and many more. It’s simply down to the imagination of the company’s HR and L&D team to utilise the full features of ArcLab’s platform, built for simplicity and flexibility. It solves yet another pain point of how companies can easily solicit views and use data in their decision-making.
Visitors to the office can now log their contact details in a contactless fashion (more hygienic) and their contact data stored digitally and securely. This beats using pen & paper which is environmentally-unfriendly. This also avoids loose sheets of paper which could run foul of Personal Privacy Data Protection laws.
Public Communication Modules
A more interesting use case is how ArcLab marketing uses ArcLab for, well, marketing.
ArcLab modules can be set to public, which we can include in emails, EDMs, social media posts as well as blogs like these
For example, see this really fun public education module that Martin our Learning Designer made to educate the public on local attractions that families can go to during the year-end holidays last year.
ArcLab modules are interactive, rich-media, and can provide an immersive educational experience beyond just a static poster.
The broad (pun intended) thinking: Singapore students will need more “broad-based” knowledge and skills to do well in our new VUCA world. So we get students to learn about different disciplines that may or may not be related, while diving deep into their core specialty. A “T-shaped” individual, for lack of a better word. Indeed, 7 in 10 Singapore companies sought to hire workers with broader skill sets — a point hammered home by COVID-19’s impact on the workforce.
So NUS’ move was a long time coming. Though better late than never.
NUS’ proposed new college setup is not at all new.
A *few* years ago, I had the privilege to experience such an education. Enrolling in Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences —pursuing different courses in a myriad of disciplines.
In ANTHR 303, I learnt about Nepalese culture and did a research paper on the Gurkhas.
In GEOG 404, I learnt about the ocean and climate change (way before the Paris Accord and Greta Thunberg [hat tip to Greta nonetheless!]).
In HIST 211, I learnt about Southeast Asian culture & history.
In COMP 100, I learnt (as best as I could) basic programming.
In MATH 313 — Linear Algebra, learning about matrices and arrays, which proved useful when founding ArcLab years later.
In HOTEL 430 — the famed Wines class opened my eyes (and palette) to the world of viniculture and viticulture, not to mention some amazing wines in the process.
In some other course which I forget, I also did a study of wines and pricing, and was asked by my Professor to present it to class — my conclusion — drink what you like; price (and ratings) doesn’t matter all that much.
And somewhere in those 4 years, I studied enough Economics to earn my Economics degree, which helped prepare for a later Reserve Management career at the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
That was just academics. There was much more.
Internships in Capital One and working as a Teaching Assistant for my Professor gave a semi-realistic entry into the working world.
I also helped out at a Taiwanese-American schoolmate’s 1st-wave Bubble Tea franchise — making (and drinking) enough bubble tea to last me a lifetime. It was hard work but great work. Work that taught some life skills: proper organisation, SOPs, planning ahead, customer service, thinking on one’s feet.
Work that would prove relevant when I co-founded ArcLab years later. That of honing skill through the job, and providing adequate performance support for the workforce that was not tied behind a desk — who we term the Deskless Workforce.
(Just made myself really miss school… )
As our economy evolves and knowledge cycles shorten, learning in the flow of work becomes a much more important component that adds to the front-loaded education in the first 15–20 years of our lives.
In essence, that’s ArcLab’s work — empowering organisations globally to easily create, distribute and track training for the workforce.
Training that is Stackable. Multi-disciplinary. In-the-Flow-of-Work.
Helping organisations to effectively upskill the workforce, providing easily-accessible performance support — digital SOPs, 101s, primers.
So the workforce can effectively discharge responsibilities, and ultimately generate more value for the organisation. Learning & Development that does more for the organisation.
Alina Rusu is the Founder and Learning & Development Director of Business Academia — a Singapore-based firm that helps client organisations implement customer centric learning and digital strategies to boost productivity and efficiency.
In this webinar, I had the privilege to learn from Alina how she has been supporting firms since COVID-19 hit, and her thoughts on the Future of Learning & Development.
Listen to what we spoke about:
Business Academia can help your organisation's L&D efforts
To learn more about Business Academia’s Customer Experience Management (“CXM”) programme and to connect with Alina for your organisation’s Learning & Development needs that are Just-in-Time, Just-In-Time, Just-For-You, visit: https://www.businessacademia.co .
James: I’m delighted to speak with Ms Alina Rusu, Founder and Learning & Development Director of Business Academia — on the Future of Learning & Development in our New Normal.
Alina is an entrepreneur, based in Singapore and hailing from Italy. She has extensive professional experience in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and was part of several Global Project Management teams in Fortune 500 companies: enabling sales growth, a customer centric culture and organisations’ Digital Transformation. Alina had worked in Vodafone, Randstad, Adecco and Club Med, before founding Business Academia in 2018.
Alina is curious about future trends, innovation, quantum mechanics (of which I know nothing about) and a passionate Science Fiction reader.
Alina — Thank you for joining us today!
Could you tell us more about Business Academia and the work you do?
Alina: We focus on three verticals:
1. Learning programmes: design and deploy learning programmes for corporate and higher education institutions in Asia Pacific and globally.
2. Business consultancy: we are diagnosing, following up and coaching professionals and MBA students
3. Innovation and Leadership: which we want to reactivate once air travel is back again. This is because we work with our business partners and we bring leaders from corporate companies from Europe to Singapore to learn from Singapore as a smart city. They can learn about the our fintech Landscape, innovation and disruption in the financial world, mobility, energy, green architecture, waste management etc.
In your training work, what are some of the specific courses that you run for organisations?
Alina: We run a customer experience management training. We are very happy and delighted that our Customer Experience Management programme (“CXM”) is subsidised by Singapore Government agencies: IMDA and SkillsFuture Singapore with 70% up to 90% support for Singaporeans and PRs.
We are running this for organisations in Singapore, across Asia-Pacific and worldwide. We are very proud of this CXM programme that the government has subsidised, which will run till 2022 with government subsidies.
Apart from that, we help organisations to solve their most urgent business problems with design thinking and agility sprints in order to accelerate their growth.
We also teach soft skill training such as negotiation skills, emotional intelligence at work, sales, business development and so on.
COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. How has your training approach changed in the last 6months?
Alina: We are looking into tech components in our learning programmes. Including nano learning, mobile learning, bite-sized learning, interactive tools and everything we can use to make the learning journey enjoyable. That’s why with the current situation, we accelerate that tech component alongside what we have already designed for our learning programme.
We are answering a question “how to keep people engaged while in front of a computer for a long time?” We took the inspiration from movies — how and why a person should be stuck in front of a device for more than 2 hours. We took that question and worked backwards to see what sort of components, including tech, can we put inside the learning programmes to make it enjoyable.
How do you now assess learning, given you typically aren't able to be in the same room as learners? Any specific tools that you use?
Alina: We have an interesting combination of pre-course and post-course assessment strategy
We include a lot of hands on practical assignments that we design even before the training or workshop starts. We are not waiting for the programme to end, but to encourage this practice, as well as experiential learning
On top of that, we use the ArcLab platform – launching ArcLab modules in 2 sequences, one before the training starts and the second during or at the end of the learning programme.
We use data and we observe the results from the practical workshops and exercises in order to understand the progress for both online and offline trainings. We measure in terms of percentage, how many of the learners have improved, in terms of knowledge, concepts and application.
After extracting the data from ArcLab, it is really impressive the amount of insights we can get. We also start to get qualitative conversation especially on the follow up and coaching sessions and suggest where are the areas that can be improved. To that, we encourage a lifelong learning attitude.
Could you share who are some of the client organisations that you serve, and a little more about digital and 'virtual' training that you now do for them?
Alina: We are running a lot of the customer experience management trainings for the organisations we work with, thanks to SkillsFuture supporting us.
We have human design thinking workshops, sprints and agility, emotional intelligence and soft skills. From there, we go into coaching sessions, follow-ups, implementations and so many more.
We work across industries, e.g. from telecommunications to consumer goods to airports, university, media and cable industries.
It is not important for us to position ourselves in a specific industry because our program supports the implementation of an entire structure, when we talk about people, processes, tools. Instead, we are positioning ourselves as collectors of business intelligence tools. So we collect the hottest and coolest business intelligence platforms. That’s why we are teaching ourselves a lot about what’s out there and we extract the easiest, most impactful and the most cost saving platforms. We do that and simplify it for our customers. So they have access to a list of providers they can look into and adapt as tools.
What are some of the key trends that you see in your work, that you think has gone on an irrevirsible course since COVID-19?
Alina: In L&D, the integration of online and offline is going to stay. It is as relevant as it is for the retail or F&B industry. The integration of these two will definitely stay. But when it comes to human interaction, it is very important. We need to understand how to balance that according to what is permitted.
Data is very important as it is no longer based on putting as much content out there as possible and hoping that our people/colleagues can assimilate it. But we need to look into cleaning, analysing, extracting the insides of the data in order to understand where we stay, where we should be, what should be done to reach that point.
We need to enabling a proactive culture, lifelong learning culture. This is an ongoing and relevant trend.
If you look at L&D prior to what’s happening today, you could notice more organisation would run by reacting to what is happening. So they would have skills or suggestions or behaviour that they would encourage the companies to look into. The learners would have catalogs to choose from that the topics they would think is more relevant to them.
This makes sense for a while, but now I am actually looking into trends and trying to get a competitive advantage to understand what are the skills that are necessary today and tomorrow so i can support my people to go towards that path.
What's next for Business Academia?
Alina: We are working hard with our learning programme to enable organisation in their transformation journey and to support their teams altogether to work together to make things happen
We hope to reactivate the innovation and leadership programme to learn about the awesome things about the cities of the future.
We are working on projects e.g. a mobile app that supports people that have been made redundant and those that are without a job, to exchange their skills that are relevant in the workplace.
Thank you so muchfor spending time with us today. Before we end off, can you share some tips on what companies need to do, to equip their workforces to be ready for our Digital Future?
Alina: Keep it simple and enjoyable. A lot of people or colleagues might be scared of turning to digital completely. Even though there might be a lot going on out there, we might underestimate the power of resistance.
Support your people with JUST-IN-TIME, JUST-ENOUGH and JUST-FOR-YOUR-LEARNERS sort of journey.
We are no longer as L&D professionals reacting to what’s going on, we are proactively opening the learning library to our learners. The L&D department becomes a part of the operation so it is not the one that has the key to the learning library but enables everyone in the organisations to adopt this lifelong learning culture and be always on top of the game to stay relevant because everyone is replaceable.
What #COVID19 taught (and continues to teach) us. Guest post on HRTech Cube.
Fun fact: When I wrote our company thesis in Jan 2018, ArcLab didn’t yet ‘exist’. We were in POC-mode, learning from usage data & feedback on a prototype built in 6 weeks, and hadn’t even incorporated ArcLab yet.
These milestones provided encouragement to us that ArcLab was solving a big problem, and doing it in a scalable way.
Our work to Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce is only just beginning. Embracing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ famous #Day1 mindset, we continuously listen to our users and build out our platform to serve our customer organisations.
But like most organisations, our original plans and projections never quite factored in an infectious disease that would lock down entire countries and change the face of our world and economy as we knew it.
Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous.—V.U.C.A.
COVID-19 accelerated the paradigm shift that had already started to take hold of the public consciousness.
To me, COVID-19 is the very definition of VUCA. It starts with biology, where individual symptoms may be Uncertain and sometimes Ambiguous, spreads through social behaviour which differs from society to society and can be Volatile, and through various Complex linkages — impacts much of everything around us, notably our economies, jobs, livelihoods, and lives.
Each country’s COVID-19 response differed — a reflection of culture, politics and sometimes plain common sense (or lack thereof). There is still much we don’t know about COVID-19, despite the best efforts of our brightest minds. We can only hope our scientists and doctors make good progress on understanding the disease and developing a vaccine.
The immediate impact of this VUCA disease: Large gatherings of people are no longer possible, for fear of the virus’ spread. Workplaces could no longer function as before. What we took for granted — people meeting or gathering in the same location, could no longer be done.
Truth is: Many of us are generally resistant to change. INERTIA — ‘this is how we’ve always done things so there is no reason to change’ is a big obstacle to progress, even if the alternative is better. From a career perspective, it’s also riskier to propose something new that nobody else is doing, compared with sticking with the status quo, and the safety of ‘everyone else is doing it’.
Human Resource teams became organisations’ champions, helping staff in many organisations transition to the new remote work arrangement. A task made harder by schools also moving to home-based learning at the same time.
For HR, this would prove to be their shining moment. Many proved their mettle and it’s only apt that we give a shoutout to our HR professionals — who got going when the going got tough.
During tough economic situations, businesses are forced to take an even harder look at financial performance. For many companies, COVID-19 hurt top-line, which inevitably impacts their ability to fund running costs, of which a significant portion is headcount and salary.
There is no question that without customers and revenue, firms cannot (and in fact have no need to) fund headcount. Yet, talent is also needed to develop product to solve customer needs and grow the business. At ArcLab, we fully understand this, as we are a business ourselves.
Several governments stepped up quickly to square the circle through salary support schemes, like Singapore’s Jobs Support Scheme and the United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Though these, state funds are channeled to help firms fund a percentage of cash burn, while they figure out how to pivot their businesses and continue to operate in a much-changed world.
Except for tourism-related businesses where the recovery to pre-pandemic levels is likely to be sometime away, other business sectors are slowly starting to recover, many adding or pivoting to newer (and often digital) models. This gives some financial space to companies to at least think beyond immediate survival concerns.
With the workplace also transformed, teams in many countries will work remotely at least part of the work week, and in split arrangements for the foreseeable future. Employers will need to think about how to adapt their businesses accordingly, to operate as an ongoing concern, and (if we dare dream it) to grow.
Workforce Training is a Need. Not a Want.
Now more than ever, businesses need strong leadership to strategise, and a high-performing team to execute.
Good businesses are built by high-performing teams.
Highly-performing teams do not happen by chance. The first step is good recruitment — to find good people. Companies also need to:
Rally hires behind a shared vision,
Onboard hires properly, and
Train them in what’s needed to perform their job role.
The last 2 points are important, especially for our junior and rank-&-file workforce. Very few of us take on a role and become expert workers right off the bat. New hires typically go through an Induction process to familiarise themselves with the business and their role, followed by an On-the-Job Training (“OJT”) process, mentored and guided by a supervisor or senior.
Implementing OJT and mentoring is hard enough in normal times. It’s time-and-labor-intensive, and does not scale well. So for businesses that employ more than 5–10 staff, it becomes cumbersome and inefficient for supervisors and seniors to train new staff.
A better way is needed, and has always been needed. The solution for scale has always been technology, once we got the training andragogy right.
At ArcLab, we learnt a few things from serving our customers:
How important it was for the workforce to learn In the Flow of Work. This reduces time away from the shop or factory floor and maximises productivity.
How crucial it was for training to be Uniform, so the company’s standards can be taught without personal bias (or person-specific incompetence!).
How useful it is to continuously provide Performance Support to staff through digital training material — Training Manuals, 101s, Primers, Standard Operating Procedures. So staff can easily access information for them to do their jobs AS-AND-WHEN they need it.
In our New Normal, it’s no longer possible to gather 1–200 people in a training room. Organisations have to do this more efficiently and effectively. So the way forward is to leverage on the power of digital, and to stage out learning, through bite-sized modules, delivered directly to staff devices.
Moving training to the digital/mobile space also helps businesses reduce time and cost needed for training. This effectively funds free headcount for the business, through the resource savings and productivity gains.
Importantly, mobile learning can bring great uptick in learner engagement, knowledge retention and most importantly, knowledge application. Some of these knowledge application metrics include— the drop in customer complaints, production errors etc, time spent on tasks. These are very tangible business objective metrics and provides a positive return on training investment.
COVID-19 has negatively impacted all our lives. The silver linings we can glean for now are:
A greater appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our frontline workers — our cleaners, transport workers, delivery and supply chain professionals, healthcare heroes and our educators.
An irreversible push towards digital and mobile: Video-conferencing, e-commerce, digital payments, tele-health and Digital Learning were all catalysed by COVID-19, and helped make some parts of our lives better to offset the pain and inconvenience it wrought elsewhere.
COVID-19 might yet be with us for some time. Hence, we expect mobile learning to support organisations in a Business Continuity Planning, as well as a Business-As-Usual situation.
ArcLab stands ready to support every organisation in this important part of your Digital Transformation journeys.
For Training is not a luxury for businesses. It is an absolute staple, because, without a high-performing team, it’s impossible to build a great business.
With contributions from Edwin of PowerAbsolut and Justina for Edugrow for Brighter Tomorrows
7 Feb 2020 almost seems a lifetime ago.
It was the day Singapore upgraded her disease outbreak status to DORSCON Orange, in response to what the world would soon know as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19. As COVID-19 infection numbers rose, governments all over the world began to impose quarantine, lockdown, movement control measures to limit community spread. Singapore started her own “circuit breaker” on 7 April, recently extended till 1 June.
With travel curtailed and workplaces closed, Work-From-Home was no longer good Business Continuity or a fashionable hashtag. WFH was now non-negotiable. Schools also closed, so students now had Home-based Learning, or HBL.
Organisations began getting licenses for video conferencing software, communication platforms, productivity tools.
Mobile learning and edtech tools saw increased uptake, as training could no longer be done face-to-face.
Organisations began social-sharing their teams doing video conferences. Photos (and videos!) of video conferences, encouraging messages and memes started to grow, as #WFH started to trend.
While most of us are taking WBL/HBL in our stride, there is starting to be cabin fever/fatigue as lockdown periods get extended.
There was the odd joke about how COVID-19 was a conspiracy by video conferencing software companies/food delivery platforms etc. Some comments were in really poor taste — snide remarks about teachers celebrating that they could slack, folks living in mansions or large apartments complaining about how they couldn’t find a suitable place to ‘focus’ to work.
Worse, some started to flat-out disregard Stay-at-Home advisories and venture out, turning ‘grocery shopping’ into family outings, and driving to different parts of the country to buy food or ‘exercise’.
#WFH isn't for everyone
I’m using this op-ed to highlight that even as some might tire of #WFH, it is in fact a PRIVILEGE enjoyed by just a small part of our societies, and in many cases, only the higher-income and white-collar segments of our workforce.
Most of us are aware of F&B and retail businesses for whom WFH is a near-to-impossible option. There are in fact many others. I canvassed some perspectives:
Engineering: Contribution By Mr Edwin Wong (CEO, PowerAbsolut)
“In the engineering sector, WFH may be applied where work is instructional, administrative, design, e-commerce, etc. Meetings and reviews can be done via video or phone, but these are not the core money-making activities to begin with.
In marine engineering, WFH is virtually irrelevant. Production, maintenance, repair, troubleshooting, survey all necessitate onsite presence. Shipbuilding, fire systems certification, ship surveys and inspections, GPS system installation etc. all require physical presence and very often, congregation. Such work requires physical interaction with machines and other stakeholders. These are the revenue-generating activities which cannot be executed from a remote location.
The Singapore government has been helpful in NOT imposing a full lockdown or enforcing WFH across the board, which will otherwise seal the fate of many engineering businesses. We need the entire society to help us. Please listen to the health professionals, comply with the government, change our social behaviour to keep everyone safe.
So that those of us whose work nature do not permit us to WFH, WILL NOT BE LOCKED DOWN. The more the outbreak is contained, the lesser the restrictions, the sooner we regain our footing.”
Healthcare: Contribution by Dr. Wong (Working in a private clinic)
“Healthcare is an essential service that is still open to provide emergency services. Many perceive that it’s business-as-usual for private healthcare providers, far from the truth. Non-urgent or elective procedures that form a substantial portion of our work cannot be done, resulting in significant loss of revenue. Yet we continue to honour our commitment to staff, paying full salaries, and taking this time to train and re-train ourselves.
Private healthcare providers have been taking extreme precautions to safeguard the interest of their patients, as well as healthcare staff who are at highest risk of getting COVID-19, where examining patients require close contact. Most healthcare workers have no option to work from home.
We are totally in alignment with MOH and the Government’s call. Stay at home and flatten the curve. Avoid crowded places like wet markets and supermarkets. Healthcare workers cannot battle this virus alone. Collectively, every resident in Singapore must play their part. Then things can go back to normal for all.”
Social Sector: Contribution by Ms Justina Quek (Programme Manager, Edugrow for Brighter Tomorrows)
While our children take to platforms like TikTok seamlessly, HBL is, unfortunately, not done via the social networking app. When MOE first announced moving to a month-long HBL, Social Service Agencies island-wide like us had to scour around for devices for our children. That was the first hurdle.
Next was the knowledge and skills gaps in typing, or navigating the various e-learning, video conferencing, and shared drive platforms. These are still considered “easy” problems with “easy” solutions.
The more challenging struggles are the environmental factors; whether it was the lack of a proper study space (such as a table and chair with proper lighting), or a lack of structure (as opposed to being in school), or even simply a lack of the privilege of quiet. Regrettably, many things the more privileged amongst us take for granted becomes more pronounced during this period of WFH.
Nonetheless, this period also serves as an opportunity for us at EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows to bridge that very gap with the children we work with. In enforcing HBL, our children have to learn to deal with browsers and tabs, pick up basic typing skills, and have found a use for the microphones attached to their earpieces. They have learnt to take ownership of their own studies and set their own time tables.
While we cannot change their environment, we can empower our children to adapt and become more resilient. We walk step-by-step with children who need the extra assistance or an extra push, to ensure that no one gets left behind — or fall further behind. WFH or HBL aren’t great nor are they ideal. But, like our children, we can learn to work with the hands we are dealt with.
So in summary, #WFH is not a privilege easily enjoyed by:
Our healthcare heroes, our F&B, hospitality, delivery, supply chain & logistics colleagues, our security staff, our cleaning colleagues, our carers of young and old, our machinists, technicians and engineers, our construction workers, our law enforcement officers, and soldiers, our persons-with-disabilities in the workforce — for whom technology “as-is” may not be sufficient to help them to #WFH.
It's a PRIVILEGE to be able to Work From Home.
COVID-19’s impact is still playing out, as our healthcare workers and scientists work tirelessly to combat the virus.
We all need to play our part — washing our hands, social distancing, and staying home as much as we can (see this excellent video by Jeremy Goh & Steven Jap).
No-one knows how long the outbreak will last. No-one knows how the world will be after, only that it will be changed.
Some of these changes are good, e.g. WFH and flexible work arrangements. I hope they stay even as our world returns to normal. We’ve also seen great leadership from some countries and companies, and acts of selflessness and heroism.
At firm level, we play our part in two ways:
Collaborating with creative educators like The Dim Sum Warriors to create digital educational material that educate the public (children & adults) on COVID-19. Knowledge about how the virus spreads and what we can individually do to mitigate is the best weapon against community spread. TL;DR — Stay Stay Safe.
Helping firms to digitise training material that empowers them to remotely #Upskill staff for the #Upturn (which WILL eventually come), at scale.
WFH is really a PRIVILEGE we should not abuse.
I hope my fellow contributors helped put our #WFH “woes” into perspective.
In the short-run, the Singapore government’s 3 Budgets provide a lot of short-term support for families’ and businesses’ cost pressures. But this cannot last forever and we all need topline (salaries, revenue) to kickstart the economy’s flywheel again.
So the more that those of us who can WFH do so, the more we can flatten the curve; and the sooner that everyone can revert to a more ‘normal’ arrangement — to visit our loved ones, eat our favourite foods, run and play outdoors.
With everyone playing our part, we can overcome these worst of times… with the best of times.
Last but not least — If you’re Singapore-based, please donate your spare computer and/or accessories to Engineering Good, whose volunteers, led by Johann Annuar, are working overtime to bridge the digital divide and repurpose donated laptops for children of disadvantaged families to do HBL
As we continue to battle the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the Singapore Government moved its disease outbreak response up a level to DORSCON Orange on 7 Feb 2020.
DORSCON Orange means additional precautionary measures to minimise the risk of further transmission of the virus in the community, detailed by Singapore’s Ministry of Health. This includes responsibilities of employers to ensure daily health checks at the workplace, and ensure Business Continuity Plans (“BCP”) are in place. For companies who need help on BCP, here is an Enterprise Singapore Guide.
"Remote Control" In Practice
BCP is important, and requires proper PRIOR planning.
ArcLab works out of the offices of Tinkertanker, our founding investors — who have been prepared for some time, and over the weekend put these drawer plans into action as a precautionary measure to safeguard the health and safety of colleagues. These include:
Reminding colleagues to take temperatures daily, and seeing a doctor (wearing a mask) if one has a fever.
Working from home unless absolutely necessary to be in office (either needing access to office equipment or supplies), but only staying as long as needed.
If in office – practising good personal hygiene and washing hands regularly (asking any office visitors to do the same) etc.
Team members working from different locations requires good communication and collaboration tools.
The office has consistently used Slack as default communication platform, and this continues all through the current coronavirus outbreak.
Now more than ever — cloud is key for collaboration, with files saved and shared using cloud platforms like Google Drive / Dropbox. Our product / project management tools like Trello etc. are also cloud-based, and keep team members on the same page.
So if your organisation is looking cloud solutions that can help with split teams and remote work, drop us a message at email@example.com; we’ll be glad to share our experience with you.
Keep Calm and Carry On
In times like this, it’s important for all of us businesses to ensure we keep going, to be responsible to the users and customers who had put their faith in each and every one of our businesses.
(1) Remaining open for business, while dealing with the realities of fielding calls for cancelled meetings, events etc. These are understandable in the current time, yet we remain accessible and helpful to users and customers.
(2) Focusing resources on the longer-term, eg. product development and planning. As tough and stressful as the current situation is, even this shall pass. And if we’d taken this opportunity to maximise what we can achieve in a later BAU time, the business is well-placed.
(3) Upskilling your Workforce. Even when we can’t meet for training. In light of potentially lower customer activity and volumes, take the chance to keep the team sharp and current.
Having the team being able to work remote also requires their familiarity with office procedures and policies, so take advantage of remote learning tools, like what we’ve put in place ourselves, using ArcLab’s mobile learning modules.
This coronavirus outbreak situation remains fluid, and we all need to play our part to help fight its spread.
For employers who may be looking for ideas / solutions, do consider what I’ve shared above. Obviously these software are just tools, and require team members (and managers) to have trust in one another.
The Chinese word for “crisis” is 危机 (“wei ji”) — a 2-word combination of “danger” and “opportunity”.
So while the virus outbreak is unfortunate, let’s take this chance to put our BCP into practice, and use this time to sharpen them. And businesses that hunker down and do our best to serve our users and customers (even as we minimise unnecessary contact), do longer-term development and planning — can be well-placed to overcome this crisis, and grow from strength to strength.
(n/b — shoutout to our healthcare professionals who are working hard on the frontline of our battle against this coronavirus, and our public officers, public transport workers too )
We collaborate with SP School of Computing (“SoC”), offering internships to SP students to give them real-world experience, as they support ArcLab’s development under our CTO Steven’s guidance.
Our SP SoC interns proved to be adept coders and were of great help in ArcLab’s product development. Kudos to their lecturers for making them industry-ready — teaching coding skills and software engineering, while instilling in them the mindset of continuous learning (our firm’s raison d’etre), and perseverance & creativity while problem solving.
We’ve had the pleasure to work with Claire Liew, Francis Yeo and Chin Bing Huang from SP, and others we credit here.
They bring enthusiasm, vigour, hard work, and lower the office average age .
I first met Bing in late-2016, before ArcLab even existed.
I was then running a game-based learning firm serving schools, but I’d started to research problems organisations faced in scaling workforce training, as knowledge cycles kept shortening. This was before Digital Disruption had taken hold of the public consciousness.
Kris, Cedric and Ruiwen (My then-colleagues and intern ) and I met several companies to understand the problems they faced.
I had this idea to reverse-engineer the training process, then mainly face-to-face and requiring significant logistical coordination, with difficulty gathering data to help the organisation’s further training. Imagine the additional efforts needed for organisations with distributed workforces (think multi-boutique retailers, chain restaurants etc.), and how technology could reduce these pain points.
Leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones, we could deliver bite-sized training modules directly to staffs’ mobile phones! I didn’t code AT ALL then, so we needed someone who could.
Enter Bing — Final-year SP student, whose project ‘Happy Wheel’ ( navigational application with checkpoints annotating obstacles for the disabled or wheelchair bound users navigating from point-to-point) had just won in IMDA’s Data-Driven Innovation Challenge.
Bing was a quiet fellow, but had a mind like a sponge, absorbing all the information we fed him — problems we were looking to solve, first-iteration feature designs and wireframes, and a data dump of EVERYTHING.
We had no-one to guide him technically at that time (we were all designers, though Kris had working coding knowledge), but Bing simply took in all our functional design and UI/UX, and single-handedly architected and coded what would later become ArcLab Ver 0.1 — in all of SIX WEEKS.
What Bing built with us was a PoC we could now bring back to the companies we first interviewed, and they became our first beta users.
The amazing thing about Bing was how calm and organised he was. What I admire most about him was his clarity of thought, his ability to break complex requirements into simple pieces, to pick off, build and put together. He didn’t over-engineer, but because he architected properly, there was method to what he built.
(*N/B: When we co-founded ArcLab officially, our CTO Steven remarked that Bing’s original code was well thought-out, with elements worth keeping even as we continued to scale and evolve the platform).
Many paths to success— The way of Bing
Bing enlisted soon after helping us with this Ver 0.1. But I’m forever grateful to this young man, for helping us lay the foundations of what would later become ArcLab.
So Bing had taken a slightly longer academic route than his peers. Before entering SP, he’d spent two years at the Institute of Technical Education (“ITE”) where others matriculated to SP directly after ‘O’-Levels. Where others might have ‘given up’, Bing became a top ITE students. He also did well at SP, as you know.
But what was more amazing was his thirst for knowledge and continuous drive to improve.
Bing participated in many industry hackathons, working backwards from problem statements to code a technical solution. So he constantly honed his skills, which are way better than his peers who may perform better academically, but couldn’t code as well.
As an employer, I much prefer Bing’s approach — to hone skill rather than optimise grades.
ArcLab got the privilege to work with Bing officially after he completed National Service. Bing worked with us in mid-2019 with Luke Tan and Claire (his SP junior). They were Steven’s “power dev team” as we responded to user feedback to build features for ArcLab (now an actual business with customers) to serve users’ L&D needs.
To me, Bing embodies this “Many Paths to Success” statement that has been much bandied about.
At the policy level, I think the right things are being done in Singapore so different academic routes can still lead to employability and viable livelihoods. At the societal level, we have someways to go; there are still many employers who use academic qualifications and grades as a non-negotiable filter (though these are slowly changing).
At our firm level, ArcLab is playing our part in this transformation journey by helping organisations continuously train staff, through ArcLab's on-demand, bite-sized, mobile learning modules.
But it is at the individual level that I think most work needs to be done. Too many give up when they meet their first failure; they settle into a sub-optimal pathway when perhaps more perseverance would have helped them break through.
We can all learn from Bing. Never giving up, learning and doing. Building what’s useful, always improving.
Bing is now a freshman at Singapore Management University. I am so happy he continues to improve his knowledge, and eager for the chance to work together again in the future.
We’re organisationally-flat so your voice always gets heard and you get to run with your proposals from start-to-finish.
For our tech interns — you also get the benefit of working with our CTO Steven, who’s held senior software engineering roles in PayPal, and previously built & sold his startup Spickify to Rocket Internet’s Helpling! One more HUGE plus: You get to ship ‘live’ code into production, working in consultation with Steven — invaluable experience in your programming journey (whereas (we heard) interns in other companies may only do bug-testing or buy coffee…).
So if you’re a student excited about solving real-world problems and having a positive impact on improving the skills, lives and livelihoods of millions of deskless workers, please apply to ArcLab, and be part of our mission.
(… And I may yet write about you too )
ArcLab’s L&D Mobile Learning SaaS platform empowers organisations everywhere to create effective training that improves staff performance. It’s free to create. Get started today.
I had the privilege to speak at a Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) event for entrepreneur-alumni. It was great to meet fellow entrepreneurs and learn about the businesses they run; I wish them well as they grow their ventures and serve their users.
SUSS was renamed from SIM University (UniSIM) in 2017 as part of its restructuring into Singapore’s 6th Autonomous University. SUSS retains a focus on lifelong learning and continuous education 👏, as UniSIM did by providing part-time education to working adults who formed a significant part of its then-student population.
My father was one of these adult learners / part-time students who earned his diploma and degree while working. Part of the recently-honoured Merdeka Generation, my father and many of his peers who came of age in the 1960s/70s entered the workforce early (after ‘O’-Levels or less) to support their families, even though many had wished to continue their education if financial resources had permitted.
Today, my missus is also a part-time student — working while training to be an early childhood educator and rushing home after school to cook dinner for the family and take care of the home.
I have the utmost respect for our part-time students, seeing first-hand how my father and missus juggle work responsibilities, family commitments and schoolwork. They show tremendous perseverance and a desire to continuously improve. Adult learners and part-time students deserve as much help and support as we can give.
Back in 2013, I’d proposed for Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) Education Scheme (a loan scheme where CPF Members used an approved amount of their own CPF Ordinary Account savings to pay tuition fees for their diploma/degree — to be repaid after graduation) to be opened up to Part-Time students — levelling the playing field for them as they upgraded their skills and qualifications.
My reasoning was simple and intuitive:
Giving part-time students access to the scheme does not require government funds. It merely allows them the same opportunity as their full-time peers to unlock their own funds to finance their education.
Upgrading their skills helps them increase their incomes and puts them in a better position to repay their CPF Education Scheme loans, no different from full-time students.
We would then be taking another step towards an equal-opportunity society, and give a greater proportion of our population the ability to upgrade themselves and improve their productivity, which is one of the key goals of our nation.
The Ministries of Manpower and Education replied negatively. While I acknowledge their point that there were many other avenues of financial assistance available to part-time students, they skirted my main point on Level Playing Fields for part-time students and full-time students.
In the six years since, it is now even more imperative that we embrace lifelong learning — in today’s Age of Digital Disruption
To be fair to the Singapore Government, official support for Continuous Education and Learning (CET) has scaled significantly in the past six years. While Singapore has always championed lifelong learning and skills upgrading, this has been made even more explicit now.
The Government set up SkillsFuture, a national lifelong learning movement to provide Singaporeans with the (quote) “opportunity to develop ourselves to the fullest, achieving skills competency and mastery”.
For Employers— there are now a myriad of initiatives encouraging companies to imbibe learning in the workplace, and continuously upskill staff capabilities. Though, more needs to be done to shift mindsets away from academic qualifications towards Skills-Based Hiring.
From the Training Provision perspective, training and education needs to evolve to fit the schedules and needs of busy adults:
No longer can workforce training continue to be solely classroom-based, which is time-consuming and often not possible for labour-intensive businesses.
This is the raison d’etre of ArcLab, our learning & development SaaS platform that empowers organisations to create ON-DEMAND, BITE-SIZED, MOBILE training that improves workforce performance.
ArcLab is a more effective way to onboard, motivate and train the modern workforce. Designing the product from the perspective of busy schedules (and shortened attention spans) of the modern workforce, learning modules created in ArcLab are:
Fully-interactive and Gamified
Rich-media centric — Embedding video, rich media for greater engagement
Assessment focused — Testing knowledge retention and understanding
Data-driven — Learner analytics provides insight to the manager and organisation
ArcLab ensures effective training can be done anytime, anywhere. This saves organisations training costs and provides them with valuable staff data, and enables workers to upskill more effectively, in less time.
Since ArcLab’s founding last year, we have had the privilege to support the work of Institutes of Higher Learning like Singapore Polytechnic, training providers like Business Academia, and organisations like hospitality company The Lo & Behold Group and luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass, to name a few (hopefully SUSS soon too 😊).
We are grateful for the faith and support they have shown in us in our earliest days, and will continue to work hard to fulfil our mission to support Lifelong Learning. ArcLab is still young, and there is a lot more that we are building and working on — taking in feedback from our users to improve our platform’s andragogy and technology – to help organisations everywhere train their workforces effectively.
I’ll end back at the SUSS Alumni event I spoke at. It was a brilliantly-organised event; there was plenty of discussions and I learnt lots from speaking with the folks in attendance.
For my sharing per se, I did not have any deep insight or academic study to share. Instead, I shared the mistakes I’d made in my entrepreneurship journey (Section 9 of this Adrian Tan interview). Because mistakes are the most valuable lessons that the school of life teaches us (and I’ve made plenty, as a portfolio manager, an entrepreneur, a person), and I hoped this was of value to my fellow entrepreneurs.
My thanks once again to SUSS — Evelyn, Eileen, Ellen and Nicole, for the kind invitation to speak at your event. 🙏
Self-Paced, Bite-Sized Learning for the Modern (Deskless) Worker
Buffets! Spread upon spread — Delightful morsels of savory and sweet dishes. (Hungry yet?) — Guest Blog Post for hrtech.sg
Why we love buffets
Some say it’s the food. That’s a factor, but I suspect our love affair with buffets lies in knowing there’s ALL THAT CHOICE available. That’s what makes buffets special — the fact we CAN eat such a broad spread of different dishes, whatever you fancy, without limit!
Buffets have made their way into increasing facets of our lives, especially entertainment. Think Netflix, Spotify, Movie Pass. These platforms make you the promise that there’s all this content (movies, songs…) that you CAN watch or listen to. It’s impossible, obviously, but the fact that we CAN… has users stumping up their subscription fees. Month after month.
Netflix and Spotify do something else — they make recommendations to you — about what to watch or listen to next.
To each his/her own
The recommendations are “personalised” for each of us because our behaviour on the platforms is all different. We watch different movies, and listen to different songs. Our likes and dislikes are different. The platforms aggregate all this data to personalise their recommendation, based on what they understand of us.
Yet personalisation is hardly new. As parents — we have knowledge (aka data) about our children’s likes and dislikes. We know Johnny loves his fishball noodles and Jamie her chicken rice. So, we ‘personalise’ their lunches. We know Jimmy loves green and Jessica loves blue. So, we ‘personalise’ their room decor accordingly.
Personalised Learning—What's hampering it?
In modern-day Learning & Development (L&D) — it’s not always easy to personalise training, especially if time and resource are constrained. So, often, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach to training. Much of these changes in the classroom started in the Industrial Revolution — the advent of factories required skilled workers needing to be trained quickly and efficiently. Sadly, that hasn’t changed in the past 150 years.
We know training should be personalised, and we know that there is technology that can help us. But somehow — what Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, and Google have honed into an artform — L&D practitioners find hard to do. This is despite a bevy of ‘personalised learning’ and ‘adaptive learning’ platforms that have sprung up over the last decade.
Yet, good teachers and trainers have always sought to personalise their teaching to the learners they interact with. In an older time, masters impart their skills to different apprentices differently, because each one is different.
Focus (wrongly) on the technology
So, our first goal must be to figure out what best fits our modern-day learners. Focus should not centre at the technology; it starts with the learning pedagogy.
The modern workforce is becoming more mobile, and information’s shelf-life is shortening. That makes traditional methods of training less effective. So, the delivery needs to change, and the assessment too.
What we should first do is figure out the best medium and form factor of training. No longer should we front-load training in the first 3 days of an employee’s induction programme and hope they remember something. Rather, training now needs to be spaced out, made available on-demand; and if possible, ‘pushed’ at the right time.
Thinking specifically about the “deskless” worker — the frontline associate in the shopfront, the barista, the healthcare worker: The gentleman or lady who does not have a cubicle or workstation; no computer to access the operations manuals (s)he may have vaguely remembered browsing through during induction.
Yet, most (if not all) of our deskless workers now have powerful computers sitting in their pockets — their smartphones. Our Learning & Development teams can take advantage of these mediums and find an effective platform and toolset to engineer learning content. This investment is done once, and content can then be tweaked on an ongoing basis with relatively low marginal effort. This ensures accuracy and currency.
Snack-able Learning—Nano Learning
The best form of training delivery is to downsize content into ‘snack-able’ modules — Nano Learning.
These are bite-sized learning modules that are housed in the cloud and readily accessible for the worker to refer to.
A recipe card, for example, or a repair instruction for a particular machine. Akin to a Standard Operating Procedure manual, except it’s digital and accessible whenever he/she needs it.
A worker who refers to it continuously will level up faster. It’s a proxy for employee effort to HR managers, which should ultimately translate to better productivity and better bottom lines.
Over time, the platform also builds its knowledge of the worker, and platforms can build recommendation engine to recommend learning — which is already proven to be effective. This helps our deskless workers continuously upskill and level up — translating into better job performance, promotions, and better pay to uplift families.
Ending back at the buffet
We end back at the buffet spread and the key element of choice. Best of all, there’s no wastage -because, unlike buffets where unconsumed food is thrown away, all learning content always stays available, to consume as best fits our schedules, to adopt into better work performance — that leads to better organisational outcomes, and hopefully better livelihoods for our workers.
As we bring personalisation into learning — and in ArcLab’s case, Nano Learning, our focus still centres on human choice. So we do not just consume what is recommended or ‘pushed’ to us blindly.
Rather, that insight we glean from all that data and personalisation is the ability to make better choices. That ability to choose is what makes us human, and that’s why we love buffets.
Increased Mobility — Our teams are more mobile and distributed. So it’s hard to get everyone in the same training room. Especially true for multi-branch / multi-geographical organisations.
Reduced Attention Spans — The infamous study that we humans can concentrate for less than 8 seconds, ranking us below goldfish…
Organisations can no longer ‘pre-dump’ our teams with reams of training binders; it will get lost amongst everything else that they need to get up to speed on and daily work responsibilities!
L&D managers are convinced that the best way to train teams is by:
Putting training content online to supplement (NOT replace) face-to-face training. This should be mobile-optimised to be delivered directly to employees’ smart devices.
Making sure training engages the learner for more effective content absorption. Even better if the training is contextual and just-in-time.
That's where Nano Learning comes in
What’s Nano Learning? Bite-sized, self-contained training content that is rich-media focused and peppered with knowledge checks to make sure learning has taken place.
Think of Nano Learning as ‘power bars’ that are consumed just before a key task or activity. The learning is contextual, just-in-time, and application-focused. Employees learn what’s needed, do quick assessments to confirm learning, and put their learning into action through the task. The practical application reinforces the learner and gets the ‘muscle memory’ going.
So how do we create effective Nano Learning? Do we simply take our existing PowerPoint training decks and chop them up into 15-minute modules?
Did this work for you? Did you get the point of the module? Or were there too many “focus points” that you got lost in the information overload? Were you able to test yourself that you learned what you were being asked to
The module is indeed short, but we need to do more than keep our Nano Learning modules short.
More than that, we need to keep them focused, and to the point. Ideally, we should only teach ONE learning point per module. There’s no focus if we ATTEMPT to cover too many things.
This 2nd module is short, just like the previous one. But there are several important differences:
(i) This module is to the point.
(ii) There are knowledge checks to make sure the learner stopped him/herself and reinforced the learning.
(iii) There is also good use of infographics, contextually-appropriate pictures, and a very short, to-the-point video on how Nano Learning can be created.
In general, the rich media appeals to our learners’ right brains, creating emotional connections that imprint on memories more strongly.
In short, it is effective.
How do we create effective training
LESS is often MORE: Resist the temptation to load in more and more information. This leads to a loss of focus, and your effort is wasted.
SHOW; don’t TELL: Spend time sourcing or crafting visually clear media resources, be it infographics that display data or information, or demo videos.
The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” never go wrong, as the learner doesn’t need to imagine what wordy descriptions actually mean.
KNOWLEDGE CHECKS: We learn best by testing ourselves continuously. Nano Learning modules that have regular Assessments (be it simple MCQ or Open-ended screens) do this effectively. The learner reinforces his/her learning, and there’s good data for L&D managers.
Create Effective Training Now!
We trust these short tips helps you the L&D manager and trainer to create more effective training through Nano Learning — to supplement your workplace learning programmes.
Remember, crafting effective training requires more than mindlessly chopping up 100-slide PowerPoints into 15-minute bits.
Put thought into the pedagogical approach we suggested, and let’s all create better training for our teams.
Creating effective training for your teams, self-service, with ArcLab Pro is always free. Start now.
For more help or are resource-constrained, get in touch with us at ArcLab Enterprise, where our Instructional Designers can work with you to help craft your content into effective training. Reach out now.
There is chatter about how grades don’t matter; that perhaps we should move away from awarding marks and grades to our learners. This has been raised in Singapore where we are based, and some other economies.
Critics point to Finland’s much-lauded education system, where the focus centres on learning how to learn, rather than marks and grades. Students in Finland go through a comprehensive academic programme that encourages curiosity, lateral thinking, and life skills. A culture of lifelong learning continues throughout adult life, as the individual graduates into the workplace.
Yet ignoring grades misses the point, as GRADES DO MATTER.
But perhaps not in the way that we use them now.
Grades are FEEDBACK
Grades give feedback to the learner and feedback to the educator.
As aLearner: When I do badly on a test or assessment, it is feedback to me that I did not understand the material well enough. I should go through the material again, and maybe seek help from my teacher or trainer. Perhaps I should work harder. Maybe I should give up and look for something else that I am better in.
As an Educator: If the entire cohort does badly for a test, it is feedback to me that perhaps I should relook at the parts that everyone did poorly for. Maybe I should think about covering certain concepts again, think of a different way to explain this part of the material that many in the class/course did not seem to understand.
It’s no different from sports, where week-in, week-out, athletes, and teams compete for a good ‘grade’, which is to beat the opponent. Better sides (like Tottenham Hotspur ) win in style, though there’s no bonus grade for exciting play.
Singaporean son Joseph Schooling won the 100 m Butterfly gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. He worked hard for his excellent ‘grade’. He turned in the hours, honed his talent through good, honest hard work, and swam faster than everyone else.
Joseph’s 2017 ‘grades’ weren’t stellar, with a poor NCAA showing and finishing only 3rd at the World Championships in his pet 100 m fly. By Joseph’s own admission, he had put in less than half his pre-Olympic training. It showed in his ‘grade’.
But the poor ‘grade’ was feedback to Joseph, who went back to training hard. The results showed as he routed the field (which included world-class Chinese, Japanese and Korean swimmers) to win 2 Asian Game gold medals in 2018. His work is not yet done, as he hunkers down for the next World Championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Joseph Schooling responded to his 2017 ‘bad grades’, worked hard, and got back to the top step of the podium.
A world without grades?
Now imagine a sporting world with no gold medals. No silver, no bronze. Participation certificates at the Olympics; every athlete returns with the same certificate.
Imagine if the English Premier League doesn’t keep score, and there are no winners and losers. That FIFA gives every World Cup team the same medal. Just for showing up.
Hardly the real world, is it?
The real world doesn’t give us participation prizes just for showing up. The real world gives us grades — constant feedback, whether we like it or not.
CEOs are graded by their ability to strategise, execute and deliver performance. Politicians by their ability to serve the citizenry. Fund managers by their ability to earn above-market returns. Carpenters by the quality of their furniture. Software engineers by the ability to ship working code. Movie Directors by the reception of their movies. Startups by their ability to turn products into a business. Each and every one of us by our ability to do our job.
We cannot escape the reality that performance matters. The ‘grades’ we get through the metrics we define and are defined for us are the feedback to us to keep doing what is working, and to change tack when something’s not turning out so well.
Those who respond to this feedback well would hopefully turn in better performance (and ‘grades’) at the next opportunity. They should be rewarded more than the ones who did not respond to the feedback.
So it is facetious to tell our children that grades do not matter. Because in so doing, we are not preparing them for life.
Grades SHOULD NOT BE JUDGMENT
The issue with grades right now is how we view them, and how we use them.
Grades DO matter, but grades are not THE ONLY THING that matters.
Singaporeans gripe about the Primary School Leaving Examination (“PSLE”). Currently, each student taking the PSLE is awarded a numerical T-score. This score determines the Secondary school that the student is eligible to enter, as admission is primarily based on the scores of those applying. So the PSLE grade is a first-cut filtering tool.
Singapore’s Ministry of Education recently tweaked the PSLE ever so slightly, where from 2021 onwards, students are not awarded a numerical score but instead are given a grade banding.
It’s a start but doesn’t go far enough. Now students aren’t sieved down to the individual point, but to the individual grade band.
The primary issue for me and many who think Singapore can do better is the PSLE is still perceived as a single high-stakes examination.
Do well at the PSLE, enter a top secondary school, and your academic journey (and perhaps career) is laid out for you. Do poorly at the PSLE, and you’re routed to technical education, and the road ahead becomes bumpier than the other kid (though “there are still many paths to success”).
It may or may not be true, but sometimes perception shapes reality. And parents have to bear a large part of this responsibility.
What is worse is this warped mindset sometimes carries over to the workplace and shapes hiring practices. And the fixation on grades carries on…
Which is wrong. Good grades should not give a free pass to the learner that one is set for life, nor should bad grades condemn one to failure forever.
For what if I was just a late bloomer? And what if I was always good at something else?
How do we do better?
1. Grading right
Albert Einstein said, “If you judge a fish by how well it climbs a tree, it will spend its whole life feeling stupid”.
If we take grades for what they are, which is feedback, then the challenge for education policy-makers is how to design grading systems that are appropriate for learners-in-question.
There’s good progress being made already, as education systems are becoming more flexible, with different tracks of learning for different types of learners. But more needs to be done.
This is true for academic learning, as well as learning in the workplace. At work, HR practitioners and line managers need to define the right metrics to ‘grade’ staff. Ultimately, it needs to translate to business goals (which staff help organisations to achieve).
In the workplace learning arena where ArcLab operates, we encourage organisations to break training content down into modular pieces, or Nano Learning.
This allows staff to learn in bite-sizes, on-demand. The ‘grades’ given at the end of each learning module are specific to the single learning objective that HR, L&D, and line managers have defined together. The employee (and the organisation) knows straight away whether he/she ‘gets’ the material or not, and how to apply it to his/her job role.
The ‘grade’ has become what it’s meant to be — feedback.
2. Giving room to fail. Really.
Just as Baseball players get 3 swings before striking out, Racket players get 2 chances at a serve, we can shape our learning systems to give our learners room to fail.
There is a common saying in the military — we sweat more during training so that we bleed less during war.
Learning should be a ‘low-stakes’ environment to make mistakes.
That’s why every Nano Learning module we empower organisations to create has a “Try Again” button.
In so doing, someone who hasn’t grasped the material, or hasn’t mastered it to his/her standards, always has the option to revisit it.
Repeated tries are also a proxy indicator to the organisation about the individual’s effort and endeavour, that this individual doesn’t give up.
I have only skimmed the surface of ‘The Grades Matter’, where the current downsides negatively affect both academic students and workplace learners.
Grades DO matter — as FEEDBACK to the learner and the teacher/trainer. Feedback on what has been learned and done well, and what hasn’t.
If we adopt this “Grades-as-Feedback” mindset, we can not only work together to define grading systems that can more appropriately measure learning, and also help those that don’t do well try again.
This needs everyone to play our part: Educators, Parents, Employers, Government, and Individuals.
For one bad grade should never doom one to a lifetime of failure.
I first met Mr Liang when I was in Primary 5 (6th grade by K-12 standards). It has been *a few* years since, so my memory of Mr Liang has faded with time. But I remember a few things:
Mr Liang, or 梁老师 as we addressed him half the time, was our form teacher and taught us Chinese and Mathematics. This was an atypical combination since in Singapore, Math was taught in English.
So we had this stern-looking man who walked into class every day, and taught us in 2 different languages.
That was amazing because as I understood it, Mr Liang went to a Chinese-medium school. So the Math concepts and terminology he learnt in school was entirely in Chinese. Yet here he was, decades later, imparting knowledge to us in English (decent, by the way).
I also remember how much ‘off-curriculum’ material he introduced to us, with such passion.
All while his ‘KPI’ in Singapore’s exam-focussed system, must still have been to get us past the exams… so it would have been perfectly rational to have “kept to the syllabus”.
In the 2 years Mr Liang spent with our class, among other things, he transported us to ancient China, and through his eyes, we saw the Great Wall being constructed, the unification of the Warring States, and the advancement of Chinese society.
We flew with him to witness the beginnings of the universe, as he put the magic into science — introducing us to Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”.
We stood with him at the top of the Mayan / Incan monuments, seeing images of large animals carved into cornfields, and wondering if they were made by extra-terrestrials.
He also got us to learn, among other things: 唐诗三百首 (300 Tang poems), regaled us with stories of the Arabic origin of the numeral system, sparked our imagination with theories of time-travel, Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions… and many others too numerous to list here.
We were all of 11 years old.
In a pre-internet, pre-Google, pre-Youtube, pre-iPhone world, Mr Liang opened our eyes to a brave new world, way bigger than the classroom.
I have had many teachers in my life, and each left an impact.
But I’ll always remember — this teacher of mine, who with his stories, and his passion for knowledge, instilled the love of learning, to read, and be intellectually curious, to keep finding out more about the world around us, and working to make things better.
“老梁” (as he was affectionately known) taught us to always 跑在时间前面, to run ahead of time, so that our surroundings and those around us would not make us irrelevant. That we should always work hard, think different, do better, rise higher.
Words that would not be out-of-place today, as our lives, jobs, and workplaces are getting disrupted by technology at an ever-increasing pace. In a way, Mr. Liang lived it himself, as a Chinese-educated student who later mastered English, at a level that was more than competent.
Mr. Liang walked the talk. He led the way.
Today, increasing amounts of the content we learn in class are at the tip of our fingers. They are a Google search, a Siri question away.
Yet our teachers, our educators— they continue to be invaluable to our lives. Second, only to parents, our teachers are the shapers of our lives and our children’s lives from the earliest years.
The best educators inspire us, guide us, nurture us. They impart more than just content and knowledge. They help us make meaning, join the dots, draw our own dots, our own lines, create our own knowledge.
They teach us that most important skill — HOW TO LEARN.
So how can we better support our educators, in the classroom, in the workplace? For there are many Mr. Liangs among them. There are various angles, and I’d write more in a future post.
I’ve long-forgotten the academic subject matter that Mr. Liang taught us (though not his specialty “mee goreng” for when we strayed off-course), but his love of the pursuit of knowledge has stayed with me all these years.
I hope that in some small way I have put this love of learning into what I do, through my academic years, my previous career in public service and financial markets, and now our work to empower organisations to create better training.
It would be great to see Mr. Liang again. But even if I don’t have this privilege, I will always be grateful for having once been his student.
Interactive Nano* Learning is small but POWERFUL learning.
(*Nano: 1 billionth (1/1000,000,000) a.k.a. bite-sized, digestible, very small)
In this Age of Digital Disruption, organisations need to keep employees’ knowledge and skills current.
For all of us, continuous retraining and upskilling are no longer optional. Not doing so puts us all at risk of our jobs being made obsolete and us being made redundant.
Two key factors have major implications for the way we conduct training in the workplace today or educate our children in school for that matter.
Knowledge gets outdated much more quickly today.
Our attention spans now average 8 seconds (FYI the average goldfish’s is 9 seconds).
It is ineffective to have 3-hour lectures, where a trainer stands in front of the class and lectures without break, or learners doing anything ‘interactive’.
This is especially true for millennial learners, who no longer have deep-fixated attention spans. Instead, millennials “multitask”, where attention is divided amongst many concurrent activities (aside: our brains don’t actually focus on many things at the SAME time, but rather, SWITCH between different areas of focus — more on this in a future piece).
It’s also questionable if one-way content delivery in training settings adds much value since there’s already so much knowledge and content that is readily accessible on the web by learners. In fact, the proliferation of the web and digital media also makes it harder to get learners’ attention.
When the ‘competition’ is the latest superhero movie or hit mobile game, the teaching & training profession has its work cut out, to design and deliver knowledge in a manner that at least captures learners’ attention (for those 8 seconds anyway), and more importantly, effect the learning.
There is a better way:
We’re talking about NANO learning: bite-sized, digestible, on-demand learning.
We’re not advocating that trainers and educators do nothing more beyond break down 3-hour lectures into 5-minute chunks — lock, stock, and barrel. Nano Learning is more than simply putting a shrink ray gun on a classroom lesson and nothing else.
Nano Learning is a PEDAGOGICAL FRAMEWORK where we work through the entire content base and think hard about how to package it into bite-sized, interactive modules that best help the learner understand and absorb the content and learning points.
We’ll talk more about the science and pedagogical aspects in a subsequent post, but first, let’s think about how we can operationalise Interactive Nano Learning for our organisations.
How do we start?
So, what does an organisation’s Learning & Development team need to do, to put this into practice?
Start Small (pun intended) — Rather than propose an institution-wide overhaul, start by securing the support of a small group of stakeholders, and use it to get corporate leaders’ buy-in.
Involve the TRAINER — Interactive Nano Learning never REPLACES the trainer & the educator, and we should work with in-house (or external) trainers to repackage learning content into a series of bite-sizes. Remember that the human brain works well with packs of threes, so that might be a good number to reach for, to keep training digestible, and show a progression path.
Reach the LEARNER — The average person today touches his/her phone more than, 2600 times per day. So embrace technology that can help to deliver your training content TO YOUR LEARNER. Hence, a digital platform might be your best bet.
Ultimately, it is all about letting our data guide us. Does this new form of nano learning help deliver content in a better way?
Hence, it’s important that we set very specific milestones and desired end outcomes so that we can measure effectiveness, which will help us secure buy-in to extend the framework to more parts of our organisations.
A good way to start may simply be to take 1 specific training module, like a new-employee onboarding programme (aka induction programme), and break it down into a bite-sized format.
This Nano Learning format can be sent to the new hire ahead of them joining your company, and contain key information that they need to know: Start date, who to report to, dress code (if any), things to bring/prepare for, etc.
Then, when your new employee shows up on Day 1, they at least have some knowledge in their minds, which helps ease them into the new environment.
Talent is the most important resource that every organisation has.
It takes time, effort, and costs to search, interview, recruit and hire every new team member. If employees leave because they feel they are not being trained properly, the re-hiring for the role hurts the cost by explicitly adding to firm hiring costs, and implicitly by dampening morale (and increasing workloads) of team-mates who stay.
So it’s in every organisation’s interest to train employees properly all throughout their journey with the firm.
Interactive Nano Learning can be a big help in making this training bite-sized and on-demand, better delivering the requisite content and skills to members of your team.
Don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself…
p/s: We’re excited to let you know that WE HAVE LAUNCHED ARCLAB PRO!
ArcLab Pro is a Software-as-a-Service web tool and platform that empowers organisations to build Interactive Nano Learning modules that can be easily distributed to teams to help them onboard and upskill.
ArcLab Pro provides easy-use templates, learner analytics, and everything you need to effectively train your team with Interactive Nano Learning. There’s no software to download or install, no lock-in periods, and no minimum number of learners.
Simply sign up, and start creating and investing in your team TODAY!
A seasoned mid-career professional in her 40s recounted her recent experience applying to a few Public Sector roles in Singapore. To her surprise (and dismay), the hiring organisations requested her educational qualifications all the way back to her GCE O-Levels. Without this information, she could not submit her job application.
Juxtapose this anecdote against Singapore’s government’s exhortation to continually upskill and keep our knowledge current. The official message to employers and society (which we agree with):
Don’t view academic qualifications as the marker of success, embrace lifelong learning, be open to new career possibilities and opportunities that may come our way.
So the same government pushing citizens to move away from sole reliance on academic qualifications still asks for these very qualifications when recruiting for public sector positions. It is especially strange that academic grades are still required in the application process for a mid-career position.
Returning to my anecdote, that mid-career individual’s O-Level results have zero bearing on her career performance, where she has proved her mettle through her 20 years of work experience. So there should be no reason for the job portals in question to demand this information as a mandatory submission. Importantly, getting that applicant’s O-Level results will not help the recruiter in assessing the applicant’s suitability for the position.
There are 2 ways to view this:
A trivial IT implementation issue, which can be fixed easily with a line of code to make the request for academic grades non-mandatory.
Part of a bigger public sector mindset-change issue, and needs to be addressed at its roots.
If we take the second view, the Public Sector hiring stakeholders should work together to remedy it more holistically.
The Public Sector is a large ship that takes some time to change course. While political and public sector leaders make the big-picture pronouncements, it takes time for that change to filter downwards and operationalised. Realistically, hiring frameworks and systems need some more time to be adjusted.
Yet adjust it must, and we offer several suggestions for Public Sector employers (and employers in general) to consider, to speed up this change.
"Papers, please": A genuine rethink from a recruitment perspective
What is the best way to assess the suitability of job applicants?
1. Never use grades as a non-negotiable filtering tool for prospective candidates.
One of us previously helped with a Public Sector project to review post-graduate scholarship applicants. There was a particular candidate whom we assessed to be a poor fit for the scholarship programme (among other drawbacks, he was unable to speak nor articulate his views clearly). Yet the Public Sector body requested to “upgrade” him to a pass, SIMPLY BECAUSE he had a Degree with First Class Honours.
There ARE valid reasons for academic qualifications to be provided for specific jobs, e.g. medicine, accounting, professional engineering, especially for entry-level or early-career positions. In such situations, paper qualifications are useful as a minimum standard to prove basic technical competency.
In other contexts, e.g. roles where more analytical skills or communication skills are required, academic qualifications or grades are hardly useful to assess candidates’ suitability.
2. Make a more considered effort to PROPERLY PROFILE job requirements.
Employers (both Public & Private Sector) can start by quantifying the hard skills required for the role but also design better filtering mechanisms to assess candidates on the soft skills needed to execute the role effectively, e.g. a well-designed questionnaire or work tests to suss out values/aptitudes that current top performers of the role possesses and hire following that pattern.
Work trials (which our firm uses) are also a good alternative way for Employers to assess candidates’ competency and softer skills, such as communication skills and teamwork. Work trials provide the same opportunity to the job applicant to assess the suitability of the Employer and their comfort in working with potential colleagues.
WE HAVE SUGGESTED AN IDEAL SCENARIO.
The above will take skill, effort, and courage(!) to translate into hiring frameworks. There will also need to be periodic reviews since skillset requirements change over time. One key challenge is how to quantify and effectively communicate the soft skills and “x-factor” required for a role into an advertised job description, and craft it into an interview/assessment framework.
So for a start, a lower-hanging fruit would be effectively quantifying the hard skills required for the role, and working with that as a baseline.
We are conscious that it will take more effort by Employers to operationalise these frameworks (we are Employers ourselves), but we believe the initial hard work will outweigh the time and re-hiring costs to the company of hiring the wrong person for the job, where costs include time wasted from staff turnover and the subsequent re-hiring needed.
In the long run, the hiring organisation wins as it will truly be hiring based on skills profile, resulting in better job hires and benefitting the organisation financially. This contrasts against the usual broad-brush academic qualifications and grades filter of job applicants, which gives the Employer little insight into competency.
Importantly, a move away from a blanket focus on paper qualifications puts the brakes on our country’s systematic discrimination against late-bloomers who may not do so well in the early years of their academic journey. It will also stop the relentless paper chase for academic qualifications’ sake.
There are many stories in the industry (which both of us face as Employers) of polytechnic graduates “obsessed” to get a degree after one to two years of working and saving up. This phenomenon may serve to translate to a vicious cycle of more re-hiring and re-training costs for Employers. Such an obsession to get a Government-recognised degree at times could also sometimes totally blinker polytechnic graduates in career planning, inadvertently leading to poor financial outcomes.
We recall the example of an ex-staff (fresh polytechnic graduate), who after one year of working with the firm, was accepted into a local university to read Electronic Engineering. This individual was working with us as a designer, and was in fact a very good one! However, for the sake of the “paper with the logo of a local university”, he suppressed his own professional and career interests and took on a student loan to do the engineering degree which was not in line with his interest at all. He gave up after one year and enrolled himself in a private university to study a creative discipline that was closer to his real interests. This individual wasted time and money, all for the (misguided) pursuit of a University Degree for its own sake.
The sad truth is that it was perfectly rational for the above-mentioned polytechnic graduate to “aspire” towards a University Degree.
For an employee-track career (unlike in entrepreneurship), university graduates have consistently advanced faster and higher than polytechnic graduates, and their salaries have grown more quickly. So these point toward getting “that University Degree”, because every Employer looks out for it, and rewards those who possess them.
The media sometimes profiles non-graduates that have done well in their careers, e.g. the recent story of non-graduate school principals. Sadly, these stories only serve as the exceptions that prove the rule.
There are not yet any CONSISTENT examples of non-graduates rising to leadership roles in the Public Sector or professional corporate sphere (unlike in the business world where there is consistently a higher percentage of high-performing non-graduate entrepreneurs).
We look forward to the day where non-graduates in leadership roles are no longer newsworthy.
The other side of the coin is improving the skills base of job-seekers. To that end, our SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore public agencies have rolled out a plethora of schemes that promote the continued improvement of individuals skills to remain employable.
Flagship programme SkillsFuture was launched as a national lifelong learning movement to provide Singaporeans with the (quote) “opportunity to develop ourselves to the fullest, achieving skills competency and mastery”. The programme is intended to tangentially complement our traditionally rigorous (and perhaps ruthlessly efficient) academic education framework.
As of Feb 2018, ~300,000 individuals have utilised their SkillsFuture Credits for upskilling courses. So from a numbers perspective, there IS take-up, especially in Infocomm technology (according to the Agency), which represents the jobs of the future, and which our economy lacks in our talent base.
From a scan of new programmes being offered by our tertiary and vocational learning institutions, the direction appears to be right. But only time will tell.
For now, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of SkillsFuture, as this will need more years of data. We will need to track end outcomes, i.e. are employers now able to find the right fit of talent, and insufficient numbers, to meet workplace needs, even as the advent of new technologies create new “industries” like e/m-commerce and fintech. These have required new skills and created demand for certain jobs, even as they in parallel create labor efficiencies and reduce demand for other jobs, often structurally.
I believe that more thoughtfully-curated learning paths are required to train deeply-competent professionals in all disciplines. These will presumably need to be effected in collaboration with our tertiary institutions, which should be like the US or Israeli institutions that do not preclude non-alumni from participating.
We caution that SkillsFuture must not become a marketplace of entry-level courses, or we risk never being able to produce an adequately high-value and highly-trained workforce.
Nano-Credentials: Adding a Skills-based alternative / complement
As outlined, there are strong calls for a Skills-based framework to complement or serve as an alternative to academic qualifications. We believe this can be framed into a coherent accreditation framework, which we coin “Nano-credentials”
On this front, Singapore has its Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) which recognises the skills and competencies of participants in approved training programmes.
There are also competing disparate verticals. For example, individual industries and associations may also provide their own form of accreditation. Tracking and recognition of such training and competency are less straightforward. Learners may also have to justify the courses undertaken to current or would-be employers.
Since no one is presumably “ashamed” of our qualifications, I question if is there a better way to track and populate ALL our qualifications, achievements, skills into a “central database” for individuals to “allow access” to selected parties, e.g. totally public, or only to companies one applies to for jobs, etc.
In terms of tracking qualifications — should we also move away from just tracking only formal degrees and certifications, and are we able to create a centralised (or de-centralised(?)) Nano Credential framework that consolidates and maps skills that individuals have learned from bite-sized courses which are contextual and on-demand?
I believe the answer is yes, especially as technology continues to improve. There are providers with technology that can help to coalesce and VERIFY all training and certifications centrally (or “de-centrally” — blockchain perhaps(?)).
The more able frameworks can also provide ways for individuals to assess current skills competencies and suggest upskilling pathways towards the desired goal, e.g. Head Chef at a leading hotel in 5–7 years. and work backward from the desired end outcome and provide recommendations to the individual.
Our belief is that the traditional ways of hiring are outdated. We particularly frown on the antiquated practice of would-be employers demanding educational qualifications and grades, especially for mid-career positions.
I believe there are better ways for individuals to manage and provide their skills and qualifications to parties of THEIR choosing, through a consolidated skills assessment and accreditation framework.
The key goal that employers should aim for, and put our money and hiring decisions behind, is to hire based on skills rather than qualifications or grades. These need to be built into recruitment systems and job portals, and the philosophy OPERATIONALISED at the hiring manager level.
The Public Sector is a major employer in Singapore. Walking the talk sends a strong message to other employers and the job-seeking public that it is serious about “alternative pathways to success”.
I have faith that it can, and we’re ready to play our part.
Visit ArcLab to find out more about how we’re helping with Lifelong Learning and Skills-based hiring.