Categories
Who

Is the Skills Debate Academic?

Is the Skills Debate Academic?

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 this topic 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.

Can we help your organisation build yours?

Categories
Why

Higher Wages. At What Cost?

Higher wages. At what cost?

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.

Higher Productivity for Higher Wages

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2021 National Day Rally announced a stronger thrust of support for lower-wage workers. These include:

  1. Extending Progressive Wages (essentially sector-specific minimum wages that rise annually) to more sectors and more occupations
  2. Requiring companies employing foreign workers to pay at least the Local Qualifying Salaries to ALL local staff
  3. Accrediting companies that pay all their workers Progressive Wages with a new “Progressive Wage” Mark (a new requirement to sell to the public sector)
  4. 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 only comes about with technological progress, more and better capital, and a better-trained workforce.

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.

The data speaks for itself:

Higher productivity simply makes good business sense.

Here, ArcLab comes in to support. 

Use ArcLab’s mobile learning SaaS platform to easily author, distribute and track training modules and digital SOPs for your workforce. The way that companies like Fei Siong Group, 4Fingers use our platform for.

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.

Shall we help you build yours?

Categories
How

Doing the impossible: Equal training opportunities for all

Doing the impossible: Equal training opportunities for all

With remote work here to stay, at least while the pandemic continues, managers now face another daunting task: engaging and tracking the process of their employees.

A Gallup report on employee engagement shows that companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability. They also have 17% more productivity than companies with a disengaged workforce. So how do companies overcome one of the biggest HR challenges of the present?

Photo from Unsplash

Furthermore, with business operations being shifted online, managers are presented with another challenge — the increasing digital skills gap between the younger and older generation of workers. Many older generation workers lack the technological skills to successfully adapt to the changes in technological trends

It is now all the more crucial that managers leverage on their available resources to ensure no employee gets left behind while working remotely in the pandemic— the new employees who lack proper onboarding, or even the experienced, older employees who struggle to adapt to the shift from offline to online. 

Online training and employee polls are just examples of accessible technology available to companies. However, a recent poll by Gartner suggests that only 16% of companies leverage technology to track employee progress and engagement. Perhaps managers are also intimidated by the transition from traditional to online, or are unsure of where to get started?

ArcLab Training

We pride ourselves in giving ArcLab users the best remote training and learning experience possible. This is why we provide support for your workforce anytime, anywhere, in any language (yes, training modules can be created in other languages besides English!). More importantly, ArcLab is easily accessible to low skilled and the older generation of workers. While it is important to upskill your existing workforce, ensuring proper onboarding for new team members is also crucial to ease their transition into your company. ArcLab allows you to create different training modules to conduct your onboarding and training concurrently. Adapt your training materials to cater to the needs of your workforce and training goals. Check out ArcLab Discover to see how different businesses use ArcLab.

See how Fei Siong Group uses ArcLab while training their employees, most of whom are non-English speaking!

ArcLab Technology

With ArcLab, we can help smoothen this process. To streamline the transition process for new users, there is no software to install or download — not only is it user friendly, it does not take up any additional space in your computer database. For companies who are already in the process of transitioning online, ArcLab can even be used alongside any existing HRMS/ LMS. ArcLab’s interface is equipped with a wide variety of tools to help your company deliver training and performance support. Apart from the customisable designs and rich visual media, ArcLab also has a learner assessment and analytics function. Assess your employees’ understanding with the different assessment methods. Track their progress with the data we collate from your learners’ responses. Get to experience the ease of using technology for our low and affordable pricing.

ArcLab’s interface empowers you with a wide variety of tools

The transition from offline to online can be intimidating. Let ArcLab help smoothen that transition and start your journey with us now!

Categories
What

Discover ArcLab Discover

Discover ArcLab Discover

Not a typo 😀. We’re just excited to introduce ArcLab Discover 🧭

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 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.

View this module, or go to https://builder.arclab.io/discover

Building and contributing back to the community

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.

These learning modules are housed under their own menu tab in ArcLab Discover. Use them for your team’s learning, and contact Alina at Business Academia for more information.


Keep Discovering!

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 growth@arclab.io.

Thank you! 🙌

Categories
How

Retail’s digital tsunami strikes

Retail’s digital tsunami strikes

COVID-19 forced many industries to pivot to digital, and pivot quickly. The retail industry is no exception.

In the past few years (even pre-Covid), the retail industry had already seen a shift from offline stores to e-commerce | Pic: Unsplash

In the past few years (even pre-COVID), the retail industry had already seen a shift from offline stores to e-commerce as consumers started to buy more goods online. COVID-19 has only accelerated that move into a tsunami.

The lockdowns in 2020 played a huge role in accelerating the transition to digital shopping platforms. E-commerce became the only way that retailers could make their products readily available to consumers and the only means for companies to keep their business afloat.

Retailers now have no choice but to embrace digital.

Data from Singapore’s Department of Statistics show an undeniable increase in online retail sales from March 2020 to July 2020, the period when Singapore entered her COVID-19 Circuit Breaker.

Source: Singapore Department of Statistics

Big e-commerce players like Lazada, Qoo10 and Shopee also saw a spike in platform sales. According to Vulcan Post, Shopee experienced an 82% increase in the number of user visits from 6 million visits in the first quarter of 2020, to 11 million visits in the second quarter of 2020.

Has the e-commerce future arrived “early” for the retail industry?

Indeed, Singapore has witnessed an increase in emerging small businesses online, some online only.

By having an online presence, companies are able to reach significantly more consumers as opposed to relying on human traffic visiting a physical store.

With retailers adding online channels and using technology to their advantage — products, customer service chat, doorstep delivery, personal online shopping and even virtual product try-ons can make your business available to consumers 24/7, all around the world.

Equipping the Retail Workforce for the e-Commerce Present

With operations shifting online, it is necessary that retail training and HR processes be taken digital as well — to increase efficiency and reduce cost for retailers.

Training new hires online isn’t as daunting of a task as it might seem. In fact, it saves companies the trouble, time and money of organising physical training sessions. The training content would also need to change. E.g. Following the shift from physical to online stores, staff need to be retrained to learn how to serve customers online rather than face-to-face.

With ArcLab, creating training modules has been made simple with our easy-to-use interface. Disseminate the modules digitally to all staff at a few clicks of the button and our system automatically tracks their performances and stores all necessary records.

You can use ArcLab ‘s Customer Service 101 series to get you started.

ArcLab Customer Service 101 modules | Source: https://arclab.io/retail

We’ve built ArcLab to be seamless and fuss-free to start. Explore the limitless possibilities with ArcLab platform and get started on your digital transformation journey today.

If you need any help at all, reach out at growth@arclab.io

Start your digital transformation today!

Categories
Why

Digital Transformation is for large firms only… NOT!

Digital Transformation is for large firms only… NOT!

Digitalisation is NOT expensive and is well within the reach of Small & Medium Businesses. This is how to start it for your organisation.

The best time to start digitalising was yesterday. The next best time is now | Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Lest some may think we can quickly revert to our pre-COVID lives, the virus’ mutations and continued spread suggest it will be with us for some time.

Globally, the South Asian COVID situation continues to cause concern. Closer to home, a significant increase in COVID cases led Malaysia to impose a 3rd Movement Control Order while Singapore regressed to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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))
  3. “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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Start Now

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:

1. A list of productivity software for Remote Work from our friends at HR SaaS platform Talenox:

2. ArcLab’s own list of useful software which we use ourselves:

There’s tons more online. Just “Google” it.

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.

Get in touch today at growth@arclab.io.

Categories
How

Costly F&B communication issues and how to solve it

Costly F&B communication issues and how to solve it

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 Jolene Tan of StaffAny, a fast-growing software platform that enables shift-work teams (F&B, Retail, etc) to handle Operations and HR more easily — to share how F&B Businesses can avoid costly communication issues between HR, Ops and staff, and instead focus on growing the business.

How F&B businesses can avoid costly communication issues | Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

Food & Beverage Services (“F&B”) is an operations-intensive business.

We want things to run as clockwork as much as possible. So imagine a restaurant where things DON’T run like clockwork…e.g.

  • Staff show up on the wrong day / time for work
  • Staff DON’T show up (thinking their shift is another day)
  • Staff show up not knowing what they’re supposed to do, or how to do them
  • Staffs’ shifts are confirmed at the last minute, leaving them with little time to plan their personal calendars
  • Pay that HR processed for staff is not what they expected, due to inaccuracies processing work hours, leading to HR spending unnecessary time double-checking shift hours with Ops…

Instead of staying on top of things, you’re fighting fires every single day, just barely surviving!

Fighting fires daily means less time to grow your F&B Business | Photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash

The downstream effects of haphazard operations are poor customer experience and inefficiency, as more time is spent rectifying errors. Staff will ultimately also end up discontented.

This is hardly the way to run your F&B business — or any business for that matter!

Too much time is spent fire-fighting and doing last-minute coordination tasks. Time that should be better spent on more productive areas, like developing a new item for the menu, and attracting new sources of customers for the business.

We want to avoid such disaster scenarios, which can happen if we have a less-than-effective communication and coordination framework for our F&B business.

There’s a better way.

Simplifying F&B Operations

First up — getting your schedules together! A schedule seem like a very simple and minor thing. But it actually forms the backbone of your daily operations. If schedules aren’t planned well, you can expect mess on the ground.

But we know, F&B schedules aren’t that simple. Besides the multiple shifts every single day, but the communication with your staff.

Get part-timer availability on WhatsApp. Plan weekly schedules on Excel. Send the schedules back on WhatsApp. Then begin the back-and-forth dance because a staff can’t make it last minute, or you need to edit your schedule… sounds familiar?

Actually, you can avoid all the time and communication issues of this flow by doing all things scheduling-related on one platform. This not only reduces communication errors but also saves managers and owners a Ton of time! (specifically up to 70% time for some of our users).

After schedules, the next most crucial part is your timesheets. HR spends so much time on this because they want to pay their staff accurately. But did you know? Most communication issues are solved as long as the pay staff expect to receive is equal to the hours HR trusts and processes. This can only happen if the finalised time records HR processes for payroll is also seen by your staff.

That’s exactly what StaffAny was created for. Built for the F&B industry, StaffAny supports your complex operational needs from scheduling to timesheets, so you can save time and labour costs. Focus on what really matters.

Digitising SOPs

With proper scheduling, staff now know way ahead of time when their shift is. They also need a clear idea of their roles and responsibilities, and be trained in the tasks that they need to perform onsite, at each and every shift.

Traditionally, the task of teaching Standard Operating Procedures (“SOP”) to staff tends to fall on managers, who are already busy running operations and managing a myriad of other tasks. The training needs to be repeated for new staff, and sometimes staff forget what they need to do and require training again.

That’s where a good SOP system, built on ArcLab, can assist the manager. ArcLab empowers F&B businesses everywhere to easily author & distribute Digital SOPs, sent directly to staffs’ phones.

Unlike greasy SOP ring-binders that sit unused in the kitchen and available only to the manager, Digital SOPs are on-the-cloud and readily accessible by staff as-and-when they need to refer to specific steps and procedures that they may have forgotten, or want a second look.

Digital SOPs can also be updated each time circumstances and procedures change, and can be provided in multiple languages to suit staffs’ needs and abilities. Now every staff member knows his/her responsibility, what to do, and how to do them.

This means less work for the manager, who can spend more time on planning and executing growth plans. This means a more productive, and a more profitable business.

Let us help your business!

If you’re at F&B Business looking to simplify Operations…

Get in touch with StaffAny and ArcLab today!

Categories
Why

Lessons from Lasso

Lessons from Lasso

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.

I support none of these clubs.

My choice was made many years ago, when a Tottenham Hotspur World Cup winner won me over. Thus began years of joy, and more often, heartache.

Years of joy, and more often, heartache. | Pic: Me

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.


I recently watched Ted Lasso on AppleTV+.

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.

One scene in the series jumped out at me: where coach Ted counselled a player to “BE A GOLDFISH” after he made a bad move in training. The point that Ted referenced: a goldfish having a short memory of 10 seconds.

BE A GOLDFISH!

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.

In the workplace, we need to factor in short memories and attention spans, and rethink the way we train our workforce.

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”.

It’s a great way to onboard new staff, convey simple procedural knowledge and many more.

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

Home


Epilogue

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.

🤞 Next season will be different. COYS.

Categories
How

Lives are at stake. Is your 100-slide WSH Powerpoint working?

Lives are at stake. Is your 100-slide WSH Powerpoint working?

There can be no compromise when it comes to safety training. Here’s how we make WSH training effective. PowerPoints optional.

In industries like construction, manufacturing etc. — there’s real risk or injury or death if proper safety procedures aren’t followed. How is your company conducting WSH training? | Photo by Yancy Min on Unsplash

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 that 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 the 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Create YOUR OWN effective WSH Training

WSH module built on ArcLab

We conclude by sharing a sample WSH module built on ArcLab’s mobile learning platform.

Feel free to try it out.

You can adapting it for your workforce simply by using ArcLab’s Remix feature.

Select from the different templates in ArcLab Discover, and remix them easily to fit your company’s branding, tone, messaging and specific training content.

Use ArcLab to easily distribute training to your workers via email or SMS, so they can easily consume the training.

Everything is made fuss-free and effective for you and your workers.

Because your workers’ safety & health are important. Their lives are at stake. If you need any help on how to start, drop us an email at growth@arclab.io.

Start saving lives today!

Categories
Why

Managing a Deskless Workforce to Success

Managing a Deskless Workforce to Success

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.

70–80% of the world’s workforce is ‘Deskless’ | Pic: 6i Communication

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.

Download your guide today | Pic: 6i Communication

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.

Not all workforces can be managed the same | pic: 6i Communication

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 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.

Start Training your Deskless Workforce today | Pic: ArcLab

Do well, do good. For your Deskless Workforce.

This past year has given us 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. Virtually all of them are part of the Deskless Workforce.

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.

Get in touch with Beekeeper at andyg.schmidt@bkc.sg, and ArcLab at growth@arclab.io.

Pic: 6i Communication
Categories
How

5 tips for remote onboarding

5 tips for remote onboarding

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

The move to remote work has been a long and winding path for workers worldwide.

Remote work is the future of work.

Fortunately, I had been working remotely for three years before the pandemic, and in this post, I’d like to share some of the best practices I’ve seen in the remote onboarding phase.

Onboarding is tough enough, but remote onboarding has made it much more difficult. For their first day, no one will greet them personally, and they will not have a coworker seated next to them in the workplace. They won’t be around to meet their supervisor in person and will have to handle IT processes and other business apps on their own, albeit in the comfort of their own home and possibly comfy clothes.

HR departments worldwide are also figuring out how to better onboard new hires when they can’t be there to answer questions and calm their nerves. During the onboarding process, it’s important to make new employees feel at ease right away. According to studies, if an employee has a positive onboarding experience, they are more likely to stick with the company long term.

Remote hires will find it difficult to adapt to the company culture and gain a comprehensive understanding of the mission, values, and product knowledge they’ll need to do their jobs well. Team building is already challenging due to the lack of opportunities to meet in person, but there are ways to prevent new hire isolation.

This post will go through some tips for managers & HR to use during the remote onboarding period to ensure that new employees have a seamless transition into their new positions.

Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

1. Prepare a welcome package

Consider putting together a welcome packet sent to new remote workers. New workers should receive the welcome packet before their first onboarding session.

The welcome packet aims to provide new workers with the general knowledge that will be useful in their first few days and months at the company. Making a video that welcomes new hires to the company can be a perfect way to give them a feeling of instant belonging.

Incorporate the welcome video into one of the onboarding process’s early stages. Make most of your training videos through training webinars, where you can deliver pre-recorded or live training to your remote employees.

ArcLab’s proprietary platform is ideal for remote onboarding, particularly for workers who are deskless or using a mobile. You can leverage nano learning modules to provide bite-size learning content, which is 5–7 minutes long and include videos and short quizzes to reinforce understanding.

2. Establish clear goals from the start

You give new employee the best chance of success by spelling out their expectations before their first day. They won’t be left in the dark and won’t have to ask too many questions if they have a good picture of their roles and what’s expected of them.

The most effective way to do this is to create a schedule for and new employee that includes time for training, assessments, and check-ins. Openly discuss business principles, new tasks they’ll be working on, team priorities, and personal ambitions.

Your top priority is to ensure that new hires know their roles and the tools/software/applications they’ll need to complete their tasks. Allow time for the IT team to set up their technology and answer any questions. Finally, provide them with the complete documentation of their onboarding process to relate to it during their first few weeks on the job.

3. Assign a buddy/mentor

A typical first day for a recruit will include a workplace tour, introductions to coworkers, and a series of in-person orientation sessions. Since all of this is temporary, it’s important to focus on establishing connections between new hires and their virtual teams.

Consider assigning a buddy to each new hire to chat as they adapt to their new job. They can ask them any questions they don’t want to ask the Slack community. This buddy can be a mentor, a team member, or a volunteer who has already been through the onboarding process. The aim is to connect new workers with someone who can help them get a head start in their new role.

Making early connections is an important part of a person’s first few weeks at a new company. Encourage team members to schedule introductory meetings with new hires so that everyone can establish a good relationship right away and feel less lonely.

4. Include collaborative learning

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Ensure that the remote workers have plenty of chances to learn from one another. This is particularly important during the onboarding phase because it provides another way to promote a positive team-oriented culture, even if workers do not work in the same place.

If you manage a team, specifically, ask each team member to set up a video call with the new remote employee. They should take advantage of this opportunity to welcome the new employee to the team and clarify their duties. Another way to foster a remote-friendly community is to treat all workers equally and fairly, regardless of whether they work on-site or remotely.

5. Make engagement happen

A good mindset and strong relationships open the doors to promotion in the workplace. Working remotely has the downside of making it more difficult to highlight professional accomplishments. Employees will need to put in extra effort in 2021 to increase their virtual participation to access new opportunities. Employee engagement is much more difficult to convey and describe in a remote setting where employees interact primarily via email. Employees who work from home will stand out as leaders by attending virtual gatherings, engaging in online meetings, and maintaining a high enthusiasm level.

Make sure they have access to the same benefits as on-site workers. For example, if the organization provides subsidized gym memberships to employees, offer that to remote employees.

Although both on-site and off-site staff can be members of the same team, they do not all have the same level of experience working for the same company.

Build a remote-friendly environment that makes everyone feel included, regardless of where they work, for the company to be effective in onboarding permanently remote employees.

ArcLab Mobile learning solves training needs, offering remote training via our proprietary SaaS platform or a blended approach integrated with your current L&D framework. You can further learn more about how Nano Learning can improve your organisation’s work performance. Try our learning module and receive a copy of our Nano Learning playbook.

Ephraim, the author, has over ten years of experience in B2B consultative and solution sales. He is a technology enthusiast for SaaS solutions and cloud-based software. His personal motto is to embrace technology, challenge himself, learn new things, and step outside of his comfort zone to try new things. Here’s where you can learn more about him.

Categories
Why

Lessons from LKY

Lessons from LKY

I wonder what LKY would have said about my point to promote manufacturing in Singapore, if our meeting had been today.

#ThankyouLKY | Pic: Me

Six years ago today on 23 Mar 2015, Singapore lost her founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. A day of sadness for many Singaporeans.

More than 1.5 million people paid their respects to Mr Lee, mourning the passing of the man who brought a country with no natural resources from Third World to First.


Meeting LKY for the 1st time | Pic: My parents

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 asked 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 aspects — 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 a life in shirtsleeves and glass-panelled 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).

And as knowledge continues to advance, ongoing training is needed for manufacturing workers to upskill and perform their roles. That’s in fact the mission of ArcLab — to supports companies in the provision of training and performance support to Deskless Workers in industries like manufacturing.

Advanced Manufacturing in Singapore | Pic: EDB

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 close second. All these have contributed towards more companies being founded, many in software, but also hardware and advanced manufacturing.

Interestingly, in the wake of COVID, I have recently started reading about how the Singapore Government is relooking at rebuilding manufacturing here and here.

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.


Today, on the 6th anniversary of LKY’s passing, I am grateful for the country he built — where my family is safe, has food on the table, and the opportunity to pursue what we believe in.

My only regret was not getting an autograph for him for my missus when I accompanied him for that dinner at the Bank of England. I was there as MAS ‘staff’, so I thought ‘it didn’t seem right.’ As a public servant, I followed the rules and coloured within the lines. Now as a startup founder, I’m a lot more pragmatic and flexible.

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.

#ThankYouLKY

Categories
How

The Way Ahead for HR in Singapore’s F&B Industry

The Way Ahead for HR in Singapore’s F&B Industry

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.

Moving F&B Ahead | Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

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:

1. Takes up precious space in typically cramped back-of-house setups.

2. Can get oily and grimy from day-to-day F&B ops

3. 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/

See how ArcLab can empower your F&B Business to digitise your SOPs and other training materials, fuss free: https://arclab.io/fh

Categories
How

The COVID-normal Retailer

The COVID-normal Retailer

Retailing in our COVID-normal | Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

COVID-19 hit retailers hard last year.

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:

  1. Retailers that rely on tourist traffic — Vaccinations have started globally, but there is no certainty when international leisure travel will resume.
  2. 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-(and m-)commerce 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.

Retailers — You can try ArcLab for Digital SOPs for free right here.

Categories
How

A digital HR experience

A digital HR experience

In our new COVID-normal world, companies are working to adapt and pivot their businesses.

Significant changes can be observed in Human Resource practices in organisations across the world, including the application of more technology in the workplace, which ArcLab was glad to contribute our thoughts to this Tech Collective Asia exposition.

What are some key themes?

First — the way we hire affects who we end up hiring. From getting your prospective interviewees take gamified online assessments to identify thinking patterns, to virtual recorded interviews which are run through an AI algorithm instead of a human recruiter. Such technology helps assess and filter candidates with attributes which accurately match with what the company wants for subsequent rounds of interviews.

For example, Hilton hotels, a renowned chain of hotels around the world has turned to digitising their HR. Hilton’s HR team gathers data from high-performing employees and apply it towards filter new applicants.

Existing high-performing employees’ data can be applied to new applicant filtering | Photo by Marvin Meyer from Unsplash

Second — digitalisation can be used to enhance employee experience. To manage the introduction of these new processes in the HR department, skills of current staff need to be upgraded. This means we need to familiarise the staff with technology before they can further hire tech-savvy employees.

Internal HR processes that can be digitised include payroll and leave applications. Digitising these free up HR Department’s time for higher-value activities like strategy and planning. Employee feedback systems can also be digitised, and analytics applied to provide important insights for the organisation.

Pivoting training (traditionally done through face-to-face lessons and by sending staff to external courses to upskill them) to online training services also allows organisations to tailor specific training content for their workforce.

Some important HR will always require a human touch | Photo by Christina from Unsplash

There will undeniably be aspects of HR that will require a human touch. For example, complaints about harassment and bullying will almost always require a closer look from HR, management, and line managers. Empathy is an (the) important trait for HR professionals. Technology is ultimate just a tool.


In conclusion, we need to take the right steps for our our workforce. Happy employees form the working culture for the entire organisation, which translates into the experience of the customers the firm serves.

With the right framework, we then need to apply the proper training. ArcLab empowers companies set up digital training for your workforce with your own Nano Learning modules.

To take the next step, go to ArcLab Discover today!

Categories
Who

SUTD — Doing what it says on the box

SUTD — Doing what it says on the box

As a workplace learning edtech platform, ArcLab collaborates with our Institutes of Higher Learning (“IHL”), who nurture industry-ready students, e.g. I previously wrote about Singapore Polytechnic.

Today I’ll share about one of Singapore’s newer IHLs— Singapore University of Technology & Design (“SUTD”). Here are 3 SUTD stories we’ve privileged to be a part of.

SUTD: Where Tech & Design talent is nurtured | Pic: SUTD

“The Intern” — starring SUTD student Sylvia (& ArcLab)

In the depths of last April’s COVID-19 lockdown, I received an email from Sylvia, a mechanical engineering student from SUTD’s Engineering Product Development Pillar. Sylvia had just returned from her exchange programme in Silicon Valley.

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.

(ii) OEQ Auto-Grading— Saving L&D managers & trainers hours in grading time. ArcLab’s grading engine takes care of everything, with results displayed automatically in our Learner Analytics dashboard.

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.

Subject: Sylvia! | Pic: Sylvia!

“Hidden Figures” — starring SUTD graduate Estee (& ArcLab)

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:

(i) Unscramble assessment screen described above.

(ii) An upgraded Form Screen which ArcLab customers used for visitor registration (very useful during COVID-19).

(iii) The ArcLab Learner Dashboard, built specially for Deskless Workers.

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.

ArcLab Team lunch @ 4Fingers. Spot Estee! | Pic: Me

“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.

Already thinking ahead of workplace trends of that time, the SUTD OD & HR team looked into ArcLab as a way to easily onboard new staff and educate them on different aspects of the excellent organisation that they were joining.

Adeline & Sharon pushed the boundaries of our platform (we love power users like them), and we listen to their feedback as we continue to build out the ArcLab platform.

Looking back at the early days of ArcLab in 2019, we are grateful for how Adeline & Sharon used ArcLab, and generously helped us on our early prototypes with feedback and suggestions (fun fact: we incorporated Folder Sharing into the ArcLab Learner Dashboard after a conversation with them).

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.

https://www.g2.com/products/arclab/reviews/arclab-review-4526275


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.


Categories
What

The problem with free software

The problem with free software

with Steven Chan — CTO, ArcLab & Co-founder, Tinkertanker

The best things in life are free: Parents’ love. Sunshine. WhatsApp (wait; whatsapp?!?)

What’s up, WhatsApp? User data, that’s what | Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

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.

For staying in touch, >2 billion of us use WhatsApp, while >1.2 billion use WeChat. After the recent privacy concerns from WhatsApp’s T&C change, a rising number are installing Telegram and Signal. All of them are *free*. Much has already been written, so I won’t add any more to the debate (For our corporate readers who are still using WhatsApp for company-wide comms, read this blog post by Andy Schmidt of 6i Communications).

What I leant well from a previous Portfolio Management career is that there’s no such thing as a *free* lunch. You always need to give something to get something.

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.

That, is worth paying for.


Talk to us today to learn how ArcLab Pro helps your organisation to digitally upskill and provide performance support to your staff. Not free, but very affordable user-based pricing, with no upfront implementation costs. And we don’t sell customer data.

Categories
How

How ArcLab uses ArcLab

How ArcLab uses ArcLab

I often get asked “How does ArcLab use ArcLab?”

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 onboarding 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.

See how simple it is to create your organisation’s own onboarding module on ArcLab.


Performance Support / Digital Manuals

No more clunky folders! ArcLab Performance Support Collection, personalised.

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 Mobile Resource Pack) 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).


Digital Assessments

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.


Declaration Forms

We also used ArcLab to create a Visitor Health Declaration Form, helpful for COVID-19 related contact tracing.

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.

That’s great, engaging communication. Win-win-win.


We hope you found useful — all the different ways that ArcLab uses ArcLab.

You can easily adopt them for your own organisation. Simply head to ArcLab Discover:

Showcase

Explore the different modules, and remix any module template that you like DIRECTLY into your ArcLab dashboard, e.g. the Onboarding module.

One-click, and you’re all set to edit and roll the module out to your team!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with to easily upskill & provide performance support to your workforce.

And please reach out at any time.

Categories
Why

Arts, Sciences & Humans

Arts, Sciences & Humans

Many writers have published their “2020 in reflection” articles. Most wrote about COVID-19.

For my “2020 in reflection”, I’m not writing about COVID, but instead — about one piece of news that caught my attention: the proposal by The National University of Singapore (“NUS”) to merge her Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Faculty of Science to form an interdisciplinary College of Humanities and Sciences.

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.

One of the lessons that COVID-19 taught us: L&D is a need. Not a want.

Because great organisations can only be be built with great teams.


See ArcLab’s showcase for examples of such stackable, adaptable mobile learning modules and add them directly to your ArcLab dashboard.

And talk to us today.

Wishing everyone a restful year-end, and good things ahead for 2021.

Categories
Why

The Future of L&D in the New Normal — In conversation with Alina Rusu

The Future of L&D in the New Normal — In conversation with Alina Rusu

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 .

For a preview, check out Business Academia’s learning modules that you can Remix directly into your ArcLab dashboard here: https://builder.arclab.io/discover .


Here’s the transcript of our webinar:

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.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. How has your training approach changed in the last 6 months?

Alina: We are looking into tech components in our learning programmes. Including nano learning, mobile learning, bite size 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 irreversible 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 much for 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.

Categories
How

“Have you washed your hands?”

“Have you washed your hands?”

“Serving hygienic food begins with a clean pair of hands” | Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

For food & beverage operators, poor hygiene and food handling practices can lead to mass food poisoning, and in extreme circumstances, even tragic deaths.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/spize-fined-food-poisoning-river-valley-court-32000-13691268

There can be no compromise on proper food hygiene practices:

  • Don’t mix raw and cooked food,
  • Wash all utensils and cutlery before use,
  • Use different chopping boards for different food types,
  • Don’t leave food out for more than 4 hours,
  • Store food properly, at the right temperature…

But most fundamental of all:

“Serving hygienic food begins with a clean pair of hands”


Ready to test your food hygiene knowledge?

Challenge yourself to a Nano Learning Quiz built on ArcLab: https://b.arclab.io/fdhygiene

How did you do on the quiz? Let’s come back to that later.


Proper Food Hygiene

Whichever country we are in, all licensed food & beverage operators should adhere to proper practices, guidelines and regulations.

For example, Singapore Food Agency (regulator of Singapore’s food retail industry) lists its Dos & Don’ts:

It’s a hefty list of guidelines, which all licensed food operators will need to train their staff to adhere to. Therein lies challenges:

  • How do they ensure the training is delivered effectively?
  • How do they target follow-ups to those who don’t understand?
  • Do they even know who “gets it”, and who doesn’t?

Training Staff on Food Hygiene

Let’s consider one possible approach of “delivering the training”:

F&B Operator sends the NEA weblink above to employees in its internal Whatsapp chat group, with the message

“Pls ensure compliance”

More likely than not, the message is quickly glanced at, and the “learning moment” may or may not happen.

A more effective approach would be to conduct face-to-face training sessions, outlining the practices that we want staff handling food in the kitchen to be familiar with, and to adhere to.

The training would ideally be a combination of theory and practical, with the participants put through the paces and assessed according to the required standards midway and at the end.

During the face-to-face sessions, the trainer is available to answer questions and clarify doubts of learners, and correct mistakes on the spot.

The approach above can be further improved further by the deployment of technology to create a blended learning approach for learners. This achieves a few objectives:

  • Staff have greater personal engagement and interaction with the learning content
  • Staff have access to an online repository of learning content (in different languages if necessary) – anytime, anywhere.
  • The Organisation can build in assessment modules into the online learning, to test the staff’s understanding.
  • The Organisation now has available the data of staff’s learning that they can use to plug learning gaps and arrange for follow-ups.

The end-result is a better-trained workforce, who know the dos and don’ts of proper food hygiene and can then prepare delicious, healthy and safe food that can be enjoyed by customers.


Unfortunately, the Spize tragedy is not unique. It’s one of several food hygiene-related incidents in the past few years.

These repeated occurrences cement the need for effective staff training, and making sure that effective food hygiene practices are put into practice.

The module you tested yourself with above, is just what a technology-enabled training module on food hygiene and safety could look like:

We created this with ArcLab Pro, our Nano Learning platform for anyone to easily create, deliver and track effective training.

Like what you see?

Go to ArcLab’s showcase to see more adaptable mobile learning modules and add them directly to your ArcLab dashboard.

And talk to us today.

Categories
Why

Workforce Training in the New Normal

Workforce Training in the New Normal

What #COVID19 taught (and continues to teach) us. Guest post on HRTech Cube.

Even Spidey needs to continuously upskill. aka Training in the New Normal | Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

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 incorporated ArcLab only 3 months later.

It’s been an eventful 2 years.

In Aug 2018, ArcLab released our MVP and got accepted to AWS EdStart. We launched the full platform in Jul 2019, welcomed paying customers, and were accepted into the pioneer class of Spaze Ventures’ EduSpaze accelerator in Feb 2020. We were also humbled to be featured in Holon IQ’s inaugural SE Asia EdTech 50 in Jun 2020 and welcomed investment from Bisk Ventures in Sep 2020.

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.

COVID-19 & our VUCA world | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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’.

Until COVID-19 hit.

The by-now famous meme | Pic credits: Forbes

COVID-induced lockdowns globally meant teams could no longer gather in the workplace. So Remote Work became the default arrangement (though some in our workforce still need to brave the frontlines 🙌).

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 some time 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 workweek, 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 Onboarding process to familiarise 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-labour-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:

  1. 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.
  2. How crucial it was for training to be Uniform, so the company’s standards can be taught without personal bias (or person-specific incompetence!).
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Categories
What

ArcLab Dev Update — What’s New?

ArcLab Dev Update — What’s New?

Editor’s Note: Last month, Joanna interviewed Claire, our former dev intern so instrumental in assisting CTO Steven in building ArcLab. This month, Joanna speaks to Rohit Rajesh and Kimberly Pontanares to get their perspectives on working with Steven to develop ArcLab.

Rohit interned with us after completing National Service and while awaiting University admission. While not formally-schooled in software development, Rohit brought substantial coding knowledge from self-study and Tinkercademy classes, a relentless drive to build great software and a great learning attitude.

Kimberly continues ArcLab’s tradition of collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Computing, following in the footsteps of Claire, Francis, Darryl, Zainul and Bing. Adept in coding and possessing a great visual sense, she’s a showcase of the excellent work SP does in nurturing industry-ready tech talent that will play (and are already playing) a big part in solving real-world problems to improve lives and livelihoods.

Rohit (L) and Kimberly (R), ArcLab super-interns

We are excited to once again bring you a new ArcLab Platform Update for August!

This month, I interviewed Kimberly and Rohit who were involved in the upgrade of the new ArcLab dashboard.

Joanna (J): “Hi Kimberly and Rohit! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. We wanted to get some insights from the creative minds behind the new ArcLab upgrade!”

Kimberly (K): “Thank you! First, let me explained what we have designed: ”

Learner Analytics — Filter Feature

Filter your learner analytics and view the analytics of your published project by date. Simply select the start and end date on the calendar tab to segment your learners (by cohort, etc.)!

Filter your analytics by date

Media for EVERY ArcLab screen

Media can be added to almost every screen … or not — the choice is yours!

Adding images in each screen is now optional

“Project Settings” — Reloaded

We have also split “Project Settings” into 3 tabs — Manage Learners, Manage Emails and Question Settings, so that Training / L&D Managers have greater granularity of control!

“Project Settings” split into 3 tabs

Folders

Lastly, we added a folder system in the ArcLab Dashboard. This feature allows you to move projects to folders, so you can manage your various projects more easily and effectively. You also have the ability to rename, delete a folder and remove a project from a folder.

Folders added to dashboard

J: “Wow! I hope ArcLab users will find these updates as useful as we did! Could you guys share about the reasons behind including these features?”

K: “For sure! The folder system was something Claire and I discussed to be included for ArcLab’s UI/UX Refresh. We included it to provide users a way to manage their projects more efficiently by enabling them to further categorise their various projects and facilitate easier access.

While the filter analytics by date was included to further enhance users’ experience when studying learners’ analytics by allowing them to view the calculated statistics (which learners completed the module, how many attempts did a learner take on a specific date, etc.) This also makes it easier to find specific learners that completed the module within a certain date, and help L&D managers segment users into cohorts for easier tracking.”

Rohit (R): “Meanwhile, media inserts were added (and made optional) on a variety of screens so that learners can be exposed to media regardless of the ArcLab screen type. All in all this allows for more flexibility in the creation of projects for learners — to make learning more effective.”

J: “Thank you for sharing! Lastly, could you give us a sneak peak of what we can expect in the next update?”

R: “Of course! Do stay tuned for the next update because ArcLab’s dev team is excited to bring you:

What to expect in the next Dev Update?

ArcLab’s team is always listening to your feedback and seeking ways to improve — part of our never-ending quest to build the world’s Simplest Learning System.

You can next expect:

  • A “Discover” feature where L&D Managers can source for training templates to adapt to their organisations’ specific needs.
  • Further enhancement of the Learner Analytics Dashboard
  • Additional features such as editing and uploading photos in the Question Bank.

… and several more! Follow ArcLab on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to find out!”

J: “Thank you for your hard work, Kim and Rohit! With both your internships ending soon, what did you learn most from your time at ArcLab?”

R: “Firstly, I learnt how to work effectively from home as I sadly only managed to spend a day in the office before being restricted to WFH. I realised that creation of daily task lists and a rough timetable for the day help immensely!

Under the guidance of our CTO Steven, I was exposed to DevOps as well as technologies like Docker and Jenkins in order to streamline development processes in the firm. Some notable ones include the creation of Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery pipelines allowing for rapid deployments and testings, and containerisation of the application for developmental work. I was also further exposed to tools in Amazon Web Services (AWS) such as Lambda, S3, CloudFront, and Elemental MediaConvert in the creation of the video upload feature for learners.

I also learnt how to work closely as part of a team. As a lean team, communication and teamwork is paramount to the monthly updates we push out for our users. This includes biweekly sprints, where we gather feedback from users and prioritise tasks. We have weekly “standups” where we talk about what we have achieved in the previous and the coming week, and, of course, daily chats with fellow colleagues on bugs that were discovered and/or any user requests that require urgent attentions. With WFH, the importance of communication was amplified, as you could no longer just shout over your shoulder to find out what your fellow dev was up to or to look for help.”

K: “While working at ArcLab, I learned a great deal about the process to find the most efficient way to develop and implement features that give our users the best user experience. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work and learn from everyone here.”

J: “Thank you to both of you for sharing your insights!”

Now check out the Brand New ArcLab User Guide: https://b.arclab.io/u !


Postscript — Rohit will soon start his undergrad studies at National University of Singapore, while Kimberly heads back to Singapore Polytechnic for her final semester. We wish them both the very best and hope they put ArcLab at the top of their list when considering future employment. 😊

Categories
What

Developing a Brand New ArcLab Dashboard

Developing a Brand New ArcLab Dashboard

Editor’s Note: ArcLab believes in authentic learning. Students interning with us work on REAL projects to help them translate school-learnt theory into industry-relevant skills.

Singapore Polytechnic School of Computing student Claire Liew interned with ArcLab in 2019–20, working closely with our CTO Steven to build features of ArcLab’s mobile learning software platform. Claire was mature, self-driven, resourceful and had great design & coding chops. Guided by Steven, Claire led ArcLab’s dashboard upgrade — continuing ArcLab’s never-ending quest to build the World’s Simplest Learning System, to help organisations everywhere Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce.

We interviewed Claire in in her last internship week to get her thoughts on building ArcLab’s new dashboard.

Claire Liew, ex-ArcLab super-intern | super-Software-Engineer

We are excited to introduce your Brand New ArcLab Dashboard! 🤗

I interviewed Claire about the upgrades we launched earlier this month.

Joanna (J): “Hi Claire! Thank you for working so hard on the new ArcLab Dashboard. We’ve been getting great feedback from users and wanted to tap your views on what went behind the new design”.

Claire (Cl): “Thank you! First let me explain what we built:

Sorting & Filtering your learning modules made easy

  • A search bar to search for a specific project name
  • View your projects in 2 categories: “Unfinished” or “Published projects”
  • Use the column headings on the table to sort your projects in ascending/ descending order based on Project Name or Recency
  • Delete or duplicate your projects just with the click of a button

These features save you the trouble of scrolling through your entire dashboard just to find that one module you are looking for!

More intuitive Navigation Bar

Features such as Project Settings and Learner Analytics have been moved to a more optimal and intuitive location in the Editor. Take a look at the graphic below, and also see ArcLab’s user guide for comprehensive step-by-step instructions!

Step-by-step guide to adding authorised learners

Compulsory Open-Ended Questions toggle

We also now give users the option to make Open-Ended Questions compulsory. This is particularly important for Assessment modules (which we’re also considering ways to make the grading process more automated and intuitive — stay tuned for that).

Open-ended questions can now be made compulsory

Send Digital Certificates to Learners

We received feedback from many users asking if they could send a “completion” certificate to learners.

The answer is now YES. If you are an employer or content creator designing these modules for your learners, you can now personalise your employees’ learning by sending them digital NanoCreds (certificates) when they complete/ pass the module. The best part? Being able to include your OWN digital signature on the certificate as well!

Step-by-step guide to mail digital NanoCreds to learners, personalised with your e-signature

J: “Wow, Claire. I hope ArcLab users will enjoy this update as much as I do! So why did ArcLab include these features?”

Cl: “We included these features because we keep learning from our users to keep improving the platform so it can better serve user needs.

We had received feedback that the ArcLab dashboard should let users more easily visualise all the learning modules and analytics at one go. So we took it on board and iterated our design to help users do just that.

By improving your module editor in the other small ways I described above, we hope creating #nanolearning modules can be made even more fuss-free and personalised (for you and your learners)! As we get more user feedback, ArcLab will keep improving the platform.”

J: “Thanks for sharing Claire! Just one more thing — could you possibly give us a sneak peak of what we can expect in the next update?”

Cl: “Of course, do stay tuned because here’s what ArcLab’s dev team is building:

What are we building next?

Our team keeps working hard to listen to users and build what’s needed to best solve user organisations’ training pain points. We will soon release:

  • Video Uploads (for ArcLab PRO users) — this adds to Youtube/Vimeo videos you can already embed directly into ArcLab modules
  • Explanations for MCQ Answers — allowing your learners to see individualised explanations based on their answers

…and several more which you should follow our blog to find out 😉”

J: “Thank you for your hard work, Claire! What did you learn most from your time with ArcLab?

Cl: “I learned how rewarding it is to be able to ship live features tailored to our users’ needs. Also, I’ve learned a lot of technical and soft skills from everyone here at ArcLab. It was definitely an enriching experience for me.”

J: “It’s been really great to be team-mates. All the best to your future endeavours!”


Postscript— Claire graduated from Singapore Polytechnic and will soon start her undergraduate studies at Singapore Management University. We wish her the very best and hope she considers us favourably when contemplating future employment opportunities 😊

Meanwhile, if you have any feedback or suggestions, please drop us an email, we would love to hear from you. ArcLab continues to work hard to #Upskill the World’s Deskless Workforce. Always #Day1.

Categories
Who

#WFH as an ArcLab Intern

WFH as an ArcLab Intern

Editor’s note: ArcLab is privileged to work closely with Singapore Polytechnic (“SP”). In March 2020, we welcomed Joanna from SP’s School of Business to intern with ArcLab till Aug 2020. Alas, Singapore moved into #CircuitBreaker mode which meant Joanna had to #WorkfromHome after just 1 1/2 weeks.

Here’s Joanna’s story, and what she built to help organisations get staff ready for Remote Work Arrangements.


By now, majority would be familiar with the telecommuting lifestyle following the Circuit Breaker measures implemented by the Singapore government just last month. I was privileged enough to be able to intern from home as well. Being my first time working from home, it definitely took time adjusting to a different lifestyle and I thought I would share my experience so far…

Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

Since we are on the topic of lifestyle changes, a significant change for me was not having to wake up as early as before Circuit Breaker to get ready for work. I think this is something many people can resonate with. Whether you are a working adult or an intern, showing up for work on time means having to wake up 1, 2 or even 3 hours earlier! You could be taking a longer time than necessary choosing an outfit for work, making breakfast, or even having to drop your kids off at school before rushing to work.

However, with the new Circuit Breaker measures in place, time taken to get ready for work online is significantly reduced. You no longer have to worry about getting your children to school on time. You can even be working in your PJs and enjoying that cup of coffee while answering to work emails. Working from home now means being able to get an extra hour of sleep! Of course, with every benefit there is a downside.

Working from home also taught me a lot about how productivity and discipline go hand in hand. With no one (manager, supervisor, or even colleagues) constantly keeping you in check, it can be hard saying no to distractions. It could be constantly wanting to crawl back into bed, or making rounds to your fridge looking for a quick bite. What I found helpful for me was writing down a to-do list for the week (and although this may not be the first time hearing such an advice, it really does help!) — and once I was done with a task, I would have the satisfaction of crossing it off the list.

Photo by Allie on Unsplash

With an increasing reliance on technology, I realised how we often take it for granted, because without it we would hardly be able to get any work done, let alone communicate with our friends and colleagues (even more so during this period). At ArcLab, we use Slack and Zoom to communicate with each other. We even have scheduled weekly Zoom call meetings to update each other on the progress of our work and how our weekend has been.

Speaking of technology…

Split Teams & Remote Work modules

A main project that I have been working on was creating modules for Nano Learning modules for ArcLab’s new “Split Teams & Remote Work” (or WFH) series. The series was created in line with the WFH measures implemented by companies, to help both employers and employees alike adapt to the new work arrangements. If you have yet to check it out or have a few minutes to spare in between your day, you can do so here!

With the hustle and bustle of work, it’s very rare that we find time to learn something new, or pick up a new hobby. We probably steer clear of this as well due to our perception that learning = lengthy = time consuming.

ArcLab Nano Learning modules (such as the WFH series) has thus been made targeted, specific and short so that you can slot learning into your busy schedule, without taking up too much of your time!

My WFH experience has been a fulfilling one so far, and I certainly hope yours has been too! Press on, the Circuit Breaker is almost coming to an end, and we would soon be a step closer to resuming our lives as normal.

#StayHomeStaySafe #NanoLearning

Categories
Why

#WFH isn’t for everyone

WFH isn’t for everyone

With contributions from Edwin of PowerAbsolut and Justina for Edugrow for Brighter Tomorrows

Covid-19: BAU no more | Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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.

Video Conference Prep, for the Nth time today | Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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 / shirk, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Helping firms to digitise training material that empowers them to remotely #Upskill staff for the #Upturn (which WILL eventually come), at scale. Ping us if you need help.

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 provides 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.

#StaySafe. #Stay Home.


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 🙌

Donate at: https://engineeringgood.org/computers-against-covid

Categories
How

The Colour Orange

The Colour Orange

Photo by Matteo Fusco on Unsplash

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 here. 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:

  1. Reminding colleagues to take temperatures daily, and seeing a doctor (wearing a mask) if one has a fever.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

In addition, ArcLab is built on Amazon Web Services (We’re an AWS EdStart Startup), which means our platform keeps running for our users, and we continue to be able to serve any queries that might come in through our tawk.to chat channel.

So if your organisation is looking cloud solutions that can help with split teams and remote work, drop us a message at hi@arclab.io; 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.

This means:

(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 includes a module about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus itself, which you are welcome to use (for free) to educate your team.

The Meaning of Crisis

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 🙌)

Categories
Who

A New Adventure: Journey as an ArcLab Intern

A New Adventure: Journey as an ArcLab Intern

Editor’s note: In mid-2019, we received an internship request from a Temasek Polytechnic (“TP”) student. We’d never worked with TP before and weren’t sure what to expect. But we took the chance anyway. Nicholas started his stint knowing not very much about tech, startups or B2B marketing. By the end of it, he was managing all our online collateral, mailers, social media and produced 2 ArcLab videos.

Here’s Nicholas’ story — suitably, he put it in an ArcLab module, embracing what is known in #StartupWorld as ‘dogfood-ing’.


My whole journey was put into an ArcLab module.

As simple as it seems, that was my entire 4 months of intern into a short module. Imagine how learning can be made easier and simpler with nano learning, built with ArcLab.

Anyway, here’s the full blog…


With little to no experience in the ‘Adult World’, it was definitely challenging having to adapt to a new lifestyle; working in an office and commutes to work with the bustling crowd. Being a Digital Marketing Student, I wanted to showcase my skills as a marketer and successfully ‘market’ a product well. Interning at ArcLab gave me this opportunity and I was able to accomplish it. Here’s my journey in ArcLab as a Digital Marketing Intern…

On my first day, I came to the office with butterflies in my stomach, not expectant of anything. Questions of “What even is Nano Learning?” to “What if I’m not living up to expectations” flooded my mind. Thankfully, I was given tasks that I was familiar with and subjects that were already learnt in school.

My first major ‘project’ was Content Auditing. I was tasked to audit ArcLab’s pages (LinkedIn, blog, website) and assess the current score of the pages. From scoring the pages’ impression counts and bounce rates to scoring its clickthrough rates (CTR).

Content auditing was relatively straightforward and I was done with it quickly. Immediately, I moved on to the next and also, the most arduous task, SEO.

I was tasked to tweak the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for ArcLab’s website. SEO was relatively foreign to me even though I had learnt it before. Could it be because I failed to pay attention during class? Or it could just be the onerous and intricate topic by itself. Regardless, I gave it a go and had to do more research to back up my findings.

Ultimately, the long-dreaded research ended and I came up with web titles and alt texts for ArcLabs home and showcase page. The challenging part about SEO is not just the research and execution but rather understanding Google’s algorithms and proper keywords usage in order to rank higher in Google.

(and also the constant fear of whether your page would someday rank higher)

Keywords such as “nano learning” and “mobile learning” were important as this gives the website a boost in SEO. Thus, in order to understand SEO better, I made sure I studied guides on Google and be more profound in SEO.

one of the alt text captions I had to construct

My third major task involved a speck more creativity, and it was definitely one that I enjoyed working on. Ever since I had an interest in photography, it sparked the passion of film-making and photography in me. I enjoyed the filmings and editings of short films for my past school projects, not to mention taking photographs and short videos whenever I go on a trip. It definitely grew the passion in me and I always seek to learn new ways to produce nicer and better quality work. For this task, I had to create a short basic promo video that will introduce the new features for ArcLab. However, this time round there is no filming required and I edited a short infographic video with images that explain the new features. Although it wasn’t relatively a film-making experience, editing a short video was equally as enjoyable for me. Watch it here!:

A couple of weeks later, I was tasked with a new company promo video. This time, with a more professional touch. The shooting experience was interesting as I got to experience how professional shoots were done. Although it wasn’t a long shoot, it was definitely an eye-opening experience. Do check out the video on ArcLab’s channels when it’s ready!

The last ‘big’ project that I worked on was the tweaking of ArcLab’s website. I was tasked to overhaul the showcase page and pricing page by having the pages look less sophisticated and better looking. It was challenging at first as I was unfamiliar with the website builder ArcLab was using, and it was a little less user-friendly compared to other website builders. Despite the issues, I made it look to the best that I could. Finally, I managed to construct a simpler and slightly more aesthetically pleasing page layout. Now, we are able to better showcase different ways ArcLab users are training their workforce through bite-sized nano learning modules like these.

Learning is made so lengthy nowadays, articles and textbooks are pages worth. Who even has the attention span to absorb everything that was written? I, too, when in school, can only absorb so much in a 2-hour long tutorial. With shorter modules and more targeted learning, information can then be absorbed effectively and ArcLab empowers bite-sized learning to be done on demand. With ArcLab’s modules, deskless workers/learners are able to learn and train without the need to be there physically.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

My intern journey was definitely fruitful and I learnt many new and intriguing things. From lunchtime talks on career and football to attending events and shows with James, it was definitely a brand-new experience for me. I must say I have fully experienced the “Adult World” and achieved my goals. Interning at ArcLab gave me the opportunity to work in a Start-up and B2B company, which without a doubt, opened up my view to the market and industry. It is not the usual B2C company where “I sell, you buy” but the whole unfamiliar and foreign B2B industry. Interning has taught me things that school would not have and my experience here has been worthwhile. This has been a great journey and it has equipped me with the skills and knowledge that I will need for my future endeavours.

Categories
Who

Many paths to success — The story of Bing

Many paths to success — The story of Bing

A short story of Bing — who helped us as we built ArcLab’s L&D mobile learning platform, and what we can learn from him.


With training and education at our platform’s core, ArcLab is honoured to work with Institutes of Higher Learning (“IHL”). One important IHL partner we support is Singapore Polytechnic (“SP”):

  1. We support SP School of Business — lecturers & students from their Dip. Human Resource Management with Psychology —who work on our ‘live’ HRTech L&D platform.
  2. 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.

ArcLab 2019 interns at EduTECH Asia 2019 | Claire, Bing & Nicholas (missing Luke — at uni, Francis — serving the nation). NOT that 2nd guy from the right 😎

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 😅.

On the ArcLab blog — I’ve written before about how we should make the opportunity for everyone to do well a reality — here, here and here.

Today, let me share the real-life example of Bing.

The Story of Bing

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.

Early ArcLab Ver 0.1 (Built by Bing, Kris, Cedric, Hei Wai, Ruiwen, Zainul, James)
Ver 0.1 Design Pillar: SIMPLE learning module creation. We still do this today.
Ver 0.1 didn’t have 5 million users. But it’s important to dream big 😉

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 later co-founded ArcLab in 2018, 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.

Bing also started me on my own coding journey. I got onto the Codecademy platform and started to do coding exercises and learn the basics of Javascript and Python (Note I’ve no ambition to be a professional programmer, but I wanted to at least read code, think like a developer and work with a technical team — which I (hopefully) was able to do when we co-founded ArcLab). Even when Bing was serving National Service, we kept in touch and he helped me out when I ran into learning roadblocks.

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.

2019 Assemble! | Francis (leftmost), Claire, Bing & Luke (in white). Our CTO Steven’s 2nd from the right.

Join us! Be like Bing.

ArcLab has just opened our 2020 call-for-interns — across various disciplines.

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! 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.

Categories
Who

On Lifelong Learning | Speaking at an SUSS event

On Lifelong Learning | Speaking at an SUSS event

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 of 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 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. You can read their full reply 😐:

https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-replies/2013/cpfs-primary-purpose-is-for-retirement


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”.

There is now even more support for Singaporeans to upgrade ourselves. SkillsFuture subsidises many training courses for adult learners, and Singaporeans above 25 years were given $500 in SkillsFuture credits to be applied towards training courses. SkillsFuture also engages employers and works with educational institutions and training partners to “ensure students and working adults have access to high quality, industry-relevant training throughout life”.

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:

  • Bite-Sized
  • 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 providing insight to the manager and organisation

ArcLab ensures effective training can be done anytime, anywhere. This saves organisations training cost 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. 🙏

Categories
Why

Snackable Self-Paced Learning for the Modern (Deskless) Worker

Snackable Self-Paced 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

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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, MoviePass. 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 — 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 are all different. We watch different movies, 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 fish ball 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 is constrained. So, often, it’s a one-sized-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 to 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.

Focusing (wrongly) on the technology

So, our first goal must be to figure out what best fits our modern-day learner. 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 shortening. That makes traditional methods of training less effective. So, the delivery needs to change, and 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 outbound 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 housed on the cloud and readily accessible for the worker to refer to, a recipe card for example, or a repair instruction for a particular machine. 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.