stanley tok m1

From technology-driven courses to targeted training interventions, and a start-up immersion programme, Stanley Tok, Deputy Director, Human Resource at M1, talks about how the telco's L&D strategy helps its workforce evolve in line with the changes in the organisation and the larger ecosystem around it.

What is your organisation’s skilling strategy, and how has it evolved in recent times? How does this L&D agenda fit into your priority as a CEO/CHRO/CLO, and do you work closely with HR for this?

I’d describe M1’s skilling strategy as ‘nimble’. We are constantly working towards helping our workforce evolve as the organisation and the ecosystem around us changes.

We have a range of training & development opportunities in place for individuals across all levels in the organisation to enhance their skills. Last year, our entire workforce embarked on technology-driven courses in collaboration with leading universities and polytechnics, helping them stay abreast of the latest trends. At the department level, this is much more tailored. Employees are encouraged to share their learning and development needs with their supervisor during the annual appraisal process and are matched to relevant courses and opportunities to help them grow.

However, we believe that there’s more to upskilling than just learning in a classroom. As we are going through a digital transformation exercise, individuals at M1 are facing changes in their roles and team structures. New opportunities are being created and we’re organising targeted training interventions to address specific skills and gaps that will allow our workforce to transition into their new roles.

To tackle the changes happening in the world of work, it is now vital for companies to step up the pace of their teams’ skills development. How is your team anticipating and easing in these far-reaching changes, rather than simply dealing with the consequences? Talk us through the 1-2 major campaigns you’re undertaking.

The pandemic has changed the way businesses operate. In times like this, it’s important for an organisation’s workforce to not just learn new skills, but also to unlearn old methods – what’s worked so far may not be useful in the future.

We’re always looking to push the boundaries of our team’s growth and to place them in unique situations where they can learn to adapt to different circumstances. An example of this is our participation in a start-up immersion program for which M1 selects individuals from our workforce to spend 6 - 8 weeks at a promising start-up, so that they can unlearn their old methods and pick up new skills while working on real-life projects.

In your sector, what are the top five skills that are most in-demand? How are you scouting for and developing these capabilities?

Working in infocomm technology does require a certain level of technical skills, but M1 also places equal emphasis on a candidate’s ability to work in teams and soft skills.

In terms of technical skills, there is strong demand for individuals with an analytics background or training, and this cuts across functions. Cybersecurity and cloud computing professionals are also highly sought after at the moment. Beyond these technical skills, we also look for individuals who are intuitive and are able to work well in groups.

While hiring new employees, one of our key practices is to focus on a candidate’s values – in addition to their technical skills and competencies. To that end, we evaluate how they would blend with the M1 culture and the specific working style of their team. Doing this has gone a long way in hiring good candidates.

Last year, we also embarked on a skills transformation journey in which we tested the skills of our developers and software engineers, and compared these against a worldwide benchmark. This enabled us to look deeper into our team’s structure and skills to identify gaps and strengths. Our Chief Digital Officer took these findings into consideration to identify potential in the team and reorganise internal roles based on each employees’ strengths in a way that would truly transform the business.

On the other hand, what would you say are previously much-talked-about skills that are on their way out from the list?

In today’s times, skills do not need to be domain-specific anymore. Being an expert in a particular computer language or platform was sought-after back in the day, but that doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Instead, we now look for individuals who have a technical background but are also nimble, adaptable and able to learn new things fast.

It would be too simplistic to believe that digitalisation is the only game-changer when it comes to skills. What are some of the other key factors to take into consideration, going forward?

Digitalisation is an undeniable accelerator of re-skilling exercises in today’s business landscape. However, usually, when an organisation embarks upon such initiatives, it is because of their business objectives. These underlying needs drive digitalisation, which in turn determines the skills we need in order to achieve that end.

Nothing we do now or moving forward is the 'same old' anymore. As technologies and the business landscape evolves, we need to go above and beyond in the way we hire and develop our workforce. At M1, we begin by mapping what we want to achieve and then identify and work on the gaps we need to fill to get there.

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