Flex's Frances Hai on Redefining the Learning & Development Function in the New Normal

In the recent interaction with BW People, Frances Hai, Talent Management & Talent Development Lead, Asia at Flex shared her valuable insights on the changing dynamics of learning & development function across the industries and she emphasised, "People Have to admit that change is the norm."


Given the accelerated changes at the workplace amid this pandemic and challenging economic conditions, how can employees continue to perform well while working from home?

People have to admit that change is the norm. The survivors are those who can adapt to change quickly. So working from home is the ‘new normal’. It is better to have a dedicated working place and scheduled working time with clear boundaries. Also to keep constant communication with managers and peers. Support from family is also very important. Then you will enjoy the benefit of working from home.

How do you see the larger picture of L&D and skilling initiatives across organizations and how the employee L&D strategies have evolved in the last few months?

Covid-19 has piled the significant challenges to L&D. It is not only due to budgetary constraints because of the economic situation but also the training delivery method has completely transformed from the traditional in-class lead training to virtual. During this period L&D stands closely with business and provides a more cost-effective solution with the markable return, for instance, using webinars, live-virtual, and/or e-learning. They demonstrated a high level of learning agility in the period.

COVID-19 has surfaced various skill gaps such as digitization skills and digital leadership that will need filling both in the short term as people return to work, and later, beyond the pandemic. How can organizations fill the skill gaps when their priority is business continuity and employee well-being?

The first priority for most organizations during Covid-19 is employees’ health and safety and dealing with business continuity while constantly bridging the skill gap. So it is worth spending resources on digital leadership and skills. The good thing is that there are lots of available online resources on digitization in the market. The L&D department can utilize and tailor it to meet the organization’s specific needs.

What is your advice for CHROs and people managers who face challenges to skill and re-skill their employees including cost and other bottlenecks?

Leveraging available resources with lateral and vertical integration seems more important than before. As HR professionals and people managers, we should have the courage to break boundaries with a proactive and growth mindset. More frequent and transparent communication with employees is key during these unprecedented times.

With the trust and support from employees, it is easier for them to accept the new learning toolkit or platform in order to upgrade their skill sets. We need to move more quickly from traditional leaders to multiplier leaders to motivate individuals and empower high-performance teams.

What are some key upskilling and reskilling initiatives that you have implemented in your organization and do you ensure a high-impact learning culture?

1) Design and develop more live-virtual learning programs to support the business and employees.

2) Provide e-learning platforms

3) Virtual coaching and mentoring opportunities

4) Solid system to track the status and effectiveness

Where do you see the L&D function and the role of L&D leaders five years down the line?

1) Skill upgrading from in-classroom training to more virtual programs

2) AI may take part of the job, especially for online learning. Ready to adopt the change.

3) With more and more free knowledge and tools, L&D teams need to focus more on talent management and provide the system, process or tools to guide the organization’s talent development.

L&D will play composite roles such as a consultant, advisor, COE, and business partner, to build a leadership pipeline, address business challenges, and prevent potential future problems.


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