1 in 2 Singaporeans upskill outside workplace

Photo by Joyce Toh

As we continue to live and work with COVID-19, many workers are gearing up for an endemic world through upskilling. More than half (55%) of Singapore employees reveal that they have taken steps to seek training outside of the workplace in the last 12 months, on top of what is offered by their companies.

In addition, two in five (38%) employees say that current learning & development (L&D programmes) offered by their companies are either ‘fair’, bad’ or ‘very bad’. The reasons given for the sub-par ratings include: ‘limited range of topics covered’ (40%), ‘boring and conventional training approach’ (37%), and ‘training topics are not relevant for career advancements (18%)’.

These are some of the key findings from NTUC LearningHub (NTUC LHUB)’s recent Workforce Learning in Workplace Transformation (WLWT) report. The report is based on a survey with 150 business leaders and 300 employees across industries in Singapore, and interviews with human resource experts.

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The report also found that companies could do well from improving their training programmes as part of their talent retention strategies. According to majority of (86%) employees, the ‘availability and comprehensiveness of training courses’ are key factors for them to remain loyal to the company.

However, only less than half of employers (45%) consider L&D beneficial to employee retention. In fact, 29% of employees either perceive that their companies do not act on insights from post-training evaluations to improve training programmes, or are uncertain of what is done with their feedback.

When asked about the motivations behind upskilling outside of the workplace, workers have cited reasons ‘to stay relevant’ (70%) and ‘remain competitive during this period’ (61%). In particular, three in five (59%) employees who are negatively affected by the effects of COVID-19 are more likely to take up external training as they prepare to seek new employment, as compared to those less affected (31%).

Commenting on the findings, NTUC LHUB’s Director of Human Capital, Sean Lim, says, “Seeing employees increasingly take the initiative to upskill signals that there is a strong desire to become adaptable in these uncertain times.

“As much as this is a positive move for individual workers, it is also a call to action for businesses to provide quality L&D programmes to engage their workforce in a meaningful way and motivate them to be the best versions of themselves at work.

“Training should be used as a strategic tool to develop new capabilities for businesses to stay competitive today. As we transition into an endemic world, employees who are confident in their new skills and professional competencies would emerge stronger and have a greater sense of loyalty towards their company.”

“There needs to be a push for employees to start regularly upskilling and boosting their productivity and efficiency,” says Adrian Tan, Strategist, Future of Work at Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP).

“For businesses to be sustainable, developing human capital to be future-ready is key. Putting training at the front and centre of the business is one way to overcome the prevalent skills gaps and labour shortage. Many companies tend to hire without the intention to train. If every company only acquires talent and does not develop them, it will be harder to overcome the shrinking talent supply,”