Making Employees Rounded in Skills and Happy at Work

By Samantha Khoo

November 2022 UPSKILLING FOR THE FUTURE
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THE MODERN WORKPLACE is evolving fast. For one thing, employee happiness stemming from a fulfilling job is becoming increasingly important, and is now recognised by all for its correlation to company productivity, employee retention and turnover rates.

Indeed, how long would you stay at a company that does not value you? 

Probably not too long.

There is also a rising emphasis on soft skills development – yes, the subsection of the resume that outlines our professional ability to communicate, collaborate and be creative. It is hard to define and even harder to teach, but it now makes all the difference.

With 110 years of expertise in light and optical solutions, ams OSRAM would agree that industrial knodge and technical know-how are must-haves for any recruit. But beyond the hard skills, the company sees value in investing in the professional development of its employees, and with a strong emphasis on cultivating leadership skills.

During an interview with Glen Brownlie, Managing Director of ams OSRAM Malaysia, he remarked, “The knowledge of a company lies with those who do the job every day. If you treat those people right and treat them with respect, you’ll improve the whole company.” 

Previously, ams Osram was very good at training supervisors in technical skills: understanding the cycle time, how to measure a machine, et cetera. Nevertheless there were lapses when it came to interpersonal and collaborative skills. “I wanted to make sure there is a focus on how [the supervisors] treat their operators and technicians with respect to get the best out of them,” he elaborates.

In partnership with Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC), ams OSRAM launched the company’s first Supervisory Skills Development Programme in 2021. The programme rolled out in November 2021 and ran for over eight months, until July 2022. A total of 40 supervisors from ams OSRAM enrolled in the training, with two intakes of 20 persons each time. 

This upskilling process at PSDC has three main facets that make it effective: training, monitoring and sustainability.

Glen Brownlie, Managing Director of ams OSRAM Malaysia.

Training

The training facet identifies the target audience (in this case, the internal supervisors of ams OSRAM) and the skills gap. “I was highly involved at the beginning when we created the programme,” Glen Brownlie recalls. He identified the skills that each of his supervisors needed to develop. These became the learning outcomes used to guide the content of the training modules and workshops. 

He lists the three most important indicators of an excellent supervisor: ownership, collaboration, as well as teamwork and people skills. First, he wanted his supervisors to feel a sense of ownership over their department and floor. Then, he wanted them to collaborate with other departments, rather than work in isolation. Finally, he wanted them to treat, grow and develop their team with the utmost respect. He believes a company is only as strong as its employees. Each training module is equipped with a secure framework of assessments to determine if the participants have achieved the skills target set. 

Monitoring

The monitoring facet evaluates the participants’ performance at every stage of the programme: before, during and after. First, participants undergo a pre-test to indicate their present competencies and skills. Then, participants are assessed for comprehension and progress during the programme. Finally, they sit for a post-test. 

This rigorous and structured evaluation framework has resulted in thorough and fair progress reports. It is not only the participants who are assessed. To gauge the effectiveness of the programme, the trainers and curriculum are also appraised by the participants. 

Sustainability

PSDC acknowledges that the sustainability of the workforce upskilling programme is vital. The upskilling does not stop when the programme ends. In fact, after the participants graduate from the training, PSDC trainers continue to collaborate with the Heads of Departments at ams OSRAM. Frequent discussions and regular drop-ins to the factory help determine the ever-expanding needs of the company and the performance of the supervisors.

Similarly, the supervisors have a safe space to share their needs and challenges with the management. Following this insight, PSDC and ams OSRAM have continued to develop modules to facilitate this process.

Results Achieved

When assessed on their supervisory skills after the training, the participants' results were highly satisfactory. They scored an average of 4.5 out of 5 for each of the five modules. Their scores reflect just how much they have improved in terms of effective communication and stress management.

Vanita a/p Krishnan, a graduate from the first cohort, says that she appreciated the two-way communication with her mentor. The training was not simply directed at teaching the participants the curriculum. Rather, the added value was the space to discuss production issues with her mentor.

Another graduate, Ellie Suhana binti Syed Ibramsah, echoes the effectiveness of the training in developing herself as a supervisor. “After this programme, my listening skills improved. I can communicate well with my subordinates and I believe I can be a good leader after going through all the modules,” she explains.

There is only so much teambuilding activities can do to foster teamwork. However, the training inspired and empowered the leaders to not just take on the role of a leader, but hold the qualities and knowledge to be a leader.

Leadership demands a repertoire of soft skills and values, and one of the graduates has indeed observed that after the programme. “I managed to engage with my operators, build trust and integrity, accountability, and passion to win,” says Muhammad Farid bin Noor Affendi. He adds, “I have since become more alert and proactive in every situation that arises during production.”

The Effort Continues

Being the first of its kind, the Supervisory Skills Development Programme has already produced noticeable positive differences among the supervisors who have graduated from PSDC’s training programme.

According to Glen Brownlie, his supervisors experienced a mindset shift in their leadership. He has observed how the level of engagement of his supervisors with their teams have increased. The leadership approach adopted by the graduates has also proved to be better for the company’s general culture than those used by supervisors who have not undergone the training.

With the demand for soft skills in employees on the rise, this Supervisory Skills Development Program is just the beginning of an exciting journey for PSDC. More training programmes are being planned to build work-ready professionals who are competent in both hard skills and soft skills.

Samantha Khoo

is a personal blogger since her teenage years who has always enjoyed stringing words together. Her dream is to live off-grid in a cottage with all the coffee, ink and paper she can have.


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