How can employers help boost the capabilities of their staff?

Two C-Suite leaders from British Telecom and SATS Ltd respectively offer their insights.

James Hennah

Managing Director, Southeast Asia

British Telecom

According to  the World Economic Forum, over one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed in just five years from now.

The onus is not just on the employees to worry about brushing up on the skills front. Companies too, must find ways to hire and hold on to their best people, whether it is hiring more female leaders, engaging their ageing workforce, or creating a working environment that supports the work-life needs of a multi-generational workforce.

As a recognised progressive employer managing 87,000 people across 180 countries, British Telecom (BT) has been highly successful in grooming talent in the region, where we have over 5,000 staff. We have created a great place to work for employees and a rewarding environment for them to have opportunities to positively contribute, grow, and succeed.

Staying true to the core of our business, we use technology to our advantage even when it comes to talent development. At BT, we have the Academy, which is a centralised, global platform that focuses on boosting employees’ capabilities.  The myriad of learning techniques offered through the Academy range from on-the-job training to formal coaching and traditional training.

We also believe that leadership development programmes are vital for sustainable business growth.

At BT, we have three unique and intense leadership programmes designed to equip our leaders with the skills and behaviours to get the best out of our people and grow the business.

BT also fosters cross-collaboration and innovation from within through the “BT Challenge Cup” – an annual competition that encourages employees from different departments to work together in devising the best solutions to specific business problems.

We all agree that innovation is occurring at an unprecedented rate. That, in turn, is generating gaps in nearly every country and industry between the skills workers have, and the skills employers need. In Asia, where the pool of talent is limited and the competition for experienced and skilled professionals is fierce, employers need to always look at innovative ways to upskill, retrain, and boost the capabilities of their staff to ensure their workforces are future-ready.


Lilian Tan

Senior Vice President of Human Capital


Creating learning opportunities for employees to develop new skills and capabilities is vital to an organisation’s ability to innovate and increase its productivity.

SATS adopts a technology-driven, people-led approach in employee upskilling and job enlargement. We invest in technology to enhance our capabilities to handle large-scale operations efficiently and better serve our customers. At the same time, this has enabled us to redesign our people’s jobs and enrich their roles so that we can remunerate them based on a progressive wage model as they advance with us.

For example, the SATS eCommerce AirHub deploys technology to triple mailbag processing capacity and deliver quicker turnaround for international eCommerce mail. In conjunction with this, we have implemented training programmes to help the team acquire additional skills to manage the technology.

This has allowed us to consolidate the roles of forklift driver, cargo handler, and cargo coordinator into a new higher-value job position called “eHub Specialist”. To date, 18 employees have been reassigned to this role after undergoing three months of classroom and training.

To encourage our people to embrace technology, SATS adopts a bottom-up approach to identifying areas where we could use technology. For example, our executives in Technical Ramp services leverage the Internet of Things with the use of smart watches and bone conduction headsets to provide employees with real-time notifications.

In addition, we also run programmes in parallel to support the developmental needs of our people at appropriate junctures of their careers. Our “STEP” programme is targeted at general employees to equip them with relevant skills to take on larger roles, while our “LEAP” programme focuses on helping executive level employees develop the skills required to advance to management level.

Through harnessing technology, we have achieved a 310 basis point expansion in operating margin and 7.7% increase in Value Added per Employee Contribution over the past three years. Our wage cost over the same period has grown 7% while staff strength has declined 4.28%. As much as we invest in technology, we must also invest in our people through training.

The legal face of the contingent workforce
Yamini Chinnuswamy - 14 May 2018
As project-based, freelance, and gig work become increasingly de rigueur, the laws surrounding such arrangements have come under increasing scrutiny.
Serviced stays in the heart of Asian business
HRM Asia - 30 Apr 2018
Business in Asia-Pacific has become a regional exercise, with plenty of mobility for key staff between each market. Serviced apartments are an important enabling tool for all of that travel.
United Airlines' employee bonus debacle
HRM Asia - 26 Apr 2018
There are a few HR lessons from a recent United Airlines staff bonus lottery scheme that was subsequently rescinded.
Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen's surprising take on the gig economy
Kelvin Ong - 18 Apr 2018
The founder of one of Southeast Asia's most widely-used delivery service is certainly not one to bite his tongue.
Workplace wellness worries
HRM Asia - 18 Apr 2018
A new study finds that wellness programmes in the US may not actually yield any company savings or produce healthier employees.
The vacation-deprived: Who these people are, and why they matter
HRM Asia - 22 Mar 2018
Asia-Pacific is the most vacation-deprived region in the world. Are companies here ensuring that their people are taking some much-needed time off?