Workplace Learning Partnerships with SMEs

SkillsFuture is notable for its emphasis away from paper qualifications, often characterised by a heavy component of classroom learning, to skills development and mastery. Workplace learning, or learning that takes place “at work, for work, and through work” (Evans et al., 2010, p. 153) is particularly imperative as what is learnt at workplaces is often practical, context-dependent and implicit knowledge (Butler et al., 2004) and described as ‘gradual release’ of knowledge, “rather than ‘front-loading’” (Evans et al., 2011).
Moreover, workplace learning is especially critical for SMEs who seldom have established learning and development structures and dedicated training personnel deployed. For such organisations to foster a more conducive workplace, it is essential to scrutinise the norms and practices of the workplace and how they impact organisation performance. Doing so requires SMEs to afford access to and collaborate with an external Continuing Education and Training (CET) practitioner in designing and enacting interventions aimed at using the “challenges of work itself, the organisation of work and the social interactions at work” (Hoyrup & Elkjaer, 2006, p.29) as the wellspring of improved individual work and organisational performance.

Venturing Into Workplaces
To support CET practitioners in moving beyond formal and structured classroom training, the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) runs the Certified Workplace Learning Specialist (CWLS) programme to partner enterprises in adopting workplace learning. As a certification requirement, IAL deployed ‘trainee’ Workplace Learning Specialists (WLS), mainly experienced freelance adult educators, to work with enterprises in diagnosing and scoping learning and performance issue(s), co-creating, implementing, and evaluating a workplace learning intervention to address the issue(s).
At the same time, IAL also sought to understand the common enablers and barriers to effective adoption of workplace learning among enterprise partners and the benefits experienced by various stakeholders involved. The figure below shows the critical factors enablers to promote workplace learning within from without, including potential benefits to the individual and organisation when done well.

Systematic analysis and constant stakeholder engagement
First, a thorough organisation analysis to uncover the organizational objectives, culture, vision, human and financial resources and management style is required. Second, job analysis, by understanding the roles and responsibilities of the given job role vis-à-vis the required competencies needs to be undertaken. Lastly, learner analysis, understanding the individual abilities and/or of the socio-cognitive and relational dimensions are critical for effective interventions.
Be user-centric and manage change by results
Effective interventions are outcomes of continuous negotiation between what management deems to be issues worth tackling and what ultimately matters to individual workers, including job satisfaction and self-efficacy. Help workers adopt new and better approaches to working that boosts their confidence and promotes motivation for further learning.
Engage managers and supervisors as the catalyst for change and provide scaffolding and support
Position workplace learning interventions as particularly beneficial to managers who may be expected to shoulder the burden of “extra work” needed at the onset of any intervention. Despite the short term pain, longer-term time savings and benefits of managing a more high-performing team should be apparent to managers.
Foster collaborative social learning
Engaging in social learning activities fosters co-construction of knowledge and meaning as well as enriching and enlarging personal understanding. Moreover, communities of practice also give individuals access to wider networks of people who can ‘coach’ them when their supervisor cum coach is unavailable.
Create a virtuous cycle between enablers and benefits of workplace learning
Enhancing managerial capabilities to provide coaching and feedback can promote performance, and in turn, individual motivation to exercise more personal agency. This results in higher optimization of learning opportunities at work and strengthens an organization culture of learning and performance.

Our Enterprise Partners
Hear directly from our enterprise partners on how workplace learning has made a difference to how staff learn and work everyday! 

Some case studies of completed enterprise projects:-

As a leading service residency operator, Ascott prides itself on delivering consistent and high quality guest experiences across all its properties. Developing staff who are competent and confident at handling guest requests not covered in established operating procedures can be a big challenge for already lean guest service teams.

Click here to learn how Ms Linda Lim, a guest service manager, developed invaluable coaching skills and dispositions to better support her staff in independent problem solving whilst enhancing team camaraderie too.

As one of Singapore’s leading home-improvement brands, ensuring that staff have a strong grasp of product knowledge to value-add to customers is critical to the business. This can be very challenging for new staff especially with the proliferation of different product ranges and higher customer expectations. 

Click here to learn how Mr Nur Hidayah Bte Zulkapli, a store manager at Home-Fix, learnt to adopt different workplace learning methods to help his team improve their customer engagement skills and enhance customers' retail experiences...

EM Services is a company that provides township management services to different town councils in Singapore. Their property officers often have to act as an intermediary between residents and various contractors and government agencies and handle many unexpected exigencies independently during their estate walk-arounds.

Click here to learn how Cindy Low, an assistant property manager, benefitted from a more intentional system of workplace learning to train new staff and interns and renewed her passion for the job in the process.

As a company that specialises in precision machining services for highly complex and customized specifications, CKE Manufacturing is always looking for ways to enhance staff capability and reduce error re-work rates. To address this business imperative, CKE used workplace learning to improve consistency of On-The-Job training (OJT) and increase operational efficiency.

Click here to learn how Mr Goh Heng Huat, a senior production staff who has more than 10 years of technical experience benefitted from the process and learnt new ways of developing new staff...