In the midst of last year’s public health crisis, it would have been easy for companies to put training and development programmes on hold until normal operations could resume. But the best employers saw things differently, instead taking the opportunity to set up new courses, encourage online learning, and motivate staff to make the most of their unexpected time away from the office.
Those sterling efforts – and their impact - will be duly recognised at the inaugural “HR Appreciation Awards” later this month. Organised by Classified Post, the event will shine a spotlight on the actions and special initiatives taken by HR teams during the past 12 months to support employees and help their companies make it through some undoubtedly challenging times.
The awards focus on three main areas: compensation and benefits, impact as a business partner, and training and development. There is also a special award for measures introduced to minimise risks and mitigate the possible effects of Covid-19.
When considering nominees, the judges will be looking for examples of best HR practice. But they also want to hear about plans and programmes which are innovative, smart, well targeted, and offer options or solutions which have clearly made a positive difference.
In some cases, this might be seen in overall company performance, bringing benefits for customers, stakeholders and staff. In others, it could relate more to the measures adopted to keep employees safe, healthy, and still able to do their jobs effectively while working from home.
The award for training and development is specifically intended to recognise organisations which have gone out of their way to make sure staff could keep learning during the pandemic, picking up qualifications needed for future career development and acquiring all kinds of useful new skills.
Doing this has directly helped those involved, but the impact goes further. In due course, it is also likely to have a positive effect on everything from attracting talent to employer branding.
With that in mind, the judges will take account of factors such as internal and external training courses plus their accessibility and frequency. They will run the rule over each nominee’s graduate and internship recruitment schemes and, if applicable, their programmes for management trainees, leadership development, job shadowing, coaching and guidance.
Other key considerations are the in-house initiatives to support employee development and continuous learning. And attention will also be given to on-the-job training, study leave and subsidies, and special efforts to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.
“The challenges of the past year have once again shown the importance of investing in employee training and development,” says one judge Felix Yip, Associate Director (Consultancy Service) at the Centre for Human Resources Strategy and Development at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Business. “It is the best way to ensure organisations have the required skills and competencies to execute their strategic and tactical plans for both the short and longer term.”
Overall, Yip has been impressed by the range of training initiatives HR teams have introduced since early last year. These include courses or workshops on customer service, communication skills when working from home, skills to handle adversity and emotion, and the use of data analytics to make better business decisions.
“Many HR teams have been doing a great job in helping employees acquire the skills and knowledge needed to meet the changing demands of their jobs,” Yip says. “This has prepared individuals for career advancement and allowed their companies to remain competitive.”
Fellow judge Eliza Ng, Chief People and Culture Officer at the Hong Kong Productivity Council, notes that a successful training and development strategy definitely helps employers to attract and retain talent. If potential recruits, at whatever point in their careers, know continuous training is on offer, they usually equate that with good opportunities for personal development and career progression.
“Employees are more likely to feel valued if they are invested in and, therefore, are less likely to move elsewhere,” Ng says. “Importantly, we have also seen that when they receive consistent training and upskilling, it fosters creativity too.”