Are We Supportive In Developing And Upgrading Our Staffs?

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A couple of years ago, I conducted a workshop where we trained learners in areas of cross functional soft skills.

One of the activities involve an activity of reflection and sharing on the topic of personal development. A few of them aspired to go all the way to get a diploma and there were some who wished to use the new found skills to find a good job.

One of the learners shared that he has been keeping his skills upgrading initiative, a secret from his employer. Curious, I asked him why. He said that his employer is not, at all, supportive of staff taking courses for fear of high turnover.

Another learner seated next to him agreed and shared that her supervisor is concerned about staff ‘spoiling the market’. For those readers not familiar with this terminology, ‘Spoiling the market’ also means ‘Breaking away from status quo and creating a new benchmark’.

I remembered an incident a few months earlier, I received a call from a workplace supervisor of a learner from my class at that time. In that particular module, the learners were given a workplace checklist that requires their supervisors to monitor these learners at work and suggest some areas of improvement in terms of performance.

There were only three questions and all three were simple multiple choice questions. Apparently, this supervisor was unhappy about this added paperwork and told me that it was not his responsibility. I tried to explain the benefit of this ultra-simple exercise but he simply refused to listen.

Instead, he accused me of potentially using these data for publication to humiliate his company and his employee. It got me heated up for a short while but I quickly reminded myself to stay centered and to learn something from that conversation. Unfortunately, that supervisor slammed the phone on me.

The learner came up to me in class and apologized for what happened. I asked him if he faced any challenges at work? He nodded and told me that ever since started taking external courses, he got a hard time from his supervisor. According to him, his supervisor was not really keen in his personal development initiative even though his manager gave the green light.

It was an interesting find. While some companies are campaigning for productivity and innovation, there are some that aren’t supportive of staff upgrading. I decided to just chat with a few ground and supervisory staffs to find out more. While this finding is non-conclusive, those who appear to be more receptive to staff upgrading are usually;
1. owners of the companies. Especially in Singapore, these owners realized that staff upgrading brings multiple benefits to them.

2. Supervisors or team leaders who are also upgrading. They see the value of upgrading and they would love to work with a better skilled team. Interestingly, these group of people are very positive and organized. They have a cheerful personality.

Those who so not seem to support staff upgrading;
1. is always grumpy and complaints about everything at work. Sick and tired of this or that etc. It’s a real wonder that they never got sick and tired of complaining. Look, I am not against grumpy behavior and you may have your own good reason to be grumpy. Like I said earlier, it’s my own non-conclusive find.


For some reason, those workplace leaders who displayed their disapproval of staff leaving 30minutes earlier for an upgrading course, do project a grumpy personality. They felt that upgrading is a waste of time and creates inconvenience for them and the rest of the team.

Now, a question popped in my mind; How supportive are we, really, in developing and upgrading our staffs? If we do see the value in learning, how do we bring this down to the team leaders and supervisors?

I think this is where a learning culture will come in handy. Wealth management companies have developed an interesting system which enforces a learning culture; they made it mandatory for their agents to meet certain training hours or some benefits will be removed.

Supervisors are required to ensure that the training hours are met. Yes, they may be of different industry or different system or different people but let’s think about it. If a supervisor knows that the team may lose some benefits if they do not clock certain training hours, will he/she be more supportive in sending staffs for upgrading?



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