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Learning and Development at the Pace of COVID-19

Friday, February 5, 2021

At Tan Tock Seng Hospital & Central Health, we concluded our yearly learning needs analysis (LNA) exercise with fantastic results at the senior management meeting. Use of learning places was at an all-time high, and we received great feedback on program utility.

The hospital's Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI), our new resource for learning, hosted an international conference pioneering the concept of co-learning and workforce transformation. The 2020 learning plan was crafted to continue keeping the workforce agile and relevant. Senior management endorsed the plan with a generous learning budget. But it was not to be. The COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.

Overnight, the center, which was built for learning and innovation, was converted to outbreak use, and all training activities ceased. But only for a few days as we took stock.

The hospital has always acknowledged learning and development as the cornerstone for delivering good and safe care, building resilience and agility, and developing collective leadership. While many organizations in Singapore started to cut nonessential business activities like training, we ramped them up to build capabilities to combat and defeat the virus. However, the balance between conducting business as usual (BAU) and increasing outbreak capacity and capability had to be negotiated with key stakeholders. For instance, as ICU capability increased, we continued managing non-COVID-19 patient activities via telemedicine and triaged those who needed to be seen in the hospital.

The learning and development (L&D) unit was invited to be an active member of the integrated outbreak management team together with Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). At these meetings, we discussed:

  • Essential and nonessential learning activities (like the continuation of donning of PPE training for allied health professionals who were swabbing and the halting generic skills training)
  • Keeping staff engaged and resilient (new employees were onboarded and stayed connected to senior leadership through microlearning and virtual facilitation; welfare officers stayed current and connected through a series of specially designed microlearning content and virtual calls to learn how to provide continuous emotional and mental support to those battling on the frontlines)
  • Pushing learning into cyberspace
  • Equipping subject matter experts with tools to develop micro- and e-learning capabilities
  • Reaching out to educate and activate our patient community, including serving those with chronic illness, developing materials for home-based care givers and volunteers, and providing telemedicine

It has been more than 10 months since a microscopic bug disrupted our lives. We know deep down that norms and perceptions toward L&D will change.

The common measures of use and effectiveness reports will become passe. Management is no longer interested in these. What has taken center stage can be encapsulated into the slogan learning anytime, anywhere. Being agile and digital will become the new art and science of the learning and development function.


So, what have we learned?

  • Capability and competency-building are key. Competency of skillsets operates the BAU of the hospital. However, capability building prepares staff to iteratively reinvent jobs as the demand changes.
  • Resilience and agility are two sides of the same coin. Resilience is built around consistency and mastery; agility makes one nimble to change. Both are trainable and essential to digitalization.
  • Digitalization is the bridge between process and behavior. It helps to keep the workforce relevant to changing needs. Having learning in your pocket, such as a mobile device (pun intended), enables social and just-in-time learning.

We need to keep the business of the hospital going. Much of the learning budget will be ring-fenced commmitted to do this. While this will keep our chief financial officers sane and BAU going, it may not serve to equip staff to reinvent themselves for the unexpected.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of equipping staff with design thinking, prototyping, improvement, and innovation to change the way they learn and work as the situation changes. This is learning and growing at the pace of change.

Stay tuned as we share our story on the shifts in learning needs analysis with COVID-19.

About the Author

Hwee Chin Lee has more than 12 years of experience in instructional design, training, and consulting. Her key strengths include curriculum reviews and development, e-course development and designing of validation systems.

As a learning solutionist in Centre for Healthcare Innovation, Hwee Chin supports driving workforce transformation and facilitating knowledge transfer within and beyond the hospital through defining new andragogy and learning initiatives like microlearning.

Prior to joining Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Hwee Chin accumulated her vast L&D experience in her roles across various industries (ranging from Military to Education) which required her to manage and drive learning initiatives, develop competency frameworks, design and operationalise learning solutions etc.

About the Author

A change maker steeped in valuable experience, David Dhevarajulu leads Singapore’s healthcare transformation as the executive director of the Centre for Healthcare Innovation at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, a co-learning network with a mission to build thought leadership, drive workforce transformation and enable healthcare training through new andragogy. In this role, David helms a team that encourages co-learning and collaborations across borders and industries, facilitate job redesign, drive innovative initiatives and projects, as well as oversee the operations of the Ng Teng Fong Centre for Healthcare Innovation, the largest purpose-built innovation centre with MICE facilities.

Prior to this, David was the Director of various departments including Kaizen, Management Development, Organisational Development (OD) and Operations respectively. With his extensive experience and an acute understanding of both the healthcare industry and human resource transformation, David sits on numerous hospital and cluster committees and workgroups, to provide expert advice and insights. He has successfully driven many organization-wide transformation, staff engagement and change initiatives and has been instrumental in helping the hospital acquire numerous awards and accolades.

For his dedicated and significant contributions to the National Healthcare Group and public service, David was awarded the TTSH Staff Excellence Award (Gold), the NHG Outstanding Citizenship Award and National Day Commendation Medal (2019).

David is an Engineer by training with a Masters of Science in Human Resource Management from the Leicester University. He also holds certification in Strategic Planning from the Michigan University, Training and Development from IPD(UK), and Lean Healthcare from the Belmont University Graduate School.

David is a certified Erickson Coach with ICF credentials.

About the Author

David Hendrick, Jr., is director of People Development Centre for Healthcare Innovation Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

An experience and avid practitioner, Hendrick has more than 20 years of experience in learning and development. David leads the learning arm of Centre for Healthcare Innovation where he is responsible for driving workforce transformation and facilitating knowledge transfer within and beyond the hospital to develop a future-ready workforce through defining new learning pedagogies. His stint at Centre for Healthcare Innovation has seen him sharing his experience at various local institutions, as well at global events such as ATD Virtual Conference 2020, and ATD China Summit 2020.

Prior to joining Tan Tock Seng Hospital, David was responsible for the opening of the Asia Pacific Learning Campus, the first outside Germany, for BASF, the largest chemical company in the world. The Learning Campus focused on training leaders across Asia Pacific in this multidiscipline organisation. David also spearheaded the full spectrum of Learning and Organisational Development needs for Frasers Centrepoint Limited’s (now called Frasers Property) 3 core businesses, Frasers Centrepoint Homes, Frasers Centrepoint Malls and Frasers Hospitality. His role required him to identify opportunities to strengthen and enhance leadership capabilities.

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