Winning Secrets, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, Training Graduate Programme

With today's talents wanting a stake in the environment/career they are in, it is important that their voices are heard, and that they see positive enhancements being made, says Tan Soo Huay, Senior Manager (Early Talent Lead).

At the Employee Experience Awards 2022, Singapore held in May this year, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore walked away with the bronze award for Best Graduate Training Programme.

In an interview with Tan Soo Huay, Senior Manager (Early Talent Lead), she shares more about the team has been ramping up efforts to engage fresh hires in-person, with efforts such as strengthening the mentorship aspect into its programme, and the challenges of establishing honest and forthcoming communication channels between its programme team.

Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs and lows of your winning strategy – and how important is it for the organisation to have the strategy recognised this year?

The journey that entailed being the first in the region to launch a cybersecurity-centric graduate programme during the onset of a global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 had been a fascinating one for both the organisation and the team. When we launched the Cybersecurity Development Programme (CSDP), the team was eager to fulfil our promised prospect to develop aspiring young talents into cybersecurity professionals via an 18-month programme. We were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response to our appealing CSDP.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hampered our initial plans to engage our CSDP fresh hires in-person, the team had to adapt by redesigning CSDP and our engagement activities to ensure that our fresh hires’ positive experience would amplify even through virtual modes. The EXA award affirms the teams’ dedication, resilience, and agility in ensuring that every fresh hire that comes through CSDP will receive the best classroom and on-job-training experience. 

Q Understanding and meeting your employees’ needs and expectations is never an easy feat. How did the organisation identify the business & employee needs, and craft the perfect solution? 

CSDP’s unique selling point was designed with the fresh graduates in mind. Besides partnering with university career officers to better understand how CSDP could appeal to young talents, the team poured through survey findings to understand what fresh graduates look for in their first job. Valuable inputs, industry insights and wisdom from multiple stakeholders across various divisions within the organisation, including our senior leadership, were vital to CSDP’s conception. While there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, the team sought to build this shared commitment with our senior leadership team’s buy-in to improve employee experience via constant engagement and open communication.

As a result, it has helped crystalise many of our direct and indirect collaborations between existing stakeholders within and new incoming stakeholders (potential CSDP hires) to design a CSDP experience in which our talents can thrive.

Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organisation, in terms of ROI, when it came to fruition? Share with us the benefits of having such a strategy in place.

With the goal set to build a pipeline of trained cybersecurity professionals to alleviate the glaring gap in our local cybersecurity ecosystem, CSA built CSDP on values where diverse views and varied perspectives are respected as an open organisation to maximise positive outcomes. We induced inclusiveness and involvement across CSA’s management and internal divisions aside from engaging our CSDP officers for programme feedback and holding regular tea sessions for them to engage with CSA’s management. Taking attention to our stakeholders’ feedback, CSDP was able to continuously enhance and customise training curriculums on top of suitable training certifications as required on the job that would better prepare our officers to effectively perform their day-to-day roles.

Our CSDP graduates have since been deployed within CSA and across other government agencies with some venturing into a cybersecurity career with the private sector as well. 

Q Could you offer some recommendations to your peers across industries – what advice or lessons would you have to guide them into implementing something similar for their own EX foundation?  

Co-creation is important because talents these days want a stake in the environment/career they are in. It is important that their voices are heard, and that they see positive enhancements being made. For example, practices such as regularly engaging the hires, gathering their feedback, understanding their development needs and being open to making changes. Having an adaptive approach has proven to be instrumental to the success of our development programme as it was built upon making the best out of each employee’s experience instead of a one-size-fits-all programme. 

Q If you were to reflect, what is one thing you’ll do differently in executing this strategy? 

Our challenge of being a pioneer cybersecurity-centric graduate programme in the region was establishing honest and forthcoming communication channels between our programme team and our fresh hires. While the team sought to develop our fresh hires through CSDP, we also needed to consider how to help them own their CSDP experience into a cybersecurity career. Creating an opportunity for individuals who are passionate about exploring a cybersecurity career is important but co-creating that experience early on with our hires would have brought CSDP to a higher level of innovation.

That said, we have since introduced regular engagement and feedback sessions with the CSDP officers a year after the programme launched and will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to fill any gaps and improve the overall CSDP experience. 

Q Looking ahead, how is the organisation going to take this winning strategy higher and further in the coming years? Give us a sneak peek to into your upcoming plans to grow the overall employee experience.

Looking towards more normalcy in a COVID-19 endemic, the team has been ramping up efforts to engage our CSDP fresh hires in-person. These would include strengthening the mentorship aspect into our programme so that our employees can continue their cybersecurity journey with CSA long after their 18-month journey has ended. We look forward to building and fortifying strong camaraderie across our four CSDP cohorts (and growing!) so that more employees will remain available to tap into each other’s knowledge, experience and insights in our growing local cybersecurity ecosystem. As the saying goes ‘Cybersecurity is a team sport’, and now more than ever, the cybersecurity community must come together to do our part in securing Singapore’s cyberspace.

The team plans to track and study our retention of recent and upcoming graduates upon completion of CSDP to collect more insights into how we can enhance the employee experience for future CSDP/CSA hires. 

Q 10 years down the line, where do you see the future of HR? 

HR has been increasingly connected with the business by virtue of the digital world. In the past two years, HR adopted digital technologies and tools rapidly to support and engage the workforce while riding through the COVID-19 pandemic. Years down the line, HR would play an increasingly entrusted role by its management to partake and strategise with the business as well as weigh in on decisions where the workforce’s operations could be impacted. The future of HR would also involve innovating inclusive means to support change management from the top of an organisation down to the rank and file.

HR’s agility and adaptability in navigating the business through constant changes will be put to test, all while tailoring to individual employees’ needs especially on talent management and workforce planning in a hybrid work environment.


Image / Provided (featuring the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore team)

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!