Social enterprise NTUC Health won the silver award for 'Best Graduate Training Programme' at the Employee Experience Awards 2022, Singapore. We interview Joan Tay, Head, Human Resources, NTUC Health (pictured above, centre) to find out how NTUC Health's healthcare graduate programme is helping to bridge manpower shortage in a sector critical to the nation's stability.
Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs-and-lows of your winning strategy – and how important is it to have the strategy recognised this year?
Our highlight has been that we are one of the first community care providers in Singapore to offer a programme to hone candidates to be the future leaders of NTUC Health.
Among the challenges we faced include:
- The lack of awareness and interest in the community care sector,
- The community care setting being perceived to be less attractive compared to the acute care setting,
- Misconception that working with seniors can be difficult,
- Graduates’ preference to further studies before starting work.
It was important to us to have this strategy recognised as our healthcare graduate programme (HGP) is one of our talent management strategies to attract talents to join the community care sector, through engagement and by retaining them through various developmental opportunities. This contributes to our people strategy - where we address key areas to attract, develop and retain a skilled workforce to support the needs of our ageing population:
- Be the employer of choice in the eldercare sector,
- Business continuity - identify and address issues required to retain employees,
- Ensure that employees (existing and new) have the right skills and multidisciplinary thinking to deliver desired models of care and organisational excellence.
Q Understanding and meeting your employees’ needs and expectations is never an easy feat. How did NTUC Health identify the business & employee needs, and craft out the perfect solution?
One of the main business challenges that our sector faces is the shortage of manpower for our ground care staff such as staff nurse and community care associates. These ground care staff make up to 90% of our total workforce, and they are essential in providing quality service to our clients.
When the pandemic unfolded in early 2020, our borders were closed and this had a significant impact on the hiring of care staff - mainly nurses - as most of them typically come from overseas. We were quick to turn around and devise a plan to overcome this shortage, and we implemented action plans to train and hire the local workforce. We tapped on and supported other government-led initiatives such as the SGUS and WSG programmes, and piloted the HGP to recruit young talents.
We also embarked on a job redesign journey to reduce duplication of efforts and the need for night shift for our nurses.
Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience, in terms of ROI, when it came to fruition? Share with us the benefits of having this in place.
In the last three years, NTUC Health has grown from 1,054 to close to 1500 employees. Some of the foundational HR services such as recruitment, training and development, and staff engagement have been in place to measure the effectiveness of our workforce - succession planning and talent management are two manpower strategies to build leadership capabilities and pipelines.
As listed above, the HGP also helps us attract talents to join the community care setting, engage and retain them through various interesting and accelerated developmental opportunities.
Q Could you offer some recommendations to your peers across industries into implementing something similar for their own EX foundation?
To first start with building the right environment - one which supports / enables your colleagues to get the work done. This will help your leaders see how important such an environment is in generating a powerful experience.
Q If you were to reflect, what is one thing you’ll do differently in executing this strategy?
Post-pandemic, (we would) do more to design an inclusive strategy to create an environment where it is safe to contribute, safe to learn, and safe to challenge the status quo.
Q Looking ahead, how is NTUC Health going to take this winning strategy higher and further?
Moving forward, we aim to:
- Invest our efforts to build the HGP and create new pathways to attract fresh graduates by collaborating with tertiary institutes - for example on 13 June 2022, NTUC Health initiated an inaugural hackathon event (coined ComKathon) with Republic Polytechnic targeting approximately 180 students where we awarded teams for the most innovative solution, best and unique presentation, and most pragmatic award,
- Strengthen our corporate branding and awareness of the community care sector though social media outreach and recruitment advertorials,
- Coaching our managers to mentor younger employees and embark on job design initiatives, introducing new ideas on engaging with our younger employees.
Q 10 years down the line, where do you see the future of HR?
The future of HR is a continuous journey to make it easier and simple for employees to learn and contribute, it is about building an inclusive environment for all.
Photo / Provided (featuring the winning NTUC Health team at the Employee Experience Awards 2022)