Beyond technology disruption and its impact on jobs and skills, we also worked to address issues that our colleagues may face during these challenging times. For example, in recognition of rising cost-of-living concerns, we rolled out a one-off support to more than 14,000 junior colleagues. The support totalled close to $9 million and covered colleagues across OCBC and our subsidiaries globally.

Our commitment to our people is demonstrated by the recognition we have received, which includes the ‘IBF Inspire Award’ from The Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore (IBF), the ‘Wellbeing Innovation Award’ from Workwell Leaders and the ‘Best Employer Award in Greater China’ from HRoot.

Our vision remains unchanged; we want OCBC to be a place where the best want to work, and where our people enjoy coming to every day, for now and beyond.

Investing in our people

Building on our previous investment of $50 million, we are committing another $30 million towards employee development and mobility over the next three years from 2023 to 2025.

This, to me, is the most fundamental way we can motivate and engage our people, helping them grow with us. It also helps us build a more resilient workforce where there is a breadth of skills and not just technical domain expertise.

Training and certifying senior leaders as career coaches is one of the new programmes that we have introduced. The internal coaching certification programme, which is in line with the Internal Coaching Federation’s framework, has seen more than 20 senior leaders certified since its launch in October 2023.

All colleagues – regardless of their ranks – will be able to tap on the guidance from these coaches. This approach distinguishes our programme from others (typically, career coaches are available only to senior employees). Response to the programme, from both senior leaders and other colleagues, has been overwhelming.

An artificial intelligence (AI)-driven career marketplace is another initiative that will be made available to all colleagues globally in the second quarter of 2024. In line with the Singapore government’s push towards a skills-first approach, which is also intrinsically ours, the platform goes beyond being a regular job portal.

Personalised recommendations for roles within the Group will be delivered to colleagues. The suggestions will be derived by reviewing a colleague’s skill set based on their existing role, the courses they have completed, and the competencies required for various job openings.

In the future, colleagues will be able to apply for short-term stints within the bank (outside of their regular roles). These gig assignments provide yet another avenue to add to the skills portfolio of our colleagues.

Developing the leader in everyone

One of our learning design principles is anchored on leadership. This is all about positive modelling, guidance and sharing by leaders of all definitions. Leadership programmes at OCBC are not limited solely to senior colleagues. Instead, we offer a comprehensive suite of programmes covering self-leadership, peer leadership and organisational leadership across different ranks, including entry-level colleagues across the Bank.

Over the last five years, we have grown the number of leadership programmes by more than five times.

These programmes include the OCBC Nanyang Technological University Executive Development Programme, LEAD (a three-month programme to build key competencies from adaptability and strategic thinking, to leading courageously), OCBC INSEAD Executive Development Programme and BOLD (a group-wide senior leadership programme which provides experienced leaders with insights and perspectives on global issues affecting organisations and countries).

Through these, we equip our people for leadership success by honing their agility and ability to effectively navigate uncertain and complex situations, both individually and as leaders.

Our leadership programmes also emphasise meaning and purpose, empowering our colleagues to pursue passion projects. Guided by OCBC’s Purpose – to enable people and communities to realise their aspirations – a team of colleagues across various divisions under our LEAD programme realised an 18-month-long project in December 2023.

It was a project that contributed meaningfully to those in need, specifically those without access to digital devices.

The team was spurred on by this thought: In a digital age where much learning happens online, no one should be left behind. Not having a computer could hamper an underprivileged person’s learning opportunities, employment chances and social participation in the long run.

Through Care Corner Singapore, the team was able to distribute 120 serviceable ‘retired’ laptops to underprivileged families.

We are deeply encouraged by the commitment displayed by the team through the long hours they spent outside of work on their project, which ran far beyond the three-month LEAD programme. This demonstrates the significant impact leadership can have. It serves as an inspiration for more colleagues to follow in the future.

Building workplace diversity

In 2023, we doubled down on our hiring efforts to provide opportunities for individuals who may have been overlooked in traditional hiring practices.

We partnered three non-profit organisations – SG Enable, Autism Resource Centre and SPD – to avail employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. These individuals took on roles within our Human Resources Marketing, Digital Transformation and Operations & Technology teams.

I am pleased to share that through working with them, colleagues have found that our work culture has been enriched. We hope to build on this momentum by exploring the possibility of having a contact centre staffed by persons with disabilities eventually.

To assist with the integration of these new colleagues, job coaches and mentors are matched to them to provide on-the-job support and guidance. In collaboration with our partners, we also conducted disability awareness trainings and provided disability etiquette resources to foster understanding and sensitivity among colleagues, creating a supportive environment.

Another group in the community that we have focused on integrating into our workforce are individuals who wish to return to work – these include mums, caregivers and retirees.

Under a new programme that targets such individuals, they can take up permanent half-day work arrangements, work full- or part-time based on hours of their choice or opt for project-based gig work. At present, they have taken up roles at various bank branches, and in our Legal & Compliance and Operations teams.

We will continue to explore more opportunities to bring diversity to our OCBC workforce. With the foundation that we have put in place, we are making good progress towards realising our vision of making OCBC a place where the best want to work, and where our people enjoy coming to every day.

Jerome Syed, an individual with hearing impairment, joined OCBC’s Human Resources Marketing team as a Social Media Content Writer in August 2023.