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  • Skills For Employability In Vietnam: Three Industry Experts On The Past, Present, And Future Of Work

     

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    Fears about technology displacing jobs are unfounded. Historically technology has created more jobs than it has erased. Clearly, there’s a complex interplay of factors, such as the way climate change is creating jobs in “green” industries. However, it’s also obvious that the skills we need to be a success are changing. Here, three industry experts from Asia talk about the shifting professional landscape in Vietnam.

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    Economically, Vietnam is booming. A combination of political stability and nourishing trade deals have helped make the southeast Asian country a bright spot in the region. Another driver of growth is Vietnam’s youthful population. The average age is 35 and over half of the people of around 95 million are below 34-years-old. But as the economy grows companies are becoming more discerning about who they hire. Added to that the pool of prospective candidates has evolved. Often, the aspiration for young people in Vietnam was to live and work overseas—in countries like America, the UK, and Australia. But increasingly, young Vietnamese are looking to study and work overseas but then return home to help develop their own communities.

     

    A broad range of skills

    “We no longer look for staff with a very specialised skill set. Instead, we’re looking for employees who have a broad range of applicable skills,” Alan Malcolm begins. Currently Pearson’s head of Asia, Alan has worked in the education sector for almost 20 years progressing from sales director for Japan six years ago to head of sales and marketing for Asia to his current post as regional head. He admits that “companies might need one or two specialists across the region,” but key to employability is “flexibility.”

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    Alan is also seeing the need for skills like problem-solving and critical thinking. “People with those skills are the ones who are currently fulfilling the majority of the roles for us in Vietnam and across the region,” he explains. And active listening, particularly for sales teams, is more important than ever according to Alan. “Active listening—being able to show people that you’re listening to them—is really important, particularly in client-facing businesses. If you can show you’re engaged you’ll build a much deeper relationship,” Pearson’s head of Asia adds.

    Authentic Learning

     

    Beyond the CV

    For Huynh Thi Cao Thi, a well-written CV merely gives a candidate the chance for an interview. She is the human resources director of FPT Retail. The company employs over 4,000 staff in Vietnam at their retail stores where they sell a broad range of devices from laptops to mobile phones. In her role, Huynh Thi Cao Thi engages with two kinds of prospective employees: salespeople for their stores and administrative staff who support their sales teams.

    “Of course, a CV is still important, it’s the first thing we use to screen candidates but in an interview, I’m really looking for three things—self-confidence, good communication skills, and a positive attitude,” she explains.

    Another focus of the training programs developed by Huynh Thi Cao Thi is time management. “That’s the focus of one of the key courses our training centers deliver,” FPT Retail’s director of human resources explains. “Perhaps our staff have never been instructed in this before, but arranging their schedule and being able to meet deadlines is crucial,” she adds.

     

    Learn and relearn

    Learn and relearn

    Winnie Lam agrees. She also looks for good time management skills and flexibility in her team members but, she feels, it’s not just new hires and graduates who need to develop their skills. She thinks even experienced staff need a regular refresher. Winnie is the chief operating officer for Colliers International Vietnam. She has acted on the board of CanCham Vietnam, for the Canadian chamber of commerce, and for the Hong Kong Business Association in Vietnam, as well as being the director for the TMF Group and AB Horizon Vietnam.

    Winnie sees that a fixed skill set is liable to outdate a prospective candidate’s opportunities for success in the job market quicker than ever. “There are a lot of new titles and obviously lots of new functions that people are performing,” Winnie muses, “so even experienced people like me need to learn and relearn otherwise we won’t be able to access new positions simply because things are being done so differently.”

    Winnie has also noticed that her staff are less observant than before, perhaps because of their over-reliance on technology. “People are so focused on the screen they don’t realize what’s happening around them. There are times I want them to drop their devices and just be present and aware of what is happening,” she says.

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    Colliers International Vietnam are also committed to training staff to develop their soft skills while encouraging self-study in hard skills. “We want our staff to seek out learning in hard skills themselves. But we actively train soft skills because I think our staff need a model that we can expose them to because they need to understand clearly what soft skills should look like,” Winnie Lam adds. “I think soft skills trump hard skills now and in the future,” she smiles finally. For more information on Future Skills please visit Skilling Up for 2020: A View from Asia.

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  • The Vietnamese Companies Powered By Learning Millennials

    All eyes are on Vietnam. That’s because the ambitious Southeast Asian country’s young, tech-savvy population is helping position it as a future global leader in industries like blockchain technology. But what is it like harnessing the skills of a country with 40% of its population under 25, and how are some of Vietnam’s biggest employers making learning key to help train and retain their teams?
     

    The Impact Of Millennials On The Vietnamese Workforce

    “Work-readiness skills have developed considerably. Sometimes, however, this generation complete tasks quickly but with less accuracy,” a senior representative of Vietnam Airlines’ Cabin Crew Division, shrugs. It’s February, and along with two other Vietnamese human resource leaders, he’s in Da Nang to talk about “The Future of Learning” on behalf of Pearson.

    Today, Vietnam Airlines, the country’s state-owned national carrier, employs around 33,000 people. A relatively young airline—it only became Vietnam’s flag carrier in 1993 compared, for example, to Garuda Indonesia which made its first flight in 1949—it has witnessed rapid recent development in line with the country’s strong economic growth. It joined IATA, the International Air Transport Association, in 2006, and became part of SkyTeam, the world’s second-largest airline alliance, in 2010. In 2015, Vietnam Airlines also proudly became only the second airline in the world to operate both next-generation Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350 aircraft. Despite that, the company is seeing increased competition from airlines like the marketing-savvy, low-cost local upstart, VietJet Air—Vietnam’s first “privately owned new-age airline.”

    “Millennials are different from previous generations by how well-connected they are. Most important for them is the balance between their working life and the community they belong to,” Mr. Do Ngoc Hoang, Chief Human Resources Officer for FPT Software, adds. FPT Software, part of the global FPT Corporation, is Vietnam’s largest and fastest growing IT company. A global leader in technology, outsourcing, and IT services, they employ over 10,000 software engineers (part of their 28,000 global workforce).

    Naturally, Vietnam’s economic growth has also provided the country’s young generation—40% of the population is under 25—with choice. The country dubbed the “ambitious new kid on the block” with a 7% annual growth rate, looks set to follow the regional pattern set by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and more recently China, to move out of poverty. The question is when, and not if. Already, there are more enticing job possibilities for Vietnamese millennials than ever before. “This generation, I feel, are more confident and adaptable in handling new situations and solving problems. However, with confidence comes a reduction in loyalty. When they feel they have enough experience they will change to another job. This is a challenge among companies in Vietnam today, and within my company too,” Vietnam Airlines’ senior representative adds.
     

    Becoming A Learning Organization

    How can Vietnamese companies retain the talent of this young mobile generation? And how can they develop the skills among their employees who are digital-savvy but who also perhaps have shorter attention spans than previous generations?

    “For our frontline staff, even among those who have been well-educated, communication can still be a challenge. We have taken some novel solutions to help them develop. For example, we send key staff to five-star restaurants to put them in the customer’s shoes and understand what exemplary customer service feels like first hand,” Vietnam Airlines’ General Manager for Safety and Quality Assurance for their Cabin Crew Division explains about the ways the airline is trying to use service to distinguish itself from its competitors.

    “Our approach to workplace monitoring is changing too. We can no longer measure our employees simply by the time they spend in the office. Instead, we should look to monitor things like quality and customer satisfaction,” Mr. Le Phi Hung from Vietnam Export Import Commercial Joint-Stock Bank’s HR Division says. EXIMBANK, which began operations in 1992, was one of Vietnam’s first joint-stock commercial banks and today is one of Vietnam’s largest with around 207 branches nationwide. “Added to that, companies should embrace the culture of a learning organization. The learning environment is the key,” Mr. Le Phi Hung adds.

    “Being a ‘learning organization’ is a nice term, and it is crucial for staff retention, but how can we truly become one?” FPT Software’s Chief Human Resources Officer asks. It’s a question these three companies have all confronted in recent years.

    “Learn something, apply it everywhere, and share it with someone.”

    Geographically located in one of the world’s most dynamic regions, there are high hopes that Vietnam, without the legacy issues of more developed nations, can quickly leapfrog competitors to be one of the world’s leading tech-driven economies. This is being supported by government-level initiatives like the NATECD (the National Agency for Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development), which provides incubation and acceleration support to start-up businesses in the country.

    Companies like FPT are harnessing the same spirit to help train and retain their staff. One of the software giant’s solutions to becoming a learning organization has been to implement nano-learning; a response that attempted to work with and utilize the powers of FPT’s huge national network. “Two years ago, we began to seriously think and discuss how to ensure people are learning throughout their working lives,” FPT’s Mr. Do Ngoc Hoang continues. Motivating a huge national network of employees with the desire to learn was a major challenge. We have over 10,000 people who are busy and cannot always attend training programs provided by the company. Setting a career framework and a learning map was important; so too was having learning metrics with mandatory courses that mix online, blended, and in-class training. But still, employees often felt no motivation to join our learning programs.”

    “We began to integrate nano-learning—small chunks of applicable knowledge—using three-minutes-or-less videos. This followed our motto of ‘learn something, apply it everywhere, and share it with someone.’ We asked our staff to create the videos that might be on technical topics, interpersonal skills, or even how to use English in specific contexts. Those videos are uploaded onto our e-Learning platform and shared. If a video receives a high rating and many views, they receive a financial reward. This worked. People really do actively submit content and others watch and apply the bite-sized ideas presented. What’s more, they are often motivated to dig deeper through self-study into the new topic that they have discovered. It’s also meant our workers are reflecting upon their knowledge, and, as content creators, thinking about how to explain the idea creatively with the maximum impact,” FPT’s Mr. Do Ngoc Hoang says.

    “The accessibility of knowledge has changed,” Vietnam Airlines’ senior representative agrees. “It’s how well we can get our employees to apply that knowledge effectively to what they do that is the key,” he smiles finally.

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