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Understanding the Five Most Important Employee Engagement Factors

April 29th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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In the past 22 years, my career has centered around overseeing employees in various managerial roles, across different industries, and with diverse groups of people coming together as part of the workflow. Through these years, and differing environments, I’ve become aware of the one obstacle no manager likes to face: having a disengaged, unmotivated team. Unfortunately, current statistics on global employee engagement confirm that many executives are living with this challenge.

According to Gallup’s most recent 142-country State of the Global Workplace report, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. That translates to roughly one in eight employees in the countries studied being actually committed to their jobs. Most employees, the other 87 percent, are simply not engaged, feeling unhappy and unproductive according to Gallup.

Despite these seemingly bleak statistics, leaders grappling with a disengaged team are hardly helpless. I’ve come to learn certain strategies and tactics over the years which help executives focus on key predictors of how engaged their employees will be. I’ve learned most importantly that people are social animals and their surrounding colleagues, especially their managers, usually have the most significant impact on whether an employee makes an effort at work – or simply does the bare minimum required.

Through my experience, these five important employee factors have helped improve workplace engagement that other fretful executives can, too, implement.

1. Belonging

Leaders can distinguish an engaged employee if they feel integrated with their colleagues and feel confident their job is an important part of the whole. An employee who feels significant in their workplace’s community and has an emotional connection to their organization will be more engaged at work.

2. Enjoyment

Creating a positive work environment, including stimulating and fun ways for employees to interact, will greatly impact employee engagement. Employees spend most of their time in the workplace with their colleagues, in comparison to the time they spend outside with the people and things they love. The workplace culture needs to reflect a place where people can work successfully and happily through the end of the work day, rather than counting the minutes until it ends.

3. Accomplishment

A productive employee is an engaged employee. As simple as it sounds, it is important for leaders to acknowledge their teams and their efforts which benefit a greater mission or purpose at work. Employees that feel successful will continue to seek out more ways to accomplish tasks within their job roles and the ones they aim for in the future.

4. RecognitionBusiness Finish Line

Another key component to employee engagement is employee recognition. Employees want managers to take notice of their accomplishments that provide value to the organization and its community, and ultimately want to be incentivized to keep striving for better. Leaders who fail to layer in systems for acknowledging growth and success do both their companies and employees a disservice, with sinking morale on their horizons.

5. Advancement

Offering multiple opportunities for employees to build their portfolio of skills should be a priority for leaders looking to increase engagement. Talented employees don’t want to stagnate professionally – they want to develop their skills, advance, and thrive throughout their careers.

While these five employee factors may not seem new, they can definitely become overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the everyday working environment. Maintaining high engagement in today’s workplace is essential for leaders now more than ever, as demonstrated by the numbers. Even though the job market continues to improve, restless employees usually decide to move on rather than remain at a job that doesn’t stimulate them. Making employee engagement a priority within your workplace not only advances the health of your professional teams, but also the health of your bottom line and future business.

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Leadership Lessons to Draw from Lee Kuan Yew in an Era of Change

April 22nd, 2015 by Cynthia Stuckey
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“We have created this out of nothingness, from 150 souls in a minor fishing village into the biggest metropolis two degrees north of the equator.” – Singapore founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. 

Overcoming numerous challenges post-independence and moving the country forward amidst tumultuous times, the late founding father of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, devoted his entire lifetime to building what is now regarded as one of the world’s most economically strong and resilient nations.

In the weeks since Mr. Lee died, I’ve seen countless articles and reflections extolling his leadership attributes. He was respected by leaders from around the world and in business. He was loved as much as he was feared. From waking up in a cosy HDB, drinking water that runs straight from the tap, taking transportation that runs efficiently across the vibrant city state that house some of world’s most renowned brands, to walking in the streets in the dead of night without fear, Mr. Lee has indeed left a powerful legacy for generations to come.

It never ceases to amaze me at how an impactful leader can transform the city out my window from a mere developing nation that was wrecked by social divisions and poor living conditions just some decades back to one with shiny skyscrapers. What struck me as particularly significant for leaders to recognise and learn from was Mr. Lee’s extraordinary ability to lead through an era of change. After working with so many leaders in my 20+ year career, I discovered that the successful ones take the following winning approaches:

1.  Have a clear vision04.21.15 - Lee-Kuan-Yew_public.jpg

“Here we make the model multiracial society. This is not a country that belongs to any single community – it belongs to all of us. This was a mudflat, a swamp. Today, it is a modern city. And 10 years from now, it will be a metropolis – never fear!”

As a managing director of a company, I see the importance of how setting a clear vision can warrant for a great start, especially when facing unexpected changes or bracing my company for a planned change. Mr. Lee has definitely done a good job in this area. He saw the needs of fighting for self-rule from the British in 1959 and independence from Malaysia in 1965. He also saw the potential of Singapore being a business hub for worldwide investors by developing first-class infrastructure standards and recruiting worldwide talents. As a business leader, bringing the company to the next level is our key responsibility and also one of our key challenges. I always think about where I want to bring my business to a year or even a few years later. The vision of the future blueprint is what drives my action. During the transformational period, many challenges are there but we must be fearless and determined. Give confidence to employees that we are able to survive after going through all the changes.

2.  Communicate the vision

“I have been accused of many things in my life, but not even my worst enemy has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind.”

Weeping before the national TV to deliver the news of the separation between Malaysia and Singapore represents the toughest time of Mr. Lee in his life. He knew that Singapore had a slim chance of survival. But soon he got rid of his despair and saw it as a moment to establish a deep connection with the people by communicating the connection between his party’s goal and their circumstance. Thinking back of those hard times in my leadership journey, c-suites often struggle a while before communicating the truth to the employees. We definitely don’t want to threaten the stability of the organisation. However, that’s how to get employees to be on the same page with us, by showing up honestly and conveying our plans during this difficult period. Employees may feel insecure of their jobs at that moment. Therefore, it’s also our job to motivate them to engage with us and go through the transitional period together.

3.  Walk the talk

“I want to make sure every button works, and if it doesn’t when I happen to be around, then somebody is going to be in for a rough time, because I do not want sloppiness.”

As a resident here for over 4 years, I share the same resonance with my friends from around the world that Singapore has much to be envied for. Chief among which are a corrupt-free government, affordable healthcare, quality homes, efficient transportation and holistic education, for all. These might not have been possible if not for one who constantly kept his ears to the ground and implemented an uncompromising change mechanism that is scalable and adaptive to suit circumstantial needs.

To maintain its competitiveness and success, Singapore does not rest on its laurels. The government makes sure to constantly introduce and revise policies to seek new talents while retaining its local talents, as well as policies that can improve and change in line with current environments. They are unabashed when communicating their plans, and they stand ready to defend their plans when necessary. This should be the same for business. In order to sustain long-term business growth, businesses must be able to communicate and execute their goals with strong conviction.

4.  Build commitment

“If you can select a population and they’re educated and they’re properly brought up, then you don’t have to use too much of the stick because they would already have been trained.”

In order to create a prosperous Singapore, a pragmatic Mr. Lee saw the importance of looking out of the country for talent to help develop the capability of this country, while educating the locals to be globally competitive. To keep his people happy, he also put focus on addressing people’s needs by providing well-developed education, welfare and healthcare standards for examples. I have always seen the importance of getting a pool of talented employees to help business growth, as business success can’t happen just by one person’s effort. Therefore, aside from cultivating talent to make sure our employees are well-equipped with the necessary skills to cope with challenges during a transformational period, addressing employees’ needs also can’t be overlooked. A happy workforce will be more willing to work for the company.

5.  Pick the next better player

“If I were not the Prime Minister, he [Lee Hsien Loong] could have become Prime Minister several years earlier. It is against my interest to allow any family member, who’s incapable, to be holding an important job because that would be a disaster for Singapore and my legacy. That cannot be allowed.”

Mr. Lee recognised that he could not stay in the role forever. He sees the importance of raising up the next generation of leaders to lead the future of Singapore before he stepped down from the political stage. In an organisation, no one can sit on the business leader chair forever, including myself. And a new business leader will likely lead a transformation of the whole company. Therefore, while focusing on growing the business, we should also constantly seeking for potential candidates to be the “next top leader” who can help transform the current business success to the next legacy.

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Taking Pride in Using the “S” Word

April 14th, 2015 by Ainsley McLeod
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04.14.15 - Using the S word.jpgSales in the English language is defined as “the exchange of a commodity for money”

Unfortunately it is often perceived as buyer manipulation. Hence the reason many sales professionals can sometimes feel hesitant to talk about their roles in anticipation that they will be perceived negatively.  However, quite the opposite is true. Selling represents the foundation and life blood of every private business and the discipline requires a complex set of consulting skills, including the classic skills of asking questions and listening to address the buyer’s needs and expectations. Sales is a fundamental part of any client facing role, whether we are aware or not and therefore we should all take pride in using the “S Word”.

Businesses with the aim of growing and increasing revenue are the engine that drives the global economy. All departments in private organisations whether you’re in HR, IT or Operations are there to support the sales and revenue generating activity. This directly impacts the quality of life in general and supports ongoing innovation in all directions; which would not be possible without the sales functions and the ability of businesses to find, win and keep customers. The difference between selling to consumers and businesses is gradually eliminating, as it purely comes down to selling between humans.

It’s not companies or brands who sell – it’s the people behind them. Customers expect consistent value and beneficial relationships from suppliers based on trust and interdependence, which goes way beyond transactional sales. In fact, the initial approach and first purchase are only the first steps in building customer relationships. It’s customer loyalty that truly drives sales. Selling is no longer a matter of communicating the features and benefits of products and services – to stand out its necessary to communicate the unique value proposition linked directly to the buyer’s perspective.

In a highly competitive market where there are a number of organisations that offer identical products and services, at times it can be the buying experience that differentiates businesses. Buyers form their opinions on the initial experience which then impacts their choices. The sales executive’s challenge is to influence the decision making and make steps to eliminate the competition.

Knowingly or unknowingly we are all sales people. Every interaction creates a perception of the individual and the brand they represent which directly or indirectly impacts buying behaviours. People buy from people and they prefer to buy from people they like. Therefore the importance of personal approach that treats all clients as individuals is the one that creates long term value on both sides. It’s not companies or brands who sell – it’s the people behind them.

To be able to guide prospects and customers through the buying journey, sales executives are required to master their interpersonal skills, product knowledge, questioning and listening skills – all of this whilst managing their stakeholders expectations and handling their objections. Yet, sales executives are not formally educated and need to adapt to the changing requirements of the role on individual basis.

The complexity and the requirements of sales roles are extensive and varied, but it takes specific skillset and attitude to succeed. Everyone utilising these skills on a daily basis should speak proudly of what they do.

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Leadership Lessons from the Rugby Pitch

April 9th, 2015 by Martin Slattery
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The recent Six Nations Rugby Championship was a demonstration of high team performance and great leadership across the board….well at least from Wales, Ireland and England!

This was best demonstrated on the last day of the championship or “Super Saturday” as it was called, with one game after another. It saw extraordinary pace maintained from beginning to end with the three teams (Wales, Ireland and England) all in the frame to be crowned 6 Nations Champions. Each result had a direct impact on how the next game had to be played out and the pressure built with each point scored.

The need for the respective coaches and captains to demonstrate calmness and a sense of clarity, unity and agility in the lead up to their games would prove paramount to their success. And they did just that! However, their ability to lead effectively and bring out their “A” game when it mattered didn’t just happen in those moments on that incredible Saturday. These skills were forged from many hours and years honing their skills on the pitch from a young age. But what can we learn from this? The challenges and drivers demonstrated during these games are indifferent to those faced in the business environment and can serve as a learning exercise when put into perspective.


No one will master any trade or sport until they excel at the basics. Rugby players can’t move ahead without conquering the basic; passing, catching, tackling and supporting the ball carrier. No training, irrespective of the age or experience of the players, will start without practising and incorporating those basic concepts to eliminate mistakes during a game. From mini rugby to international rugby it’s the same…do the basics and do them well.

In business, getting your basic skills right, putting them into practice and building on them are the essential steps to drive success through people. The ongoing learning and putting the lessons into practice on daily basis also gives you the right mindset and confidence needed to achieve your goals and progress. So what’s the excuse? There isn’t one….do the basics and do them well.   


Even the best players in the world don’t stop training because they’ve already achieved success. Quite the opposite. They strive for excellence by practicing harder, playing harder and doing everything they can to be even better. Similarly, successful leaders make learning an integral part of their everyday work – through sharing knowledge with peers and colleagues, enhancing skills and talents through assignments and taking initiative in their own developments.

Companies that encourage continuous learning through coaching, developmental assignments and sharing the lessons of experience enjoy competitive advantage as these learning approaches support employee retention and help to expand both individual and organisational capacity.


This is the key element to any success, on the pitch or in the work environment. For instance, do you think the Rugby Football Union would have turned to Stuart Lancaster (England Head Coach) and his coaching staff prior to Super Saturday and tell them not to coach the team? They don’t need to be helped; the players know what they need to do as they are professionals at the top of their game! Coaching is purely a distraction….especially with a championship on the line and the World Cup just around the corner. Let the players get on with it themselves. Right??

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Yet it is surprising that for many organisations this is the resounding view, and they wonder why performance is never quite as strong as it should be. Delivering a strong performance in that type of environment is un-sustainable and un-scalable. That’s the point.  Coaching is the essential element behind any team success – be it sport or business – focusing on individual and team improvements as well as providing opportunities for those to re-inforce the right behaviours, to better themselves and motivate others to achieve their highest potential. Increasingly, organisations see coaching as a means of building organisational capacity, helping them achieve critical business results, enabling competitive advantage and increasing the likelihood of winning. These are the businesses that are seeing the real impact. I therefore ask, why wouldn’t you coach?


Strategies are created and actions are planned based on assumptions made prior to the game. Naturally, these strategies are impacted by the other team’s behaviours and overall chemistry on the pitch. You have to play what is in front of you and adapt accordingly.

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances is a critically important leadership capability in both sport and business environments. In business, around 70% of change initiatives fail – the top 30% of success is linked to leaders being adaptable, knowing how to drive change to accelerate the impact of new strategies and understanding the human side of change.


Purpose-driven motivation creates focus that results in higher levels of sustained energy, increased interest and confidence. An inevitable part of this is physical well-being – it is impossible to sustain high performance without it.

Physical fitness reduces absence rates, mistakes, accidents and improves complex decision making, alertness, team interactions, concentration, and productivity. To maintain a healthy energy balance it is essential to be purposeful about time and ways to recover….ice baths optional!

To conclude – in rugby (like in business) to win, you must review each performance, identify and work on areas of the game that need improving and strive for excellence. The journey to excellence starts with the basics. Do them and do them well, every time.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 2

April 2nd, 2015 by Janine Carlson
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Launched last month to mark the International Women’s Day, we continue our series to inspire aspiring female leaders – this month with Janine Carlson, our APAC Marketing Director, who looks at her own aspirations, challenges and experiences that lead her to where she is today.

Janine Carlson, Marketing Director, Forum APAC

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

When I was a child I was intrigued by a pretty broad range of things I could be when I grew up. Tops on the list were pilot, electrician, archaeologist, actress and Olympic gymnast. So naturally I became a marketing director.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these?

I feel fortunate to have started in a very humble place, as overcoming challenges did shape who I am—and how I lead—today. I lived at times in fairly rough neighbourhoods, started working when I was 15 and paid my own way through university–in fact, was the first person on my Dad’s side of the family to ever graduate from university. While having role models of professional careers early on could have made things easier, my early experiences instead allowed me to use hard work, curiosity, tenacity and resilience to find my own path.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date?04.02.15_Women in Business_Part 2.jpg

Early on I would have found a mentor outside of my company to help me look at my career and options more broadly.

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

I like to think I learned more about what NOT to do as a leader from my first boss in advertising, than what to do. While we worked hard, she took long lunches or left early to go shopping. She defaulted to what was easy versus pushing for the best ideas to serve our clients. When the work I had done earned an incentive trip from a media partner she immediately told me she and her husband would be taking it instead of me…then asked me to take care of her house and cats while she was traveling! Seeing this first hand inspired me to put the best interests of my teams, clients and organisations at the centre of my thinking AND actions.

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a partner in a design agency and we had to release several of the staff because the business was struggling. While I had previously had tough developmental discussions and even fired people, this gutted me. The most important takeaways were that as a leader I needed to set aside how I was feeling and totally focus on the other person; also it reinforced the massive responsibility that comes with leadership—our decisions impact people’s lives, not just their work.

What lessons have you learnt in your personal life which have helped in business?

  • When something goes wrong, own it—apologise, fix it, learn from it and move forward.
  • It is better to over communicate than under communicate.
  • Trust your instincts—about people, ideas, opportunities, etc.
  • A positive attitude sets you on the path to success and makes it a more enjoyable journey—for you and those around you.

Who is your most admired female leader and why?

I’ve always found Grace Murray Hopper very interesting – as a scientific innovator and US Navy rear admiral she succeeded in male dominated fields, worked incredibly hard for her accomplishments and was keenly focused on the training and development of younger talent. She was quoted as saying “it is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” and also “You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.”– so true!

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer?

I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful male and female leaders, and both can create a compelling vision and drive its achievement—so neither is inherently better or worse at leadership. Although there might be some things that come more naturally to some than others. My direct experience is that developing employees, creating cohesive teams, building engagement and addressing the emotional side of leadership can at times be easier for female leaders, who may be more perceptive to emotional cues.

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead?

The most successful women I know are confident in voicing their opinions, are truly concerned with the development and success of the people on their team, give praise generously and criticism thoughtfully, advocate for what is right for themselves/their teams/their businesses, stay curious and look for ways to improve things, and are amazing storytellers able to paint a vision and inspire people to follow them. At any career stage, building these strengths with training, coaching, self-reflection, practice, etc. will help women progress in leadership.

What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them?

One of the traps into which women in leadership can fall is too much focus on consensus. Giving people opportunities to contribute, encouraging alternative ideas and ensuring people are heard are all important in making the best decisions…just remember the goal is to make the “best” decision, not the “least objectionable” one, as great ideas nearly always will have some detractors.

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders?

Don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure you fail forward. To have “big wins” you need to take risks, try new strategies, voice your ideas, trust your instincts and look for uncharted territory. Of course, when you do this you won’t always succeed…which is why failing forward is so important. Embrace these lessons and apply them: understand the root cause or systemic components so they are not repeated, help others to not make the same mistakes, don’t get mired in doubt or negativity, and finally, just get up try again.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will this affect women? How is globalisation affecting this change?

Women’s role in leadership will continue to grow and this will open doors at all levels within organisations, but there is a long way to go before there is true equality in the workplace. According to a recent International Labour Organisation study, there are currently only 3 countries where women make up the majority of managers/leaders: Jamaica, Colombia, and Saint Lucia. For those of us living in other countries, female leaders continue to be the exception versus the norm, despite statistics that companies with women on boards and in leadership have higher performance. In Asia, there is a strong bias in some countries towards male leaders—but as women’s education levels continue to increase, global mobility provides more opportunities for female leaders coming into and out of these markets, and the demands for well qualified leaders continues to increase, changes will have to happen.

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Forum Named a Top 20 Sales Training Company by for Fifth Consecutive Year

March 24th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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The Forum Corporation is once again pleased to announce that we have been named a Top 20 Sales Training Company by for a fifth consecutive year! This award would not be possible without the continued relationships of our exceptional clients and partners who work with us to help salespeople develop strategy-specific skills and improve their overall performance. compiles its annual Top 20 Sales Training Companies list to continually monitor the training marketplace for the best providers of outstanding service, and a proven track record for delivering superior sales training and improving the impact of the sales organization.

2015 - selected us based on the following criteria:

  • Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry
  • Innovation in the sales training market
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Breadth of service offering
  • Strength of clients served
  • Geographic reach

In addition to our clients, we would also like to thank for this award.

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Old Goat Singapore – 3 Ways Business can Lead the Flock in the Year of ‘Yang’

March 22nd, 2015 by Cynthia Stuckey
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February 19 was the start of a new year in the Chinese zodiac. The year of the horse galloped on by, making way for the year of ‘Yang’ the sheep, goat or gazelle depending on which prophet you follow.

For some, Singapore may be seen as an old goat in Southeast Asia; an established economy fighting to remain relevant against a number of competitive newcomers in the region, with the year of ‘Yang’ possibly offering more head-butts and side-kicks to productivity rather than a lucrative golden fleece.

But if anything, Singapore is persistent and is no stranger to tribulation. The ways in which organisations and their leaders handle key challenges in learning and development will be key to their success and determine how they maximise value from their investments in the year of ‘Yang’.

Employee engagement and the role of middle-managers
Business leaders and HR managers in Singapore are becoming increasingly aware of the positive impact employee engagement has on staff retention, performance and profitability. Thus, greater emphasis is being placed on employee engagement as a key strategy to improve staff retention and increase productivity across business levels.

To truly embrace employee engagement and ensure it functions most effectively, it first has to become a business imperative driven by leaders throughout all levels of the organisation. For this to occur, HR must secure its seat at the 2015 board table to enable the successful integration of employee engagement, and other core HR strategies, into all business plans.

In Asia, engagement is a significant challenge as people leadership skills are weaker compared to strong technical capabilities and requires conscious development. To effectively engage employees, middle-managers are key and must also be engaged and accountable for their actions and responsibilities.

Successful implementation of strategic initiatives requires an engaged and accountable cadre of mid-level leaders who do the indispensible work of making the CEO’s vision a reality. To cope with the great recession, many organisations curtailed their investments in middle management development, leaving many with skill gaps in mid-level leadership. In the year of ‘Yang’, with emerging markets increasing competition in Southeast Asia and the focus on keeping pace intensifying, it’s the companies that focus on equipping their middle-managers that will lead the flock.

To successfully manage these challenges focused training of mid-level leaders is required so that they are able to become more involved in engaging employees on an individual level, while also working together with upper management to transform employee engagement into a company-wide commitment instead of a task purely delegated to HR.
Demand for leaders who inspire trust
Forum has produced global research to show a direct link between trust and engagement, which indicated that the more leaders inspire trust in their team the more energised and motivated they will be.  Based on our research, the way leaders build trust is through the way they communicate and behave. To remain competitive and high performing, businesses in Southeast Asia will need leaders that know how to build and maintain a climate of trust within their teams, something that is traditionally and culturally foreign to the region.

The four most effective tactics for inspiring trust are:

  1. Listening to employees and understanding their concerns
  2. Walking the talk – managers doing as they say and modelling positive behaviour
  3. Following through on commitments
  4. Encouraging employees to offer ideas and suggestions.

When trust is low, clarity is reduced and less focus put on accelerating strategic initiatives and promoting success. At the same time, navigating the complex inter-connectedness of today’s global business environment requires that we also work with ambiguity.  Organisations that figure out how to balance clarity and ambiguity will have a winning formula that leaders can use to drive results.

Skill gaps are widening
While the Southeast Asian market is experiencing high growth, Singapore is struggling to keep up with productivity. In the year of ‘Yang’, businesses will require a diverse set of skills to respond to fast changing market conditions and remain competitive. Companies will need to constantly modify and develop their leaders at all levels to ensure they close skill gaps to enable the workforce to increase productivity, while also balancing the needs of new talent entering the workforce.

Many companies have limited resources to work with due to a shortage of talent in Asia. To safeguard against this issue, businesses must establish clear career paths for all staff to retain and develop skills in line with the needs of the local market and business. This also means focusing on the careers of existing and older employees to ensure they are continually learning, growing and adding value, as well as mapping out attractive career pathways for newcomers.

Focus on talent development
Most learning and development occur at work, which highlights the need to sustain and embed learning into everyday work life. Not only training, but ongoing coaching will be essential in maintaining a highly engaged, intellectually stimulated and productive workforce.

Toward the end of 2014, the Singapore Government released the Continuing Education and Training (CET) 2020 Masterplan that supports efforts to restructure the economy, develop a career-resilient workforce and build deeper expertise in Singapore’s personnel, with increased involvement by employers in enhancing and valuing skills.

While initiatives like this offer positive support, the bottom line is that organisations have to be more proactive and structured in how they develop their people. Successful businesses devote time, energy and resources to advancing people and the organisations in which they perform. It is companies that implement leadership development that tightly aligns with the organisation’s growth that will not only endure but also get the greatest value from their investment in the year of ‘Yang’.

About the author:
Cynthia Stuckey is the Asia Pacific Managing Director of The Forum Corporation. Forum is a recognised global leader in linking leadership development and sales effectiveness training to strategic business objectives. For more information, visit:

This article was originally published in HRD Singapore on 17 March 2015 and is reprinted with permission from the publication.

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How to Retain the Best People and Develop a Healthy Pipeline of Talent

March 17th, 2015 by David Robertson
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People have a fundamental need to feel they are progressing, or they will leave. So a successful learning strategy is one where there’s visible commitment throughout the organisation to developing talent that is owned on three levels; by the company, manager and employee.

To address these three levels of ownership organisations can:

1. Create a ‘nurturing talent’ programme for all levels of leadership

This programme should help leaders understand their role in coaching and nurturing talent development and developing the leadership pipeline, and how this drives the business strategy. Leaders will learn to be learning partners for career development discussions and develop their coaching and feedback skills. This approach also identifies high potential talent where you may need to take an accelerated approach. This approach shows the organisation is willing to invest in developing talent and highlights the critical role of leaders in coaching and development.

03.17.15 - How to retain your best people.jpg

2. Show commitment to learning on an individual level

The organisation also needs to show its commitment to learning on an individual level by developing a ‘Developing my Career’ programme that encourages individuals to own their development pathway and clarifies the range of opportunities and support available. The programme should focus on the individual, help them clarify their needs and preferences and even include some detail of the leadership pipeline in the organisation.  In this session they would map opportunities to develop up, across and outside of the business with a clear line of sight to the company and personal goals.  They would plan career development discussions they want to have with their line leader.

3. Embed talent management into your culture

Include linkage to these talent programmes in the induction process and create a Talent Forum, a careers development intranet with access to learning tools and advice to reinforce the learning culture and enable learners to own and share experiences and skills.

You need to ensure that ‘talent management’ is a hard wired to your business. Embed it into the culture at every layer and the company’s commitment to development will shine through and your pipeline of talent will flow freely.

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Forum Named Top 20 Leadership Training Companies for the Sixth Year in a Row!

March 12th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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We are once again thrilled to announce that for the sixth straight year, Forum has been named a Top 20 Leadership Training Company. As with any award, this honor would not be possible without the continued collaboration with our clients and the hard work of all Forum employees, facilitators and valued partners. compiles this annual list to monitor the training marketplace for the best providers of training services and technologies. Selection of the Top 20 Leadership Training Companies was based on the following criteria:

  • Thought leadership and influence within the leadership training industry
  • Industry recognition and innovation2015 - Seal_Content_Leadership_Small
  • Breadth of programs and range of audiences served
  • Delivery methods offered
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Strength of clients
  • Geographic reach
  • Experience serving the market

In addition to our clients, partners and employees, we would also like to thank for this award.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 1

March 6th, 2015 by Nithya Ramaswamy
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As we mark the International Women`s Day this Sunday we at Forum celebrate all women in business for their achievements. Often challenging, female leadership is on the rise and we would like to inspire and encourage all aspiring women by sharing insights from our very own senior female executives.

Launching today, we are starting our “Celebrating Women in Business” monthly series, where Forum’s female leaders will share their challenges and advice on succeeding in business.

Starting the series, Nithya Ramaswamy, Design and Development Consultant shares her personal and professional experience and lessons learned that shaped her career.

Nithya Ramaswamy, Design & Development Consultant, APAC

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

03.06.15 - Celebrating Women in Business.jpgI wanted to be many things. A doctor, a vet, a teacher, an actor, a lawyer, a pilot and the list goes on. I suppose I didn’t have a specific idea of what I wanted to be, but I knew that it had to be in the field of working with different people and helping them solve daily problems.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these? What lessons have you learnt in your personal life which helped in business?

While I was born and brought up in Singapore, I come from a very traditional, orthodox Indian family where boys are seen as the pride of the family.  My parents, akin to many other traditional Indian families, always believed in raising girls to be pretty, well-mannered and educated to a point where they are able to fulfil their roles as supportive wives and mothers. Having a great job, furthering my education or being a business leader was never really expected of me.

This kind of narrow-minded thinking in a strange, unintentional way stirred up a burning desire within me to want to prove them wrong, and show them that I could do anything a boy is capable of. It was personally challenging as it meant being self-driven and achievement-oriented to get where I wanted. Watching my mum work extremely hard as a homemaker and not having the empowerment to make her own choices motivated me to work hard, have a sense of independence, and strive for recognition outside of home.

The biggest lesson in life for me is that you can do or achieve anything, only if you want to. Sheer determination to succeed and achieve your goals comes from within. Opportunities do present themselves if you work hard and plan ahead. Obstacles, setbacks, whatever discourages you – take that as a challenge, learn from it and bounce back up.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date?

I can say that I have made the most out of the opportunities presented to me, and am quite happy with the outcome. There are always times where I wonder if I should have made a quicker decision or should have done things differently, but I think it is all part and parcel of evaluating your options and choosing what you think is best at that point in time. What is important is to make the most of what you have at any given time, without compromising your values, and back yourself up.

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

Yes, I think no one is perfect, every boss has their strengths and weaknesses. But the ones who are poor leaders are those who acknowledge their weaknesses but don’t act to improve or overcome them. I had a boss in my earlier organisation who was a great motivator and extremely supportive of my projects and decisions. However, he struggled to give direct feedback about areas I need to improve on, and focus on my development needs. I am critical of the work I do, and therefore appreciate candid feedback on what needs to be better. Not having that kind of direct feedback made me lose interest in what I was doing after some time, and I decided to leave the organisation for a more challenging environment.

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

In my previous role as a Talent Development Manager in logistics organisation, which was male-dominated and where training and development was perceived to be a waste of time, trying to get the buy-in and managing up through impactful business conversations was a huge challenge. One of those hard conversations happened when I mustered enough courage to barge in to the HR VP’s office and present a business case to him on looking at training and development as an asset instead of a cost, and re-framing the role of our talent development and management function in the region.

It was a great experience as no one had attempted to have these conversations in the past as they had all assumed leaders who are engineering professionals will view these efforts with scepticism and had continued with the status quo. That one conversation spiralled into a series of conversations between our regional talent team and the senior leadership to take our ideas forward. The end result of these conversations was a keenness on the leadership team’s part to have my department engage in more strategic work and engage more frequently with the line. They tagged us as “Super Heroes” encouraging us to travel the region, explore where the talent development and management gaps are and to come back and make recommendations. What I have learnt from that is having courage to change the status quo and taking things in your stride, being willing to take baby steps to be the change you are seeking.

Who is your most admired female leader and why?

I think there are many women leaders I admire. Whether it is well-known leaders like Angela Merkel and Indra Nooyi or fellow women leaders whom I know personally as my family members, friends and colleagues that I work with, they are all extraordinary women leaders who stand by their values, communicate openly, and aren’t afraid to think innovatively or adapt their leadership style.

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer? Are there some things that certain genders are just better at in business?

I don’t think that the effectiveness of one’s leadership can be accorded to one’s gender. We are all so diverse, and our personalities, upbringing, systemic and environmental factors, daily interactions mould us to who we are and what we are good at/not so good at. For example, we often hear that women are better at multi-tasking and men aren’t. Again, I have seen plenty of male leaders who are great at multi-tasking and I certainly find it hard to multi-task to be honest! Another perception is that women leaders are more micro-managing in their style whereas male leaders empower their staff more. Again from my experience, I have seen this can go either way. The key here is balance, whether one is a male or female leader. Getting the right balance by adapting and communicating according to the situation is the way to go, in order to be a better leader.

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead? What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them?

For a woman to become a leader, she has to fight harder against the status quo and stereotypes, and therefore has to be a lot more focused and determined. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s sums this up by saying, “Stop whingeing, get on with it, and prove them all wrong.”

By virtue of this, strong women leaders recognise these challenges and set a new standard by being more assertive and persuasive when they need to, and take a keen effort to build relationships and promote collaborative workplaces. Conversely, weak women leaders succumb to the status quo and stereotypes, and it is a downward spiral from there.

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders?

The advice I would give all women who aspire to be senior leaders is that success and balance go hand in hand. Don’t be afraid to make decisions and back yourself out, while reaching out to others for counsel and support, taking care in surrounding yourself with people whom you can count on. Balance is also about being authentic yet adaptable in a variety of situations, and having an unending curiosity to know more, acknowledge what you don’t know and keep at it.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will these affect women? How is globalisation affecting this change?

Leaders, both men and women need to be a lot more adaptive to changes and be able to deal with ambiguity and various complex situations. Globalisation causes the workforce to work in flexible and untethered formats, keep learning on the job and collaborate across boundaries. Leaders more than ever need to recognise the changing landscape, think creatively with limited amounts of information and manage business dilemmas by engaging their employees regularly.

There is a long way to go for organisations world-wide in promoting diversity in leadership and enabling women to realise their leadership potential by providing development scaffolds through their leadership journey such as mentorship schemes and impactful leadership development programmes. There are many organisations that are starting to promote workplace flexibility and encourage the growth of women leaders in their leadership pipeline. Women leaders should take advantage of these efforts and continue to lead with a great degree of self-awareness and courage. Women leaders should also be mindful of the common stereotypes that exist around women leaders and avoid falling into potential role traps by casting themselves as victims.

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