Read stories of enterprises embarking on workplace learning – their challenges and achievements.

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Lim Kee

Lim Kee Food Manufacturing

Breaking away from conventional norms: Underpinning workplace learning in digital transformation


How do traditional businesses keep up with the latest trends, especially in an increasingly digitalised world?

For enterprises in the food manufacturing line, the struggle to recruit right talents for the job has intensified, partially due to the perceived notion that factory jobs operate in a tougher working environment, as well as an increasing lack of desire by the younger generation to work for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

At a Glance

Aside from struggles in hiring, retaining talents posed as another key issue for one of the leading home-grown food manufacturers, Lim Kee Food Manufacturing Pte Ltd (Lim Kee). While the pandemic gave rise to an increase in job flexibility, opening up possibilities for flexible work arrangements for those in offices, the same cannot be said for those working in the manufacturing industry.

With the newer generation of the workforce constantly on the lookout for the next-best job opportunity in today’s fast-paced world, it further aggravated the situation for Lim Kee in sourcing for fresh, new hires to support and ramp up transformation efforts in streamlining existing operations. 

It became evident to Lim Kee that the way forward was to reskill and upskill existing employees, to prepare them for the age of digitalisation and to allow them to take the lead in transforming the enterprise to one that is agile and future-ready.

The sentiments about digital transformation in a post-pandemic world

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72% of CEOs in Singapore have seen their new digital business models accelerate during the COVID-19 period.

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83% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore now have digital transformation strategies in place.

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Four in five employees agree that digital transformation is important for business survival, but only about one in five stated that they are willing to stay in a company that prioritises digital transformation.

Business leaders today acknowledged that digital transformation can have a positive impact on five key areas: optimising operations; empowering employees; engaging customers; transforming products; and facilitating internationalisation. But the question is, which area is the most important for businesses? In the new normal, the answer to that seems to be employee empowerment.

Defining the value of workplace transformation

The disruptions brought about by the pandemic has put significant stress on the existing business model of Lim Kee, given that the enterprise was adopting a more traditional approach to operations. To thrive in the new normal, it was fundamental for Lim Kee to transform the workplace – to start integrating modern technology and digital tools into its operations, given that the traditional way of doing things have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.

Paired with the apparent labour crunch within the industry, Lim Kee had two primary goals: Firstly, to empower and groom its workforce to learn and utilise digital technologies in their daily scope of work, and secondly, to continue efforts in recruiting fresh talents.

To achieve this, Lim Kee introduced an upskilling regime for its employees, especially at the supervisor level, to support them in sharpening their digital skills, and shift them towards embracing the use of modern technologies.

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Sowing the seeds of workplace learning practices

Given that operations at Lim Kee were typically done in a traditional setting and that most employees have been with the company for many years, the introduction of new initiatives had to be done gradually. Before formulating and launching an appropriate action plan to equip employees with the necessary skillsets to thrive in a new but yet unfamiliar business environment, mindset change was key.

Progressively, the Project Team began to set workplace learning interventions in motion, starting by gauging the level of training, knowledge, and skills that the people had prior to the introduction of workplace learning initiatives. The assessment was done through face-to-face interviews with supervisors and production operators to identify learner profiles, performance challenges, learning challenges, job tasks and roles. Workplace observations were also conducted to determine the job processes and competencies needed for the production operators.

Working hand-in-hand with IAL’s Workplace Learning consultant, Lim Kee then deployed the following interventions:

  • Training supervisors in the area of educational technologies so that they are able to innovatively create digital learning resources independently for F2F and virtual learning.
  • Implementing the ‘Design Thinking’ methodology as a one of the training curriculum to enable supervisors to effectively review and improve on workplace learning processes (i.e., OJT blueprints).
  • Empowering supervisors to become workplace trainers to train new and existing staff.

The impact of workplace learning practices in supporting digital and workforce transformation

At the end of the workplace transformation project with IAL CWLP, Lim Kee was able to achieve the following:

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Successful development of 5 OJT blueprints by supervisors to help existing and new employees familiarise themselves with their jobs.

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Introduction of newly-crafted OJT training programme, learning videos, and workplace demonstration by supervisor to induct new hires to their job roles.

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Development of a bespoke training plan, career map and OJT system for the enterprise.
Aside from the above, the supervisors at Lim Kee were now able to develop learning videos on their own through the utilisation of educational technologies. Other than having more confidence, they were better equipped with the knowledge to conduct workplace demonstrations and taking the lead in delivering OJT courses for new hires.

Needless to say, success did not come easy for the project team at Lim Kee. The stringent safe management practices required at the workplace restricted the daily operations of the business. In addition, with one of the supervisors testing positive for Covid19, fellow colleagues were affected and had to be subjected to a stay-home notice to monitor their health. Moreover, the project also required the Workplace Learning consultant to be present at the premises, to facilitate and train employees in Mandarin, given that most of the supervisors were only proficient in that language.

The critical areas that led to the success of the project were undoubtedly the support and participation of the management, the project champion and project team members, given that they the team members had the most experience in terms of operations, and were able to give substantive feedback to improve work operations.

The support from their Workplace Learning consultant was equally vital, given that it allowed the team to be able to work around the restrictions and challenges. Firstly, training sessions were delivered in a bite-sized format spanning several months. Secondly, translations for the documents were also provided by the Workplace Learning consultant to help the supervisors understand and resonate with the content better.

Sustenance of workplace learning within the organisation

With a clearer picture of what workplace learning is, and the benefits it can bring to the enterprise, Lim Kee now has a learning and development structure in place for its staff, and will be looking towards sustaining its efforts in upskilling more of its supervisors so that they can be exemplary guides to new and existing employees in terms of workplace demonstration and coaching.

To effectively ensure that the upskilling efforts persist in the longer term, the team agrees that ongoing updates and refreshments of training plans, the OJT system, career maps, and OJT blueprints would be necessary in supporting the new operating model of the business, and in the development of its employees.