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As an experienced leader and lifelong learner, Naresh Kapoor explains why further education can be beneficial and even essential for employees today. Amos Seah reports.
Learning is a life long process for Naresh Kapoor, director of human resources at Singapore Marriott Hotel.
When he started his career in food and beverage service in the hospitality industry, he quickly realised with his passion was in training and human capital development.
However, at that period of time, he felt something was missing.
It was then he realised he wasn’t adequately equipped with any theoretical knowledge of training or the human resources framework.
In order to pursue his passion, Kapoor enrolled himself at the Singapore Human Resources Institute, taking up a part time graduate diploma course in human resources management.
He recalled balancing his work schedule with his evening and weekend classes, adding it wasn’t an easy experience as the F&B industry was a tough one to work for.
But his learning did not stop here. As he was looking into a training role in the industry after attaining his graduate diploma, Kapoor registered himself at the Singapore Training and Development Association for another diploma in “Strategic Human Resource Development”.
“This helped me gain a deep understanding of the training framework, concepts, and also gave me a foundation to launch my career in training,” he says, adding his operational background knowledge made it easy for him to understand the training concepts.
“Once I completed my diploma, I was fortunate to get a job as a training officer and worked full time in training and development,” he recalls.
Kapoor moved on to complete his MBA in Human Resources Management after settling down in his training role, and he looking back, it is a decision he doesn’t regret.
Broadening knowledge, skills and experience
Furthering education can diversify one’s skill set or help one gain a deeper understanding of a particular discipline. For Kapoor, continuing with his education went hand in hand with his desire to broaden his knowledge of HR.
“Furthering my education has definitely helped me in my day-to-day job as a HR professional,” Kapoor says. “My MBA helped me to look at all aspects of my business and be a strategic partner for my organisation.”
While his diploma and MBA provided him a more in depth understanding of the HR discipline, it wasn’t just knowledge that he got back in return.
“The best learning for me took place while interacting with other working students who brought their personal experiences into the classroom,” he says.
“We helped each other by looking at various difficult business scenarios and case studies and found creative solutions.”
He adds education is important in this dynamic and ever changing world as it “plays an important role in challenging our mindsets”.
While an employee can improve his or her analytical reasoning skills through further education, which are useful to meet the demands of society as it helps to keep them updated with latest trends and changes, it can also create more options for career growth.
The furthering of education is also particularly important for more employees today, especially with more Gen Y workers entering the workforce.
“They are well-educated, well-informed, and technologically savvy. They possess focus, place emphasis on personal growth and development, and are looking for a career in the industry not just a job,” Kapoor says.
“This sometimes puts a little bit of extra pressure on existing employees who may have missed out on formal education.”
Associates willing to commit themselves to further education will make a positive impression of their company, as it sends a message that “they are willing to self-development and take on bigger roles”.
“This also helps us as an organisation focus on their career development plans and growth,” he says.
Despite the emphasis on education, experience is not something that is left out from the picture.
“Good education may be a powerful launch-pad for your career, but experience and soft skills will determine your success as a professional,” Kapoor says.
The power of support
One thing Kapoor has learned about furthering education is that it requires good time management.
“There are times when you are busy with work yet face submission deadlines for school projects and assignments,” he says.
This is why he says support from the management can help to take away a lot of this unnecessary stress.
“It was quite difficult in the beginning, however slowly with the support of my manager and my team, I was able to balance my workload,” Kapoor says, adding his manager even adjusted his shifts to accommodate to his project deadlines.
Support also extends beyond the office. “My wife was very supportive during those weekends when I went to school to study… now I show the same support in her pursuit to enhance her knowledge and understanding of business.”
At the moment, Singapore Marriott Hotel does not have a structured policy which provides financial support or exam leave for their employees who wish to return to school. However, the hotel does provide sponsored internal and external training opportunities such as the Marriott International core trainings and WSQ programmes.
Nevertheless, Kapoor hopes to provide more supportive measures in the future to “support lifelong educational efforts related to employees’ job scopes”.
The managers and supervisors exercise flexibility and give full support by adjusting their work schedules in order to attend or prepare for school projects and exams.
He adds that while it is one of the direct managers’ responsibilities to offer flexible work arrangements for their workers, HR professionals “need to be supportive and act as coaches or mentors to these associates.”
“Clear communication is essential as it will help them to understand their motivation to study and guide them accordingly,” he says.
Kapoor advises professionals who consider furthering their education to be “committed to the end”, even though it might be tough.
“It will not be easy. However, it is very rewarding as it puts your career on a different path altogether,” he says.
He adds possessing good time management and learning how to prioritise are critical to balancing education with full time work.
“We cannot use our busy work schedule as an excuse for not focusing on our education and at the same time, we cannot use our education as an excuse for lack of focus on our work.
“We need to do 100% justice to both,” Kapoor says.