August Highlights: Create a sustainable impact with training

Without consistent application, knowledge and inspiration will never amount to transformation. 

In this newsletter highlight, I’d like to share some actionable insights I’ve gained last month, which can help you gain visible transformation for your organisation (if you apply).

August’s Highlights

Click on this menu:

  1. L&D insights for the month: must read/watch
    • Learnings from Harvard Business Publishing (HBP)
    • Assurance from HBP corporate learning expert
    • Is your feedback form working?
  2. The future of learning
    • Neuroscience and learning
    • Should we revert to Offline training after Covid?
  3. Programmes to make 2021 even better!

1. L&D insights for the month and must read/watch


To save you time, we’ve hand-picked the most relevant content and summarised them for you:

a. Learnings on Virtual Learning from Harvard Business Publishing (Corporate Learning)

The best practices for learning design advocated by the  HBP corporate learning department have influenced the way our team customises training experiences and solutions. For a long time, I’ve been inspired by their thought pieces and white papers, which are backed by extensive research and data. When they organised a webinar about virtual learning last month, I knew I had to attend. We needed to know if our approach to digital and blended learning is on par with the best-in-class. 

Here are some key takeaways (extract): 

1. The learning process is split into 4 parts: 

#1 Engage 

Establish relevance and need.

How? Through online surveys, assessment, self-evaluation and relevant content. 

# 2 Discover 

Acquisition of new knowledge happens when learners are able to anticipate how to use it by formulating questions and comparing it to what they know.

How? Through different learning channels such as peer discussions, videos, podcasts, articles and the like.

# 3 Act 

Apply the learning in the work environment.

How? Through coaching and other work-based activities

#4 Integrate 

Modify behaviours according to feedback to realise work improvements. 

How? Provide access to a virtual learning platform for content, tools and connections for ongoing refinement.

2. Why do organisations choose virtual learning?

– Better learning impact

– Time and flexibility

– Engages diverse learners

– Consistency and scale

3. Spaced learning for maximum impact

Spread the learning experience over a period of time and in smaller chunks rather than a single event. We’ve covered this in a previous article. This allows learners the time to internalise the content, apply, make mistakes, take corrective actions and learn again. This iterative process leads to a much greater impact.

b. Assurance from Harvard Business Publishing (Corporate Learning) expert

Deanna Foster, the presenter of the webinar, is  Harvard Business Publishing’s Director of Global Design Center of Excellence. I had the privilege to get her feedback on some initiatives to help  learners maximise their learning potential. Some of these initiatives include a 30-day email course and the 1-month post workshop follow up. She assured our team that these are good initiatives, and she offered two ideas that we hope to implement  in the coming months:


Aug newsletter Convo
Aug newsletter Convo 2

Manager’s involvement

Old habits die hard. Applying what’s learnt daily is a deliberate effort and has to be sustained over a period of time to achieve a long-lasting impact. The suggestion given by Deanna was so simple and yet so effective.

Managers have the most influence over a  learner’s progress. Hence, they should be involved in the learning process from the start. This will allow the managers to reinforce the learnings and provide support to help their team members grow. Setting a clear learning and career goals with their managers will illustrate to the team just how invested their manager is in their success. This can be a great motivating factor for the learners  to contribute more and be more proactive in learning too.

Having managers do the same can help us gain a more objective view of the possible gaps and growth, see if there are any discrepancies and most importantly, take corrective actions. This is a level up from our usual pre-workshop survey and post-workshop survey that are made exclusive to learners.  


Peer Support

Learners have expressed how they have enjoyed group learnings as they get to exchange perspectives with their peers and feel more motivated to learn when learning is done together. Sustaining learning after the official programme is over requires a lot of self-discipline. This is largely due to the fact that learners get busy with day-to-day tasks and time is devoted to tackling the most urgent thing. As a result, the learning curve is always steep at the beginning and only flattens after consistent application. The initial momentum of applying new concepts should result in continuous application for it to become second nature.


The suggestion to have a buddy system can help team members, who work together, remind and guide each other in their journey to improvement. Having attended the same programme, they have a common lingo, which helps them collaborate better and hold each other accountable to applying what they have learnt. 

Feature effective feedback forms.005 1
c. Is your feedback form working?

We’ve improved our feedback form to serve the needs of current times: 

  • The virtual learning situation 
  • The learning needs of the future 
  • The focus on helping learners shift from knowledge to skills

If you haven’t adapted your own forms with the above considerations, you will benefit from this recent article that we have published

Examples of effective and non-effective questions included!

2. The future of training

a. Cognitive Neuroscience will influence training interventions

Over the last decade, there’s a growing number of research papers around how Cognitive Neuroscience can influence learning behaviors and shape teaching methodologies. Best-in-class training institutions are speaking more about this to increase awareness. I believe this is the future of adult education.  We can no longer settle with a look-good curriculum and focus mainly on the content of the course.  Gone  are days when the effectiveness of training is mainly measured by satisfaction scores but by tangible outcomes. 

Out of the many scientific discoveries, here’s one you can ponder:

Intentions affect attention to a learning task
Lau, Rogers, Haggard, Passasingham, 2004.

Learners are more likely to act on a learning task and perform better in assessment (a mode of application), when there is a clear alignment of what they are learning and their goals.

What this means to you:

(a) Set clear learning goals with employees before nominating them for courses.
(b) Set clear context on why the course is organised, why they are attending, and how it can help them succeed.  
(c) Give learners a choice to register or to opt-out with valid reasons based on the usefulness and their competency level.

Doing these would give learners a greater sense of purpose and motivation in learning. This significantly creates a positive vibe during the course, draws them to take charge of their own learning and be excited about it. As the organiser of the course, you reduce the need to chase learners for their submissions and you achieve better outcomes for your organisation when application happens.

b. Should we revert to offline classroom learning after Covid?


As the community cases of Covid stabilises and the safety measures are slowly easing, many of you are considering returning to offline learning. While I personally prefer physical live interaction, I have to be wary about suggesting solutions based on my personal biases without prioritising the learning outcomes. Many of my assumptions about the disadvantages of virtual learning were invalidated over the past few months. 

At this stage, I have  also questioned if we should revert to the old ways of training. I’m deliberating between the effectiveness of these two modes. Which should we choose after Covid? 

Perhaps this isn’t about which mode to choose, but about how to leverage the advantages of each modality and tweak the format, duration, activities to maximise the learning output, i.e. turn knowledge into skills.

Full offline: The Pros and the cons
Able to better focus on the course with no competing priorities, able to clear doubts  and seek feedback immediately. I think interactions with trainer and course mates will help make the experience more enjoyable.” 


Best for those who prefers: 

1. face-to-face interaction with trainer and group mates in real time to seek clarification and receive immediate direct support.

2. to time block themselves to learn without interruption.

3. the human touch, which makes the learning more enjoyable and fun.

Disadvantages: Generally, full offline 1-2 day workshops …

– can lead to information overload. Learners are not given adequate time to internalise new concepts, resulting in low information retention.

– do not give time for learners to apply learnings to different aspects of their day-to-day work, take corrective actions, and eventually master the skill.

– do not drive outcomes to the organisation due to its transactional nature.

– do not equip all learners to apply. Individuals who are more pro-active learns more, while others learn passively by waiting for their peers to complete group exercises. As such, the instructor cannot tell if everyone has applied the learnings adequately.

Ways to overcome:

+ Keep Offline training in short-burst of 3-4 hours over a few sessions so that learners have other parts of the day to attend to work duties.

+ Assign tasks or work to learners between sessions to apply their learnings. 

+ Offer coaching or mentoring to support learners on the journey to mastery.

Blended: The Pros and the cons
“Self-paced allows learning done on their  own time and group coaching allows me to learn application and comments from the Instructor and from each other. It allows time to work on application of the concepts on our own time but still share and learn from one another in the group.”


Best for those who: 

1. cannot take a big block of time off for learning due to work commitments and duties.

2. learns better at their own pace and based on their own schedule

3. are serious about applying learnings on an in-depth level to tackle the nuances they face at work. 


Disadvantages: Generally, full offline 1-2 day workshops …

– The learner has no visibility of the process of learning, practise, and application of their peers, therefore, can’t learn from it. They could only see the final output. Example: In an offline presentation programme, learners might be able to see how their peers use certain shortcuts or design hacks to arrive at the outcome.

– Requires learners to be self-directed in completing self-paced modules and complete them seriously 


Ways to overcome:

+ Set learning goals and deadlines to keep learners accountable in completing their assignments

+ Document the process using recording tools or verbally walk group members through the process during live discussions.

Consideration: If you have enough demand for the programme within your organisation, why not offer both learning modes? This way, learners get to choose the mode that best suit their learning needs, which will lead to better outcomes. 

3. Training programmes to ace 2021!

While Covid19 may be gone by then, remote meeting is here to stay. Attention span of your audience is now shorter than ever. Here are some courses to help your team crush their virtual presentations: 

Designing visual presentation for remote meetings 

Learn how to create visually engaging presentations that your audiences will understand, love, and agree with. Adapt your visuals to different virtual contexts like pitching, teaching, discussing, informing etc. It’s time to convert those cluttered text into compelling visuals to communicate more clearly and persuasively! In this course, you uncover design hacks and the S.P.I.L.L process that can help you design effective visual slides in less time. 

Here’s a sneak peek to the course: 

Full suite of courses: 

Delivering engaging online meetings

How do you engage your audience on a small screen? Especially when they don’t show their faces. Utilise public speaking techniques in the virtual context. Put audiences at the edge of their seats, get them glued to your presentation and leave no chance for them to multitask. No fancy technology tools needed. Just your voice, hands, and face. Make your presence felt over the screen!

Digital Marketing: Turn employees into digital brand advocates

Marketing budget got cut? How can you achieve the same results with limited money, resources? The piece of good news is: The best people to market your brand are your employees. 

Why you should turn your employees into brand advocates in 2021:

1. More cost effective and sustainable versus paying influencers and advertisers a hefty sum every month to gain brand visibility.

2. More authentic as employees are the ones who understand your brand intimately and represent your brand the best. 

3. Increase employees’ brand belonging and showcase company culture to attract new talents.

Best for Brand & marketing team

The Employee Advocacy (via LinkedIn) programme gives brands a blueprint to recruit, train and evangelise a core group of employees and transform them into micro-influencers.

This programme will incorporate a self- sustainable content curation and creation process where your employees are equipped with the art and science of LinkedIn content creation and curation.

Developing a virtual team culture
Working from home. You either find yourself overworking or being unproductive. The lack of human interaction shrinks morale and increases frustration. Miscommunication, misaligned expectations, misdirection. You wonder when will this end.
Learn how teams can reclaim their time, get more done while achieving more work-life-balance!
This course transforms team’s culture to perform more productively & effectively online. Uncover the structure & strategy to boost motivation and productivity of your remote teams. 
Data Storytelling

Aside from  leaving your stakeholders bored, ineffective and misguided data presentations can be costly to you and your team. Teams might embark on wrong ventures or be denied access to resources.  Change the story, change the outcome! Uncover proven steps to leverage data to develop insightful and purposeful stories that drives the best organizational decisions. Apply story structures that engage your audience and cut through the noise of data and straight at what truly matters.

Data Visualisation
Are your key messages buried in the endless amounts of facts and figures? Are your audiences overwhelmed by confusing tables, charts, and diagrams? Stop making these mistakes! Learn how to harness the power of visuals elements to clarify key messages in your data slide. You will uncover ways to leverage basic features of PowerPoint/Keynote and Excel to transform complex charts into visually compelling ones. Effective visualisation helps convey the right message to influence the right decision fast. 
Other courses
  • (Digital) Sales & Negotiation 
  • Employees into Brand Digital Advocacy 
  • Investor Pitching/Fundraising
  • Brand Strategy
  • LinkedIn Marketing
  • Social Selling 
  • Effective Leadership 
  • Facilitation (Solution-focused)
  • Critical Thinking for Problem-Solving
  • Creative Thinking
  • Lego Serious Play for Team Building and Innovation
  • Communicating and Engaging with Millennials at the Workplace
  • Mindfulness for emotional resilience and well-being

2021 will be a year of value and returns

As companies are tightening their budgets, there’s an increase pressure to link any business activities to business outcomes. As such, HR and L&D leads will have take on a more strategic approach to organising courses. There will be a shift from once-off training programme to a longer-term learning pathway that sustains learning & application. 

Need more ideas on how to ace 2021 with training programmes? Get in touch! 

Want to gain more?

Client-exclusive Solutions

We’ve rolled out a few new solutions to help learners turn knowledge into skills. Past clients are entitled to these at no additional cost. Drop us a message below – “Hi team, I’d like to gain access to the client-exclusive solutions. Can you share them with me?” and hit the orange button below.

15 + 15 =

Is your feedback form effective?

Getting learners to fill in a feedback form after the completion of a training is the norm. But how much of what is gathered is actually useful? What can you do with the data? 

If you cannot derive any actionable insights from the responses, you ought to challenge the effectiveness of the questions. Because the purpose of soliciting feedback is to evaluate and improve, with the goal to achieve better results in the future.


There are two aspects of the form to take note to get you closer to your goal: 

  1. The objectives of the questions is to help you collect the ‘right’ data
  2. The type of questions is to help you obtain better data


1. Objectives

“ Asking the right questions is as important as answering them”
Benoit Mandelbrot

Most survey questions I’ve seen are centred around learning experiences and engagement — Questions about the (i) Trainer, (ii) format, (iii) duration, (iv) learning environment. 

While experience is an important aspect of learning, it is only a means to an end. The application of skills is one that will make every dollar you invest in your learners worthwhile. The effectiveness of a training programme can be evaluated based on the following component:

Relevance and usefulness


Q: List the top 3 learnings that are the most relevant and useful to your work.

This question helps HR identify course content that contributed to the success of the workshop. If there is a need to tweak the programme outline in the future, these insights will guide the trainer’s decision on which parts to retain. You can also consider inserting a question on the least relevant areas of the course.


Q: How have the course materials helped you in your learning? What can be improved?

This uncovers how learners interact with the course materials to aid their learning. The responses may also reveal their learning habits and preferences. From these questions, the trainer can also assess if the case studies are useful in helping the learners internalise the course content or if new ones have to be created.

Growth/ Transformation

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your proficiency in [skill] before you attended this programme.

How has the programme contributed to the difference in rating? 

These questions identify learners who have had the most benefit, i.e. those who saw a big shift in rating. E.g. Did  the technical folks benefit most from the course while the marketing folks the least? If so, HR can consider organising future sessions that target a specific  learner’s profile in order to maximise the results.

If all learners move up at least 1 scale, HR can use this  to validate that the programme was indeed helpful in upskilling. It also allows HR to see who in the class is on the lowest end of the spectrum and; who might need further support. If the rating before and after the programme remains unchanged, the trainer can follow up with the learner to identify why. You can consider asking these questions to ensure learning has turned into skills and skills are applied

Future application


Q: What needs to happen for you to turn these learnings into skills and to eventually master it?

The answers would inform  HR on what additional support to provide  the learners the ability to sustain learning for long-term transformation to take place. For example, if the majority of learners indicated “practice”, HR can explore ideas on how to create conditions for them to do so. This might warrant another in-depth survey to formulate a quality solution.



Q: What would be an obstacle for you to gain mastery?

We cannot assume that once the learners are equipped with the new tools that they will apply it. This question helps HR uncover possible reasons why this knowledge didn’t  get transferred as  skills. These could be the lack of time, resources, support, culture, or working styles. Some learners have shared that while they would like to improve, their bosses are not aligned with the best practices. Hence, they throw in the towel after multiple attempts to improve  have been shot down. In such cases, HR can consider ways to get the buy-in from these bosses.

Future development 

Learning preferences:

Q: Given the same amount of content and learning, which mode of learning will suit you best and why?

This helps to invalidate  assumptions that one mode of learning suits all. It also uncovers ways to experiment with new learning modality  that can maximise outcomes. For example, due to Covid, there are  no other option  but to conduct learning remotely and digitally. At first, HR may  doubt the effectiveness of virtual learning but as it turns out, given a choice, 80-90% of learners prefer blended learning. When  asked why, many appreciated the ability to juggle work and learning, to have more time to internalise learning at their own pace for self-study  modules, while being able to also benefit from their peers sharing during live online discussions.

New skills:

Q: What other skills would you like to develop? Why?

This helps to identify new learning opportunities that HR might not have considered. Such questions also encourage the learners to pause and reflect on their learning needs and goals. When the goals are clear, they become more enthusiastic in filling the gaps.


2. Types of questions

“Data by itself is useless. Data is only useful if you apply it.” 
– Todd Park

There are different types of questions such as: 

Types Example:
Closed-ended Has this course met your learning objectives? 
Scaling questions On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the effectiveness of the workshop? 1 being not effective, 10 being very effective.
Open How would you define the effectiveness of the workshop? 
Probing Did this course meet your objectives? Why or why not? 
Reflective What are the top 3 learnings that are  the most useful in  your work?

Closed ended and scaling questions are best at gathering quantitative data which removes ambiguity and subjectivity. However, many questionnaires placed too much weight  on such questions and with only one open-ended question like “any suggestions for improvement”. This might be due to the intention of creating  questionnaires that are easy and fast to complete. 

The problem with these questionnaires is that they only provide quantitative results but t you do not gain insights as to why learners gave a low or high rating.  For example, the question “The course has been relevant”, scale 1-5 disagree to agree. What can we do with the information? If 90% of the class rate 5 and 10% rated 2, it indicates that there is room for improvement but we don’t know  specifically where? Without actionable insights, the trainer and HR cannot pinpoint specific aspects on where to improve.

Hence, it is advisable to supplement closed-ended questions with a probing question such as “WHY?”. This allows trainers to take corrective actions that may help to increase the score on future runs. 

To avoid vague or one-worded answers that are subject to interpretation such as “practice”, you can frame questions with a more direct intent. Here’s an example a question that aims at gathering specific insights to meet a goal:


Instead of this

Ask this

Any suggestions for improvement?

How can this course be improved to help you get better at (skills)? Please elaborate with details so we can better understand how to help you. 

You will be amazed at how much you can uncover with thoughtfully crafted questions.

To sum it up

  1. Identify the purpose of the survey
  2. Design questions to meet specific objectives
  3. Collect both quantitative and qualitative data
  4. Frame questions to gain specific and actionable insights

Infographic Template Editor Site Review: Venngage


If you’re searching for a fast and easy way to step up your presentation infographic game, give Venngage a shot. Venngage is a one-stop platform for all things infographics. With their extensive library of infographic templates and editing tools, you are bound to find a template that suits your needs.

Let’s face it, numbers, timelines and processes can be as difficult to present as they are to explain to an audience, so make it easier for them- use infographics. They help your audience break down lengthy and complicated topics you are presenting.

As we at HighSpark, regularly work with clients to develop and improve their presentations, we understand the importance of concise yet impactful visuals. Hence, we rely on infographics to break down large chunks of information into bite-sized, audience-friendly pieces. They also save space and time during a presentation.


Overall Thoughts On Venngage

Customised to meet your needs

To start you off on the right track, Venngage first asks you a few questions to streamline their search results to best fit what you might be looking for. They ask for some basic information: your field/industry, department and let you choose a minimum of 3 sample templates from a selection. After which, you can browse through their wide collection of sample templates and pick one you would like to work on.

Pressed for time and need something specific? Their templates are also sorted into categories by tabs located on the left of your window. This filters your search results- a time-saving tip! For example, if I wanted to quickly search for specifically business-related templates, all I would have to do is:

  1. Locate the search bar at the centre of the webpage
  2. Type in the keyword associated with the template style I’m looking for
  3. Press Return/Enter key or the magnifying glass icon to start search result generation


User-friendly interface

Once you’ve chosen a template to work on, Venngage guides you on a step-by-step explanation on how to use their editing suite. This takes no longer than 3 minutes and would be a huge help for beginners. They’ll show you:

  • Where your basic tools are & how to use them
  • How you can arrange, align & scale sections on your infographic
  • What options you can use once you’ve completed designing (export, download, share, etc.)

However, if all else fails and you find yourself stuck, they also have an onboarding guide which includes a series of video tutorials instructing you on how best to use the functions/tools available you could watch.


Business-minded platform

If you’re a business-person, I highly recommend you upgrade to their Business Plan. You’ll have access to a wider selection of templates and layouts targeted towards business-related topics. I also discovered a unique feature Venngage has, interactive options. With this feature, your infographic can do more than the basics(inform, entertain, educate or persuade). You can add YouTube videos, survey polls and forms, which doubles up your infographic as a data collecting source. I could see this being useful for audience analysis or email marketing. 

However, I highly suggest exercising some caution when it comes to data collection through a third party as I can’t say for certain how confidential all data collected is kept with Venngage.



Easy to find and use, Venngage’s tools in editing mode are organized into different categories. On page left, the available tools help you to insert and edit the content on your chosen template. Virtually everything on your template can be edited to how you like it- colour scheme, icons, fonts, etc. If you would like to be precise, Venngage has a function on its editing suite, that allows you to enable a smart guide, apply grids and margins for you to work with ease. 

Want to insert photos? Click on the “Image Uploads” tab on your tools column, where you can drag and drop the image you would like to insert. The image should then appear on your template where you are free to scale it to size. If you’re worried about copyright, Venngage also has a library of stock photos you can use in your templates.

 A neat feature they included allows you to replace an image you inserted but wish to change by double-clicking it. You can then decide whether you would like to change it to an icon, stock photo or one from the library of photos you’ve previously uploaded.

To insert graphics- icons, charts and maps or interactive elements, simply scroll through the column of categories on the left of your webpage. Once you select a category, a dropdown menu would appear, showing you various options you get to choose from. Based on my recent experience, Venngage’s wide array of icons is what sets them apart from others. They offered nearly every type of icon you could think of, in multiple colours, that were of good quality too. To add on, Venngage has helped us all by including a mini search bar in the icons category which helps us to quickly find the icons we might urgently need!


Using Venngage For Work

Easy to navigate and use, Venngage’s tools help to create detailed, put together infographics efficiently. Another tip I can share is that if you are looking for a way to speed up your editing process for branding purposes, you can explore the option “My Brand Guide”. It allows you to pre-set your brand logo and colour scheme which you can apply to any template you choose to work on within Venngage. 


Pros vs Cons


  • Wide variety of infographic templates so you will never have to create from scratch
  • Straightforward editing tools
  • Can be customised to your specific liking
  • Extensive Help Guides available, easy-to-learn


  • Difficult to edit on split-screen mode (Mac users)
  • “Invite Team” option is great for group projects, but is limited by your account type: basic, free option allows others who join to view and comment only (subsequent team members added to the group need to upgrade their accounts to the same plan as the owner to edit designs created by other members and create designs to share with your team.)



Venngage has multiple membership plans: free, premium and business. Premium plans are charged by a quote and Business plans are SGD$49/month. Both premium and business plans have the option for monthly, quarterly or yearly payment (cost varies).  For its price, their Business plan is great for those who are looking to invest in a one-stop platform for their infographic design as the editing tools and export options available are plenty sufficient for them to churn out brand-centered infographics regularly.

For those who are looking for a quick resource to spruce up one or two infographics, the free plan is your best bet- it’s basic gets the job done and allows you to share your work publicly. Given these points, I would use Venngage in the future for its ease-of-use and variety of templates. However, I feel that out of the 3 offered subscription plans, premium and business were the most worth it for their price.

If you’re deciding between the two, I would also strongly suggest you try out the premium subscription plan before upgrading to the business plan as their features are quite similar, except for the “branding” tool and “My Brand Guide”. Another plus point Venngage has is that it is conducive for group work, simply invite team members to the current template your working on. This facilitates real-time simultaneous edits while saving you and your team time compared to other sites that allow only a single editor at a time.

July Highlights: Resources to help you increase training effectiveness

“Machines need to be productive. People need to be effective.”, said by the English watchmaker.

Like many, you may have found yourself working longer hours in recent months. Doing, doing, and doing.

Producing new things such as events, initiatives, programmes, content, sure feels great. But are they  purposeful? What sets effectiveness and productivity apart is that effectiveness moves us closer to our intended goals and outcomes.

In the L&D context, to be truly effective, we have to break these misconceptions: 
#1 The longer the duration = the more one learns
#2 The more content covered in a class = the more value learners get
#3 Learning has to be done in a single session

At HighSpark Academy, we see a training programme as a means to an end. Ultimately, the programme should drive long-term value to your teams and organisation. We are constantly keeping up with L&D trends, scientific research  around learning, and refining our learning solutions to achieve the highest level of effectiveness.

In this newsletter highlight, we will share with you key insights so you can maximise the ROI of every learning initiative you champion.

July’s Highlights

Click on this menu:

  1. L&D insights of the month: must read/watch

    #1 Top four obstacles to learning & development, and how to overcome them

    #2 Three learning strategies that you should bake into your L&D programmes 

  2. How to gain higher rating for training effectiveness (Case study)
  3. Maximise your existing limited resources with these programmes
  4. Free resources – Learners exclusive
  5. Help us prioritise what new (free) resources we should build for you

1. L&D insights of the month and must read/watch


To save you time, we’ve hand-picked the most relevant content and summarised them for you:

#1 Top four obstacles to learning & development, and how to overcome them 

Managers are the most trusted source for learning inside any organisation. Learning and development leads can work closely with managers of teams to empower employees to learn effectively.

1. Time (43%)

Share scientifically-backed strategies with employees to make use of their time and learn wisely. Then lead by example.

2. Guidance (30%)
Know the difference between control and power – assign tasks, trust your  people to complete them.

3. Recognition (30%)
Spotlight the most dedicated learners in email updates.

4. Encouragement (22%)
Co-create learning plans with employees and create a timeline to prioritise developing relevant skills.

Read the full article by Degreed here: Link


#2 Three learning strategies that you should bake into your L&D plans


Findings by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghau: If new information isn’t applied, we forget 75% of them after just six days. If your learners forget what they learnt in the workshops, wouldn’t this be a loss of time and money?

To get the most value from the learning plans you design, you can beat the forgetting curve with these strategies:

1. Activate prior knowledge: connect new information with existing ones

2. Retrieval practice: review what was learnt in a number of different ways

3. Make learning active: solve problems, create experiments

4. Make learning effortful: make the process slightly hard

5. Make learning social: learn from somebody and teach somebody


These 5 techniques will signal to the brain that what was learnt is important and useful,  thereby turning short-term memory into long-term memory.

Watch the video by Steve Griffiths here: Link

2. Same programme, different format -> highest effectiveness rating

The best way to test the effectiveness of the learning modality is to run the same programme a few times, in different formats and durations, then let the data tell the story. We have been blessed to work with some of you to experiment with different learning modalities. 

If you have yet to try approaching your programmes differently, the following case study may inspire you to try. 

In the previous newsletter, we saw that the ratings for blended learning were higher than traditional classroom training. In July, we conducted the blended learning again for the same programme, but this time, with some changes. The rating was the highest (highlighted in yellow).

Different format and duration

Blended format 1:

10 hours of content & exercises spread across 2 days

Blended 1

This flow is beneficial when…
the learners and teams are nominated by their bosses, and they have little idea why they are enrolled in the course or how it can benefit them.  Having a synchronous session (for example 1 hr) at the start would allow the L&D or team lead to set the context and paint the purpose of the programme. This will motivate participants to look at the workshop as an opportunity rather than a chore. Learning becomes more effective when learners are motivated to complete the self-paced modules and work on the assignments with their best effort.

This duration is beneficial when…
the learners or organiser would like the course to be completed as soon as possible, so they can dedicate their attention to other work at hand. And when spreading out sessions too much might make it difficult for live sessions to be scheduled.

The rating on training effectiveness was 90%, an increase of 5.8% as compared to the offline run of the same programme.
However, participants wished they had more time to complete the modules as they were juggling multiple work duties while learning.


Blended format 2:

9 hours worth of content & exercises spread across 5 days, with personalised feedback 

We ran the same programme in July. This time, we spread out the blended learning over a week. To ensure that the learners do not pack the learning to the last minute, we embedded two deadlines within the week. To ensure that they are on the right track with their assignments, and applied the concepts accurately, the trainer recorded personalised feedback after each submission. Those who requested for more guidance and clarification received them throughout the week.

Blended 2

The outcome:

Surprisingly good. We were quite uncertain at first about the new flow of events. What if learners are not motivated to learn without a proper kick-off and context setting session? Turns out, the scheduled onboarding emails and videos, and scheduled check-ins worked. The rating for this new approach is the highest of all, 95.8%, a 5.8% increase from the previous run. Still, we get some requests to stretch the learning even more. And that is what we will be experimenting next.

email course effectiveness 1


Thank you! It was more useful than I had initially expected, with very clear explanation and impactful case studies. The details of the course were also very well-thought-out, including outlining the estimated duration of the assignments, and an overview of the sub-topics within each module to give the participant a sense of the overall flow.

Learner of Designing impactful presentation, Blended Learning over 1 week

Want more insights on how to organise an effective virtual training?

webinar soft skills

3. Recommended courses that maximise your existing limited resources  

Employee advocates

The best people to market your brand are your employees. 

Advantages of turning your employees into brand advocates:

1. More cost effective and sustainable versus paying influencers and advertisers a hefty sum every month to gain brand visibility.

2. More authentic as employees are the ones who understand your brand intimately and represent your brand the best. 

3. Increase employees’ brand belonging and showcase company culture to attract new talents.


Best for Brand & marketing team

The Employee Advocacy (via LinkedIn) programme gives brands a blueprint to recruit, train and evangelise a core group of employees and transform them into micro-influencers.

This programme will incorporate a self- sustainable content curation and creation process where your employees are equipped with the art and science of LinkedIn content creation and curation. 

Developing a virtual team
Best for all teams:

Uncover the structure & strategy to boost motivation and productivity of your remote teams. Learn how teams can reclaim their time, get more done while achieving more work-life-balance!

4. Free resources – Client exclusive

We’ve been actively listening to the learners about their needs and wants, especially around how we can better support them to apply what they’ve learnt to their work.

Here are some new resources we have rolled out. And yes, they are completely free (for existing clients).  

story email course

The 30-day storytelling email course

This course was inspired by a question one of our coachees asked: ‘What are the habits I need to build to become a better storyteller?’. This 30-day course makes a good post-workshop resource in order to enhance retention and learning based on what you read in the article above.

How does this work? 

Upon sign up, every alternate day, learners will receive a bite-sized email from us. This will last for a month. And each email will contain useful resources, tips, and exercises. With spatial learning, and the other learning strategies embedded, learners transform knowledge into skills.

We’ve rolled this out to a handful of clients and this seemed to be working! 

storytelling course feedback

Learners’ spotlight

This was inspired by the question: “How can we encourage employees to be proactive in learning?” and by the ’employee of the month/year’ model.

How does this work?

For clients who work with us long-term, after each workshop, the trainer will hand pick learner(s) to spotlight. A poster will be designed featuring the learner and the best practices he/she advocates (relating to the topic of the programme that was attended). These posters will then be included in the organisation’s newsletter or online portal where peers can see.



This is to recognise dedicated learners from our workshop and inspire their peers to learn the best practices from them. This turns learners into guides, and creates a culture of learning in the organisation where individuals are motivated to upskill themselves. It is also a good way to garner interest from the right target audience to sign up for the upcoming sessions of the programme.

Learner spotlight

5. Help us prioritise what new (free) resources we should build for you

Select the top 2 options we should work on this month. Have a suggestion that is not listed? Drop me an email at!  

Can’t view the poll?

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Want to gain more?

Client-exclusive Solutions

We’ve rolled out a few new solutions to help learners turn knowledge into skills. Past clients are entitled to these at no additional cost. Drop us a message below – “Hi team, I’d like to gain access to the client-exclusive solutions. Can you share them with me?” and hit the orange button below.

6 + 15 =

Haytham Sawalhy: Leading by Example, Team-building and Collaboration in Business

The saying goes: As a team, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. A good leader should both protect their team members when tackling challenges and push them to strive for better. Read on as Haytham shares his views on leadership and storytelling.

The love Haytham’s team members have for him as a leader is evident. Our team had the honour to conduct a half-day workshop for his team at Bintan last year. And we’re blown away by his admirable leadership style. Privately, when we asked the participants to name an inspiring leader who tells good stories, Haytham’s name appeared. It is telling that his team members have a very sincere and special bond with him. ‘Family’ would be the right description for this bond. 
If you interact with Haytham in person or learn about his journey, you will know why he is such a great leader. He cares about making a difference, enjoys interacting with customers and is passionate about problem-solving. Perhaps these are the qualities that contributed to his promotion from a software engineer to a project manager, and eventually a business unit leader.

2.001 min

Key actionable take-aways:

In this interview, Haytham illustrates how a great leader:

  1. is at the service of her/his team and presents herself/himself at the frontline
  2. uses stories to inspire action 
  3. demonstrates strong resilience so that the team can believe her/his direction 
  4. invests in herself/himself and seeks professional support to achieve his goals
  5. uses collaboration to stay competitive

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

A great leader is at the service of her/his team. The presence at the frontline is a strong sign of commitment to the team and the customers. Leadership cannot be executed from the boardroom or in courtesy meetings/events only.

..presence at the frontline is a strong sign of his commitment to his team and the customers

A great leader should create an environment of safety. Simon Sinek talks about the circle of safety as opposed to the circle of trust which is selfishly limited to a few of people in a structure “the gang”, the colleagues at the outside of this circle perceive themselves as been “replaceable” or “consumable”.

In his book called “Leaders Eat Last”, Simon Sinek says that “Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.”

What would you say was your greatest difficulty/sacrifice faced as a leader so far? How did you overcome it?

My greatest difficulty and sacrifice as a leader were related to the ability to fairly balance between personal and professional life. As a leader you continue to live the role beyond the office arena and work environment, your mind is also switched on.

I believe that the balance cannot be 50/50, the ratio will fluctuate depending on age, career seniority and household circumstances. There will be times when it will be 80% for work and 20% for family and friends, but there will also be times when it will be vice versa.

The most important, you need to be lucky enough to be blessed with a loving family and good loyal friends who are supportive and admire your passion.

How important are storytelling skills to you as a leader? How have you applied it in your work?

I would like to refer to a Ted Talk in June 2015 delivered by Yuval Harari, the author of “Homo Sapiens”, where he gives an overview of his book.

”…Supposed that I managed to convince you that yes Humans control the world because they can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The next question that arises in an inquisitive listener is how exactly do we do it? What enables us alone of all the animals to cooperate in such a way? The answer is “our imagination”. We can cooperate flexibly with a countless number of strangers because Humans alone of all animals can create and believe in stories. As long as everybody believes in the same fiction, everybody obeys and follows the same rules, the same norms and the same values. All other animals use their communication system only to describe reality.”

As such, based on Harari’s theory, leaders need to rely on storytelling as a tool to get a group of people to cooperate flexibly and in large numbers. I applied storytelling on occasions of change, uncertainties, and challenges. These are critical events where you need the team to be 100% behind you as a leader. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent global crisis, constant turbulence seems to be the new normal, and effective leadership is crucial in containing it.

Constant turbulence seems to be the new normal,
and effective leadership is crucial in containing it.

The Shackleton expedition, from 1914 to 1916, is a compelling story of leadership when disaster strikes again and again. Ernest Shackleton is a polar explorer who faced harsh conditions in a way that speaks more directly to our time.

PHOTO CREDITS: The Story of Shackelton’s Last Expedition, 1914-1917, Wikipedia

One can be struck by Shackleton’s ability to respond to constantly changing circumstances. When his expedition encountered serious trouble, he had to reinvent the team’s goals. He had begun the voyage with a mission of exploration, but it quickly became a mission of survival. Shackleton’s team knew that whatever came before them on the ice, their leader would give his all to bring them home alive. This knowledge was crucial to achieving the mission, and this commitment is key today when so much is changing so fast.

The story portrays an incredible tale of endurance and survival in one of the bleakest places on earth: the Antarctic.  It is also a remarkable story about the triumph of the human spirit in adversity. The team maintained its cohesion in the face of disaster and felt reassured by the guidance of the one they called ‘the boss’.

What would you say has been the greatest lesson so far as a leader in your work?

Do not hire stars but focus on building a diverse star team, your A-Team. Teamwork and collaboration are key to effectively and swiftly tackling challenges.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

A good friend once told me “Haytham, you should only worry about things that are within your control.”

It reminds me of the movie called “bridge of spies”, there is this scene where Tom Hanks (role of the lawyer) meets up with the Russian spy imprisoned in the USA, Hanks announces the gravity of the situation to the Russian prisoner. Despite the gravity of the situation, the prisoner looked neutral with no emotions. Hanks was very puzzled and asked the prisoner “Aren’t you worried?” to which the prisoner replied, “does it help?”

If you had to offer a piece of advice to someone just starting out or who aspires to lead a team/organisation. What advice would you give?

You need to manage your own emotional intelligence to keep your own courage and confidence high.

You need to demonstrate strong resilience so that the team can believe in your direction and be proud to be your followers.

What have you started trying this year that has been working well for you as a leader?

My new year resolution 2020 was focused on investing in myself with main activities related to upskilling and fitness, nourish, and strengthen the mind and the body. The foundations on top of which we assemble the bricks of our personal and professional lives.

I subscribed to the fitness gym near the office in early January 2020, I was determined and also purchased a package for personal trainer support to help me achieve my goals. In the first 3 months, I started to see some results which helped increase my motivation. It did also positively impact my lifestyle, for example, I go to bed earlier than before.

I planned my learning journey and selected the certificates that would be of interest to my career acceleration. I registered for a few programmes with INSEAD which I found very stimulating and inspiring.

Haytham team.001 min

Share with us something you learned recently that changed how you intend to run your team/business.

In April 2020, I successfully completed an INSEAD online programme called “Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems”. It was a very insightful programme which introduced concepts of network advantage, strategic alliances and ecosystems. These concepts help in creating new digital business models and enhancing the competitive advantage of businesses.

Indeed, collaboration is powerful for the survival and the success of businesses in times of uncertainties and disruption.

As we live the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed the importance of collaborations among countries,  industries and communities in the fight to limit the spread of COVID-19 despite its high contagious character. Without collaboration, the world would have suffered a catastrophe similar to the Spanish flu.

What is one book you would recommend that every new leader or storyteller be reading?

I would highly recommend the book “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek.

What are 3-4 tools (digital or offline) that you feel everyone should know about?

Grammarly: grammar correction tool, highly recommended.

LinkedIn: a great professional networking tool.

Networking: be out there (offline or digital) and meeting people from various industries and various roles.

Now, Haytham’s Backstory:

What’s your story?

I was born in Jaffa, a district of Tel Aviv city (Israel). The city was famous for its Oranges exported all over the world thanks to Jaffa’s famous port. The port of Jaffa was connected to Jerusalem city via a railway line to transport goods shipped from overseas. The line is considered the first Middle Eastern railway.

I was born to a Muslim family and educated in a private French Christian school “College des Freres Jaffa”* (La Sallian school). The school offers education to all levels from pre-school until secondary. So, I spent my childhood and teenage times in this school. I can say that I have a strong emotional connection with my school.

My journey v2 min

In 1995, I was privileged to obtain 2 years of scholarship to do my higher education in France. I chose to pursue engineering studies in Lyon where I lived 5 years until I graduated in July 2000 with a Master’s in computer science. In September 2000, I moved to Paris to pursue my first career job in a large and well reputable IT and consulting services company.

In 2003, I was lucky to meet my wife in Paris during her trip with her sister, at that time she had just started her post-doc at Imperial College in London. I was commuting between Paris and London for a period of 2 years until she completed her post-doc and moved to Paris where we got married and had our 2 beautiful kids Adam and Line.

In 2009, my company offered me the opportunity to relocate to Singapore with my family. It was a new creation of a role to build a new business in an area of growth in the Asia Pacific region. It was a big challenge full of uncertainties, after consulting my wife, we decided to onboard into this journey. It has been an amazing 10 years for my family and myself.

We feel blessed to have had the privilege to live in Singapore, a very cosmopolite city-state, an inspiring history from independence to the execution of the great vision, great environment for the family, great location for regional business, and great opportunities for the future. We decided to apply for the Permanent Residence status, which we obtained in June 2012. Our kids enrolled in public school, which is globally recognised for its high academic level, and we had the opportunity to experience the PSLE adventure!

*College des Freres Jaffa:

How did you get into your current line of work/ why did you decide to do it?

Initially, I wanted to pursue civil engineering studies, but after many recommendations from my parents and friends, I ended up enrolling in computer science. I realised that I made an excellent choice because I consider that computer science is not a profession by itself like a dentist, carpenter, but it equips the graduates with a set of technology tools and concepts which take their full sense only when they are applied to solve a problem related to consumer or corporate or any other world’s problem. A good friend of mine was a fan of cars, so he joined a company in the automotive industry, thereby combining his hobby with a job, this is the best outcome.

I decided to join an IT and consulting services company because I enjoy the rich engagement with the customers in various industries, and I am passionate about solving their problems and challenges. Very quickly, I was Identified by my management as having the potential for a leadership role in the organisation. From software engineer, I was promoted to the role of project manager and a few years later I was appointed as a business unit leader with responsibility on people and P&L.

How can people connect with you?