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Giving the low-down on how to be a best employer

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"We are committed to providing every learning opportunity for our people - at least five days of learning and development programme per year for each employee; mandatory internal programmes for leadership across all levels," says Mr Singh.
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"The focus on our people is strongly entrenched in our culture. This value underpins everything that we do as an employer. At the end of the day, we want our employees to grow with us, as we succeed and celebrate together as a team," says Mr Ho.
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"Effective communications are core to aligning employees to organisation values, goals and priorities. Our CEO and senior management actively engage employees through various platforms across the year, including staff briefings, interactive blogs and webcasts," says Ms Lee.

ROUNDTABLE PANELLISTS:

  • Raman Singh, president (Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa), Mundipharma;
  • Jason Ho, head of group human resources, OCBC Bank;
  • Lee Yan Hong, managing director & head, group human resources, DBS Bank.

Moderator: Chuang Peck Ming, The Business Times

WHAT does it take to become a best employer - and what does becoming one do for your business? We pose these and other related questions to three of the employers that made it to this year's Aon Hewitt Best Employers' list.

Question: What does it take to be a best employer in your company?

Raman Singh: In theory, it's about creating a high-performance culture and nurturing environment where your people can perform, grow and aspire to achieve. In practice, this translates into a series of initiatives, including the various talent development programmes that Mundipharma implements to help develop a strong people pipeline and ensures that everyone, from the leadership group down, constantly improves and is challenged to step beyond their comfort zones.

We are committed to providing every learning opportunity for our people - at least five days of learning and development programme per year for each employee; mandatory internal programmes for leadership across all levels; (and) external development programmes which include partnerships with Insead and Duke NUS.

Jason Ho: It is in our culture that we support and care for our people, who are our greatest assets, as we take a long-term view in investing in their personal and professional growth. We believe that open communication is key to keeping our employees engaged. This is underpinned by our management's commitment to listen to our employees and to implement plans to act on their feedback. Being a best employer is not an end-goal, but rather, it is an ongoing journey to continually improve our work environment and refresh and fine-tune our various employee initiatives so that they will always remain relevant and meaningful to our employees.

Lee Yan Hong: DBS is a great workplace where employees feel connected, feel valued and achieve growth and progress. We are committed to creating a collaborative and inclusive work environment with highly engaged employees who feel valued and take pride in the growth of the business, and who can develop professionally and personally.

We also want to create an inclusive and supportive work environment where every employee can develop professionally and personally. We believe in being there for our people and supporting them with flexible benefits that meet their present and future needs.

More recently, we refocused our recognition and rewards programmes towards insuring for health and providing more choice to employees.

Question: How does your company become a best employer?

Mr Singh: You become a high-performing, respected employer by focusing on people, while at the same time emphasising the people-aspect of our processes and the technology we deploy, so that all aspects are integrated in a smart, employee-focused way.

You also need to create a strong employer brand if you want to be a company that people want to join to progress their careers, to partner and do business with. Building a strong employer brand requires building a collaborative team-oriented culture that encourages innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, backed by a leadership group that is prepared to empower and enable. And it must also be fun.

The proof is in the performance. We know we are performing well because: employee turnover is well below market levels at 6 per cent year-to-date; (and)100 per cent participation in wellness programmes with 75 per cent of employees crediting the programmes for improvements in quality of life, while medical leave and hospital claims have shrunk.

Mr Ho: The focus on our people is strongly entrenched in our culture. This value underpins everything that we do as an employer. At the end of the day, we want our employees to grow with us, as we succeed and celebrate together as a team.

On the engagement front, we proactively use multiple channels to reach out and engage our employees. Annually, we conduct an employee engagement survey to find out how our employees feel about their jobs and work environment.

As a testament to the importance placed on our annual employee engagement survey, our group CEO, Mr Samuel Tsien, will kickstart the survey every year with a personal message to all employees to give an update on the action plans implemented during the year.

Our annual employee engagement survey was conducted for the 14th time in 2015. The employee participation rate remained high at 99 per cent and the overall employee engagement score for OCBC Bank Singapore has been increasing steadily, from 60 per cent in 2010 to 76 per cent in 2015, and from 62 per cent to 74 per cent on an OCBC Group basis.

The survey is also one of the channels for employees to voice their concerns and give feedback, which provides an opportunity for the bank to identify ways to create a more vibrant working environment and address their needs.

Over the years, we have made enhancements, additions and improvements to our various programmes to ensure that they are relevant to our employees' changing needs - both personal and professional - and evolving lifestyles. Ultimately, it is about listening to what employees truly want, and taking actions to address their concerns or meet their needs on things that really matter to them.

Ms Lee: We want our workforce to feel engaged and connected, and have a shared purpose that is bolstered by our PRIDE! values - Purpose-driven, Relationship-led, Innovative, Decisive and E!verything Fun.

Effective communications are core to aligning employees to organisation values, goals and priorities. Our CEO and senior management actively engage employees through various platforms across the year, including staff briefings, interactive blogs and webcasts.

As DBS embarks on its digital journey, we are hiring more UX designers and data analysts to support our digital initiatives. At the same time, we want to "future-proof" our employees by helping them to build relevant skillsets and a digital mindset.

To get them ready for the changing expectations and needs of the customers we serve, we have conducted digital master classes and hackathons to encourage employees to embrace a digital mindset through experiential learning and experimentation.

Question: What are the issues the company has to grapple with in becoming a best employer? How has it resolved them?

Mr Singh: The competition for talent is intense, as is the pressure to innovate and grow. To meet these challenges, we need to invest in people who can bring fresh perspectives based on a wide range of experiences, best practice business processes, and the technology that best enables our people.

People are the core of this approach, where we have a focus on diversity and looking to other sectors for fresh insights and perspectives.

Mr Ho: OCBC Bank has almost 7,000 employees in Singapore and over 29,000 employees globally as a group. With this large workforce, having programmes that effectively engage all employees, across the different levels and age groups, and that meet their very diverse needs have always been one of our biggest challenges.

Nevertheless, we have made great strides over the years in connecting better with our employees and rolling out new initiatives and programmes that can make a difference to them.

It was a growth journey that we embarked on with our employees.

Whenever we receive feedback from our employees, we plan and take action to address them, bit by bit. The positive response we have gotten from our employees is an affirmation that we are doing the right thing for them.

Ms Lee: With traditional banking models being disrupted by fintechs and non-traditional bank players, the key to our continued success lies in "future-proofing" our employees, getting them ready to embrace digital and helping them to upskill.

We strongly believe in creating more well-rounded bankers and providing opportunities for career development.

Our internal mobility programme enables our employees to broaden their exposure across businesses and markets.

In 2015, 26 per cent of positions were filled via internal transfer.

Question: What are the rewards of becoming a best employer?

Mr Singh: Ultimately, it is your people who will get you where you want to go. Being a Best Employer means good people will join your business, they will stay with you longer, and they are more likely to embrace your vision and purpose and contribute to your sustained business success. Lower retention and recruitment costs will, (of course), aid your bottom line.

Mr Ho: To be recognised as a Best Employer is a testimony of our efforts in driving high employee engagement and building a high performance culture.

It is also a validation of our ongoing journey in building and nurturing a compelling employer brand that continues to resonate and connect with our employees.

But we know that our efforts cannot stop here. Being a best employer is only the first step; we must continue to offer the best to our people and be the best employer in their minds, so that they will be motivated and give their best to the organisation as well.

Ms Lee: 2015 capped 28 consecutive quarters of consistently strong earnings for the bank. DBS has been named "World's Best Digital Bank" by Euromoney, "Asia's Best Bank" by The Banker and Euromoney, and "Asian Bank of the Year" by IFR Asia. DBS has also been conferred "Safest Bank in Asia" by Global Finance for seven consecutive years from 2009 to 2015.

Our retention and engagement rates are better than the industry average.

Question: What's next?

Mr Singh: Award programmes like this (Best Employers) serve an important purpose in benchmarking best practice, acknowledging performance while at the same time helping define the people-centric strategies to support (the) next phase of growth. The clock has been reset and goes back to zero - we welcome this recognition, which is a reminder to stay the course and continue to invest in and nurture our employer brand, but we have to earn this recognition every day.

Mr Ho: Becoming a Best Employer is not the end-goal. We have to continue to do our best - to ensure OCBC Bank remains the best place to work for employees, the best place to bank for our customers and the best place to invest for our shareholders.

We have to remember that at the core of OCBC are our people, and we must never lose sight of this principle if we want to continue to be a best employer, year after year. Therefore, we will continue to engage our employees and listen to their feedback, so as to develop new initiatives that are relevant and meaningful to them.

Ms Lee: We have launched DBS SkillsFlex, a programme that complements the nation's SkillsFuture initiative.

We encourage employees to embrace a digital mindset through experiential learning and experimentation. As a start, more than 2,000 employees across the region have gained exposure to digital culture, agile methodology and other digital working concepts through human-centred design workshops and hackathons where they work with start-ups to develop solutions to business challenges.


What the Best Employers say

"We believe in an inclusive environment where differences are valued, abilities are recognised and potentials are developed."
- Edmund Kwok, CEO,
National Kidney Foundation

"Our people are what make American Express great and successful and this award is as much a recognition of them as it is about the company."
- Cheng Heng Chew, CEO,
American Express International Inc, Singapore

"Engaging with our team is a core pillar of our business, so this accolade is validation of the company's efforts to keep moving in the right direction."
- Khoo Seng Thiam, Managing director,
FedEx Express Singapore

"A firm believer in unravelling the potential of our people, staff development takes centre stage in our corporate culture, focusing on helping staff exemplify our core values, inspiring a genuine love for children and equipping with the right skillset in teaching Chinese the Berries way. Our people make all the difference."
- Wynne Li Wai Lan, Managing director,
Berries World of Learning School

"Only through having highly engaged ladies and gentlemen can we continue to deliver exceptional stay experiences and indelible memories of our guests that will last beyond their stay with us."
- Peter Mainguy, General manager,
The Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore