Secrets to successful employee retention

HR lessons from the region's leading baby product maker.

About the author

Chong Swee Lian, HR Manager, Tollyjoy Baby Products

Employee retention is important to an organisation’s success. Studies have shown that the total cost of turnover can be as high as 90 - 200% of an employee's annual salary with the incurring additional costs for recruitment and new hire training. Frequent high turnovers not only affect the reputation of an organisation but also the morale of existing employees.

Understanding that employees form an integral part of any enterprise, and managing and valuing them as an asset, has been the key contributor to Tollyjoy Baby Product’s success. Tollyjoy has what some may call “a charmed HR situation” with very little staff movement over the years despite being an SME and a family-owned business, a set up which many people would generally not contemplate working in.

We are very proud that with over 200 Tollyjoy employees across the region, not only has our retention rate averaged at 10 years but a significant number of our colleagues have in fact crossed the 15, 20 and 25 years of service mark too. We have also had colleagues who left but returned to work with us over the years.

Our HR policies and practices have always been based on the simple theory “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, as laid by the founders Mr Tan Khung Ngee and his wife Madam Tan Hong Keow more than 40 years ago. While these policies and practices have since been updated, the essence of the company’s core values remains unchanged which are based on the strong belief that empowering, entrusting and valuing employees are the strong foundations for motivation and loyalty and are reflected in our HR policies:


  • Extended Retirement: Tollyjoy continues to keep staff beyond the government legislated retirement age of 62, at the same position and pay scale that they were on before retirement.  Our oldest colleague, factory supervisor Mr. Jeffrey Tan is 73-years-old has been with us for 27 years. Though this means the incurrence of higher insurance and medical costs, we believe that his diligence and competence on the job is a valuable resource and the knowledge and experience that he brings from the roots of Tollyjoy’s founding days is worth more than just an economic digit


  • No Gender Bias: Our staff recruitment is based on ability, not age or gender. With a staff strength of about 95% women, we recognise the important roles and responsibilities that women take on at different stages of their life including marriage, children and caring for their elderly parents and this is reflected in our pro family HR practices


  • Flexible Work Hours: Our staff have the flexibility to take leave of absence at any point in time during the day or come to work later than usual, should they need to attend to matters relating to their family


  • Work From Home: We have technologically equipped our operations to make arrangements for staff to work remotely from home when they are unable to physically be present at office due to family commitments


To achieve a happy and productive workforce, employers need to have a broad mindset change in their approach and outlook. This means overcoming age-old notions that employees will shortchange the company if they are not constantly under surveillance and supervision; moving from just being a work-centric to a more work-and-people-centric culture; and embrace technology openly as an enabler which bridges time and space.

Organisations should work towards designing and fostering a workplace environment where people possess mutual respect for each other, regardless of their positions and are empowered to contribute towards a common objective. The feel that each of their contribution makes a difference, gives them a sense of pride and boosts productivity, which will have an overall positive impact on the business.

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