At CDL, it’s about building an engaged, future-ready workforce 

EXCLUSIVE: For City Developments Limited (CDL), it's not just about developing large scale buildings around the world, but the people behind its success.
By: | July 8, 2020

City Developments Limited (CDL) is known as a leading global real estate company behind many large scale and renowned residential and commercial properties around the world.

But the foundation of the Group’s success and achievements is not just real estate, but its people. After all, it would not be where it is today without the staff who have supported the Company in its 57 year journey from a tiny office at Amber Mansions in Singapore, to its newly renovated skyscaper flagship Republic Plaza in the heart of Raffles Place.

After more than half a century, CDL has grown not only in the number of projects – from its first housing project in Johor Bahru in 1965 to developing over 46,000 homes globally today – but also its workforce. In its Singapore headquarters, the Group has around 400 employees to support its core operations in property development and asset management. Worldwide, the Group has over 14,000 employees across various subsidiaries, including its recently privatised hotel arm, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Limited (M&C).

As a property pioneer in Singapore, CDL had to adapt and keep pace with not only the changes in the real estate industry but in the ever-evolving workforce as well. It has invested in training and upskilling programmes to enhance employee engagement.

Speaking exclusively to HRM Asia, Steven Tan, Chief Human Resource Officer, CDL, said, “An engaged workforce and strong leaders are key drivers for our organisational growth, innovation and sustainability. The Group has a relatively young Executive Committee team which keeps the organisation dynamic as we remain poised to take the lead as the vanguard of the real estate industry.

“Investing in employee learning and development to build a resilient and future-ready workforce, and to navigate the changing business landscape, is a key focus for CDL. To ensure there are adequate training interventions to level-up competencies and professional knowledge, our Competency Framework, introduced in 2013, is reviewed on a biennial basis to ensure that skill sets are updated to yield a capable and more agile workforce. 

“Additionally, curated development programmes are put in place for high potentials to align their development to the Group’s strategies,” he added.

A culture of reskilling and upskilling

Named one of the “Best Companies to Work For in Asia” in the HR Asia Awards 2019, the cornerstone of CDL’s growth is its culture of reskilling and upskilling its people, especially in this increasingly digital age. That is also one of the key drivers for its employee attraction, engagement and retention.

Some of the initiatives that the Group has introduced are ‘Learn and Share’ sessions and ‘CDL Fiesta!’ to help CDL employees stay updated on the latest innovation trends.

Tan outlined why reskilling and upskilling initiatives are critical for the organisation:

  • To navigate the ever-changing and competitive business environment
  • To promote continued learning and development which in turn enhances employees’ job satisfaction
  • To secure a competitive advantage
  • To boost retention and attraction – opportunities for upskilling promote greater employee value proposition
  • To enhance involvement and commitment

“Digitalisation is a key focus for the Group to build a future ready workforce. Employees need to have relevant knowledge and capabilities to use digital technologies effectively. Both the company and our employees play active roles in ensuring that our workforce remains relevant and empowered,” he said.

“Digitalisation and automation will lead to increases in productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of processes. We are committed to ensuring that our employees remain relevant through all this,” he added.

HR – a strategic partner to the business

The strategic partnership that Tan and his HR team have forged with the leadership of the company promotes the continued growth, engagement and development of its people. Trust and responsibility have empowered them to make key decisions aligned with the company’s business needs.

“HR has a seat on the senior management team, which helps us to understand the business needs, then align this with our people’s needs, to build and enhance internal capabilities. The Group will then have employees ready for business decisions like overseas expansion or deployment,” Tan explained.

“The HR team works closely with the business functions to support their operational needs, and co-facilitates strategic planning exercises and change management projects.

“Furthermore, HR conducts and facilitates biennial staff engagement surveys and internal customer satisfaction surveys to ensure that any enhancement opportunities can quickly be addressed so that we can help the business maintain its strategic astuteness,” he concluded.