Empowerment in action: Crafting a vibrant workplace

Embracing a transformative shift in employee engagement, organisations are shaping thriving workforces in an adaptable corporate landscape.
By: | August 23, 2023

The business landscape is witnessing a shift in the interpretation of employee engagement—an evolution from mere terminology to a foundational pillar fostering a thriving and interconnected workforce. In place of a universal formula, successful organisations now prioritise tailoring experiences to each employee, forming an environment woven with inclusivity, respect, and shared prosperity.

Amidst the corporate drive towards adaptability, the compass guiding this path is the employee experience, an essential factor in shaping the future-ready workforce. HRM Asia delves into organisations’ holistic strategies, which intricately interlace personal growth and collaborative synergy to cultivate employee engagement and experience.

Read on to find out more…

Maintaining a cohesive culture while personalising employee experiences

Mukul Anand, Head of Human Resources, HSBC Singapore, “At HSBC, our commitment is to build a dynamic and inclusive workplace that inspires learning and collaboration. In today’s landscape, employees are increasingly placing importance on balance, valuing flexibility in how, when, and where they work. Our goal is to provide the support that our people need to get the balance right and engage them to embed the organisation’s culture and values in their actions.”

“Be it working in the office or remotely, we believe in the importance of open dialogue and empowerment for our people to be at their best and deliver great outcomes. Through active conversations and team charters, our managers collaborate with their teams to develop hybrid working arrangements that benefit them, while maintaining accountability. Managers are equipped with a Return to Office (RTO) toolkit, to tailor RTO plans to individual working styles and personal circumstances and develop plans for each individual employee. Since the implementation of our hybrid working arrangement, we have seen an increase in overall employee engagement and more employees have said they feel a genuine sense of belonging to the team.”

“To create a cohesive culture, we continue to organise bank-wide events and activities to celebrate key milestones and achievements. Some examples include our HSBC Charity Walk which saw over 400 colleagues coming together to raise funds for the Autism Resource Centre Singapore and our annual Recognition Week, a week-long celebration to acknowledge the efforts of our people.”

“Our success lies in striking the balance between personalised experiences and a cohesive culture. By valuing the wellbeing of our people, we pave the way for an empowered, high-performing, and engaged workforce.”

Empowering hospitality employees for excellence

Zeng Shujuan, Director of Human Resources, Global HR Operations, Millennium Hotels and Resorts (MHR), “Being in the hospitality industry, it is important for us to create a workplace where employees feel valued, supported, and engaged, for them to provide an amazing and memorable experience for our guests. This means offering a variety of employee benefits and equal opportunities through various engagement channels, developing their skills and interest through training and development programmes, and staying updated with the latest hospitality trends.”

“This is how we create a sense of community and belonging among our employees, by having a strong organisational culture that is based on shared values and goals and support each other through difficult times.”

“At MHR, we celebrate our successes with organisational-wide events and recognition programmes. This helps employees feel appreciated for their hard work and dedication. For example, in addition to the usual ‘Employee of the Month award, we have our own ‘Millennium Star’ award, which recognises employees who have gone above and beyond to exceed guests’ expectations. We also conduct regular Employee Townhall sessions and create opportunities for team bonding through appreciation events, celebrations, and festivals. MHR is also committed to giving back to society and actively encourages employee volunteerism and participation in various charity and corporate social responsibility initiatives.”

The power of data-driven insights to drive engagement

Terrence Yong, General Manager for Asia-Pacific, Visier, “Employee experience is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It is the sum of all interactions and perceptions that employees have with their employer, from recruitment through to exit.”

“At Visier, we believe employee experience can be enhanced by using data and analytics to understand what employee value, what motivates them, and their pain points. We also believe it should align with organisational culture—the shared values, beliefs and behaviours that define how we work. One way to help organisations improve employee experience is by providing analytics that uncover insights around collaboration, productivity, and employee wellbeing. These insights empower managers to have meaningful conversations with their teams and address any issues quickly.”

“For instance, eBay has leveraged our analytics to better understand the varying impacts of remote work on their workforce. The insights helped them confidently expand remote policies while supporting employee wellbeing. Over time, they saw increased engagement, lower turnover, and better team collaboration and innovation. By putting employee experience first, they’ve been able to reinforce their culture of agility, diversity, and excellence.”

Crafting a collaborative trust culture

Jocelyne Loh, Chief People Officer, Trust Bank, “We set out to build a rewarding experience for our colleagues through personalised experiences by listening to what matters to them, developing programmes that specifically meet their needs and acting on their feedback to iterate for better. As a result, many of our People programmes, including our culture and core values, are built ground-up and co-created with our colleagues.”

“For example, we have an internal digital ‘thank you’ channel where colleagues can express their gratitude and appreciation for others through bank-wide recognition. This channel is interactive and fun, allowing others to comment or express their gratitude through a wide selection of emojis. Often, key moments that matter like onboarding of new joiners or the birth of a child are celebrated together as a Trust team, making these events even more special.”

“While we are a team that works hard, we never forget to play hard too. We have introduced weekly tea-time treats for all colleagues in our office, many of which are sourced from the growing range of partners offered through our app. This not only provides everyone with a well-deserved break from the daily grind but creates lively interactions with our CxOs who dish out the treats.”

 “Every colleague also has a personalised digital Trust avatar which is used as a form of digital identity on office digital tools. We have received warm feedback from new joiners that the Trust avatar has helped them immediately feel like they are part of a family.”

Nurturing success through employee empowerment

Don Leow, CHRO, SBS Transit, “SBS Transit (SBST) has been a stalwart in the public transport arena. As we approach our Golden Jubilee on November 3, we reflect on our accomplishments; all of which are made possible by our caring organisational culture. At the core of our success lies the guiding principles of CARES: Caring, Adaptable, Reliable, Earth-Friendly, and Safe and Secure. These values not only define how we interact with our commuters, but they also shape our leadership framework in grooming leaders who are good custodians of our people.”

“In an increasingly competitive industry coupled with structural and cyclical HR challenges, prioritising employee experience is paramount to differentiate SBST. Our commitment goes beyond providing a good experience at the recruitment and onboarding stage; it considers employees’ aspirations in their career journeys with us. We have a multitude of programmes to support their personal and professional upgrading in line with the rise in locals’ educational and career aspirations. We are reprofiling our manpower structure to level up job roles, such as converting Technician into Assistant Engineer roles, to provide for senior roles for those we sponsor under the various programmes.”

“We also provide career development roadmaps for different employee groups and support them in progressing into pinnacle roles within each of the groups or in moving into alternative career paths, with training and exposure given for those who want to make the move. We believe that in meeting employees’ aspirations, we will strengthen the social compact we have with them.”

Redefining collaboration for global impact

Maureen Tseng, Managing Director, South-East Asia, The Hoffman Agency, “Enforcing a positive and cohesive culture across our offices has always been our top priority. As an integrated communications agency working with clients from multinational organisations can be demanding and as such, we provide our consultants with an environment where they can thrive. We have employed a permanent hybrid 3-2 working arrangement (three days in the office and two at home) to support schedule flexibility and improve work-life balance.”

“Office design plays an important role in fostering collaboration. All our offices across the region have designated areas for rest and play and these become focal points for team bonding over lunch or spontaneous evening wine and cheese sessions.”

“We ensure that cross-border interaction between employees doesn’t just happen virtually, but physically too. Apart from HAnywhere programmes where employees get compensated for taking a day off their holiday to work in an office abroad, we created a fully sponsored Building Bridges programme for employees who express a desire to work and contribute to another market. We sponsor employees to work in overseas HA offices for up to three months, resulting in greater opportunities for skills enhancement, knowledge sharing, and cultural exchange.”

The path to enhanced job satisfaction and productivity

Bob Grove, Executive Director, WorkWell Leaders, “There is evidence which demonstrates that employees in Singapore generally have lower engagement rates and job satisfaction than their counterparts in Indonesia and the Philippines.”

“The employee experience, their wellbeing and motivation are grounded on their everyday interactions with managers and colleagues. Feeling valued, that your opinions matter, and that you are empowered to make decisions, are the fundamentals individuals seek beyond benefits. Equally, the roadmap for learning and growth should be different for each employee.”

“There’s a significant payoff when employees feel cared for physically, mentally, and emotionally. Middle managers especially need to be taught to mitigate the natural tendency to exert control and instead act with awareness, vulnerability, empathy and compassion, attributes, to create a safe space for employees to work in.”

“A happy and healthy workforce is more productive. There’s a link between higher employee satisfaction and better business outcomes. Consciously mapping out the employee experience for every team member is not just a good thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”