How innovative employee benefits unlocks talent potential

UOB’s Dean Tong shares how the bank’s employee benefits programme is fostering workplace excellence and attracting diverse talent in finance.
By: | November 16, 2023

Employee benefits are a large part of the employee experience. Employees join organisations based on multiple aspects, including the type of benefits that are offered. For organisations such as banks, long held as hallowed institutions of finance, the need to find aspiring, talented employees is always imperative. Change needs to occur in older banks to encourage more people to join them, and the United Overseas Bank (UOB) is an example of an organisation that has managed to create a great workplace culture, thanks to the employee benefits offered. 

The organisation has, over the years, garnered numerous accolades for their efforts in the human resource space, having been certified as a Great Place to Work by the namesake Institute this year, and was also ranked second in Asia in Time Magazine’s World’s Best Companies 2023.

“At UOB, we believe that a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) should go beyond monetary compensation and predefined roles,” said Dean Tong, Head, Group Human Resources, UOB. Speaking to HRM Asia, Tong explained that UOB’s EVP is one that includes care, growth, and trust, with an active care for employee wellbeing. This means, then, that the organisation is always looking for ways to strike a balance between purpose and balance for their employees.  “Too fixated with purpose can lead to burnout, while over-emphasis on balance might diminish output,” said Tong. “We aim to enable our people to find an optimal balance between the two, so they are motivated at work while having time and space for personal pursuits.”

This means that the banking institution is often looking for the right balance between the financial and non-financial cost and returns of employee benefits, against the finite resources that they have. “Benefits should also reflect the company’s people philosophy and strategic goals,and incorporate a data-driven approach in the decision-making process,” said Tong. This is exemplified with the weekly two-day remote work arrangement that the bank implemented in 2022, after reviewing the data borne from work patterns, workspaces and workforce technology tools. The data and surveys conducted after the implementation showed positive results: employee morale and loyalty had increased with no negative impact on productivity. 

“Benefits should also reflect the company’s people philosophy and strategic goals,and incorporate a data-driven approach in the decision-making process.” – Dean Tong, Head, Group Human Resources, UOB.

“This policy is on top of a slew of employee wellness benefits under the ‘Care’ pillar of our EVP such as Flexi-2 which gives all staff an additional two hours off during the workday every month to attend to personal matters, and a choice of staggered start-work times,” explained Tong, claiming UOB was the first local bank to implement this work arrangement, which is now a permanent feature in their work processes. 

This is great for employees who may have other pressing time-commitments to aspects of their lives, which is the intent of UOB’s objective to widen the search and hire from a larger talent pool. The bank has been able to hire more people from non-traditional backgrounds who are still able to share their expertise and their passion with other employees from the bank. “We have led the industry in launching schemes targeted at the hiring and retention of talent sources such as retirees, caregivers and non-degree graduates,” enthused Tong. This comes in the form of their flagship hiring programme, Gig+U, which enables retirees and women with caregiving duties who are willing and able to pursue their careers at UOB on a flexible basis. 

Current employees working at UOB are also included, thanks to the launch of the UOB Better U Campus, a recent initiative in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Management. Located at the SIM’s Management House, the Better U Campus is a dedicated physical venue to consolidate all UOB’s training and development programmes under one roof. Employees on Better U can take the opportunity to upskill and reskill. Other programmes are also offered, including a programme to help employees near retirement age after work, as well as medical benefits extending to six months after the employees retire.

READ MORE: The wellbeing equation: Building success through employee fulfilment  

All in all, the various employee benefit packages and programmes at UOB have been essential in encouraging applicants to consider a career in banking, but also push more people from different walks in life and non-traditional working backgrounds to apply. Thanks to these benefits, the programmes not only attract talented individuals but also provide them with opportunities to develop the skills that will allow them to grow and thrive in their career journey.