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Lim Kwan Sek Heineken
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Q&A: Lim Kwan Sek, HR director, Heineken Malaysia

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Vital Stats: With 13 employees in the HR team at Heineken Malaysia, Lim Kwan Sek is at the helm of all the core HR areas, including health and safety and facilities management. The firm is a strong advocate of diversity in the workplace with 30% of its employees in Malaysia women – and more significantly – nearly 50% of the positions at middle/senior management level held by women.


From one brewery in Amsterdam in 1864, Heineken today operates in more than 70 countries worldwide. With about 9,000 employees in the Asia Pacific region, Heineken Malaysia has nearly 590 employees representing a diverse age group (from under 25 to over 55).

In this exclusive by Wani Azahar, Lim Kwan Sek, HR director for Heineken Malaysia shares how employees get to “go places” when it comes to their career development through the firm’s strong EVP.

Q How would you describe the company culture at Heineken Malaysia when it comes to retaining talent?

We believe in building true human connections and breaking down barriers. To achieve that, we create programmes to attract, nurture and develop our people.

Our company culture operates on the values of passion for quality, enjoyment of life, respect for people and for the planet.

Q With “We Are Heineken” at the core of your business, what does this truly mean?

People are at the heart of the company. From a HR standpoint, it means we will continue building our own sustainable talent pool through our employee value proposition, Asia Pacific Graduate Programme (APGP) and Accelerate Your Talent (AYT) programmes. For senior talent who are identified and mobile, we will support their development through international assignments.

As leadership development is a core area, our people will be expected to adopt Heineken’s leadership expectations – to connect, deliver, develop, shape, and above all role, model the Heineken behaviours.

We ensure development goes beyond programmes and initiatives. Employee engagement is also supported with an upgrading of our office and work environment, which promotes collaboration and opportunities for “time-out”. We also use Workplace by Facebook to connect the whole organisation, helping everyone in the business turn ideas into action.

To enable high performers, we must also not forget to care for our employees’ health and safety. This year, we will be incentivising our employees to have a healthier lifestyle through our wellbeing programmes. In regards to safety, we will continue to emphasise our number one behaviour, which is to “put safety first”, and engage our employees with our Heineken life saving rules. Our emphasis on safety extends beyond the employee and his/her workplace – it encompasses the people we work with, our contractors, our suppliers, our business partners and ultimately our families.

To sum up, we will continue with our strong focus to attract and retain the best talent by creating a great place to work and develop high performing people and teams for a sustainable business.

Key drivers to achieving this will be our strong employer brand as well as effective employee engagement by connecting people through our purpose: We Are Heineken.

To enable high performers, we must also not forget to care for our employees’ health and safety.

Q Launched in 2016, the Go Places campaign embodies the company’s global EVP. Could you tell us more about this?

The Go Places campaign is a company-wide initiative, and within this campaign we have several initiatives that cater to both our employees as well as potential recruits. Last year, Heineken Malaysia activated Go Places externally through several media engagements that helped profile the organisation, leveraging on Heineken’s employer brand.

On the ground, we visited several universities and hosted career talks, where we shared with students what it means to Go Places with Heineken Malaysia. On social media, via our corporate Facebook page, our digital campaigns reached a wider audience and inspired many to check out how they can Go Places with us by visiting our new careers microsite.

To encourage ambassadorship of our vision and purpose, we also had an internal contest, which challenged our employees to share with their friends and family on social media (hence, tell the world) why they are proud to be Heineken.

These initiatives provided a glimpse behind the brands and products we are well known for, as we are truly so much more. Indeed, a career with Heineken Malaysia is about growing with a diverse group of professionals and leaders from various disciplines (finance, IT, supply chain, sales, marketing, HR, as well as corporate affairs and legal). I am proud that we collaborate across the organisation with a common goal to achieve our vision: “To be the leading brewer of inspirational brands, enjoyed anytime, anywhere.”

Q How was the campaign communicated to staff/candidates?

Heineken Malaysia activated Go Places digitally, bringing the message of this amazing journey to Millennials and our employees through social media.

Digital technology plays an increasingly prominent role in HR, which affects how we manage our people practices. We leverage Workplace (by Facebook) to share and connect internally with our colleagues.

To support the Go Places EVP internally, as part of the global roll out of our purpose – “We Are Heineken” – we produced a series of videos that showcased Heineken Malaysia’s employees responding to and reflecting on the purpose. These videos were screened at our quarterly town halls and today have become an asset we use to engage potential recruits, new joiners, as well as the wider community on our common purpose.

We aim to reach more audiences so more people get to know Heineken Malaysia and its employees, not just our product brands. Last year we refreshed our corporate website, career microsite and launched our Facebook page. Our Go Places campaign on Facebook had a reach of half a million people in our targeted demographics and delivered some 16,000 new visitors to Heineken Malaysia’s careers microsite.

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Q What would you say are the top three success factors when it comes to launching an EVP initiative?

First, an EVP needs to provide a clear picture of who we are and what we aspire to become. It has to inspire a bigger ambition. Second, an EVP has to be more than a line of words. It has to be real for employees. I believe it is all about the experience – from what we see and feel at our workplace daily to the concrete examples we can see in the case of success stories across the organisation.

Third, and as a result of combining the above two, I believe an EVP has to be about the real opportunities which resonate and attract others to be part of the Heineken family.

Q Through Heineken’s strong EVP campaign, you saw a 220% increase in APGP applicants. What would you say was the main driver of the campaign that contributed to the increase of applications?

I believe it is the design of our unique programme as well as the immense potential it carries that sets our APGP programme apart from other employers.

The Heineken APGP is a relatively new programme launched in Malaysia in 2016, and we have had close to 1,000 graduates applying to join this programme. To date, we have five Malaysian graduates recruited under this programme.

Through the Heineken APGP, which is highly competitive, trainees undergo a twoyear programme with rotations at different OpCos (operating companies) in the Asia Pacific region and exposure to multifunctional roles. Most management trainee programmes empower them with all the necessary skills, knowledge and experience they need in today’s world.

An EVP has to be more than a line of words. It has to be real for employees. 

Q Moving on to one of your talent development programmes, who is the AYT programme for?

Under the AYT programme, our junior to middle management employees have opportunities to go on short-term assignments (STA) which are usually six months at another operating company in the Asia Pacific region. Since the launch of AYT in 2016, Heineken Malaysia has recorded the highest number of STAs (that is, inbound and outbound), with participants reflecting positively on the experience. To date, we have had a total of 16 employees enjoy outbound and inbound short-term assignments.

Q What was some of the key feedback given by staff on the programme?

As one of the employees who had participated in the AYT programme and had the opportunity to go on a short term assignment, Phuang Hun Chung, business controller of finance, who was on STA at APB Alliance Brewery Company in Myanmar, commented: “The short stint in Myanmar has brought a great deal of new knowledge to me, especially in the area of strategic planning and budgeting for a young OpCo. It also offered the opportunity to gain experiences from other cultures and working styles, which gave me a better sense of diversity and versatility.”

Meanwhile, Debra Deyvitah, Tiger global design co-ordinator, who worked at Heineken Asia Pacific during her STA, said: “Working with the global Tiger team in Singapore has been a productive and fruitful experience. I understand strategy a lot better and am also privileged to work with markets from all over the world which is enriching. The STA programme not only grows you in your career, it also helps with personal growth, which is brilliant.”

Taking another as an example, Sze Ming Hui, Cellar loss reduction project, who experienced his STA at Asia Pacific Brewery Lanka in Sri Lanka, said: “The STA in Sri Lanka was an eye-opening experience as I have never travelled to any foreign country. With the help of my colleagues in Sri Lanka, I improved their brewing process. I also got to know how another brewery operates.”

Q What were some of the challenges faced during the designing and implementation of this campaign?

Some minor challenges faced were mainly operational in nature, such as obtaining employment visas, logistics and ensuring the safety of our employees while they were abroad. For that, we worked very closely with our HR counterparts in the host country to ensure we abided by the regulations and complied with the necessary paperwork and permits.

We also kept in touch with employees who were away to see if they required anything to make their experiences even more fulfilling. Of course, our local counterparts were also most helpful in ensuring our employees felt welcomed and at home at all times.

Q On a personal level, what would your HR mantra be?

HR for me is about helping employees grow in a personal and professional capacity, with great experiences where moments matter.

Q What do you think is the one thing that HR usually misses out on when it comes to a strong EVP?

We need to ensure the EVP is aligned to the purpose and strategy of the organisation, and bring the EVP to life by engaging people via various initiatives that existing and potential employees can relate to.

HR for me is about helping employees grow in a personal and professional capacity, with great experiences where moments matter.

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