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Case study: How Mah Sing Group bridges communication gaps between generations

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Before catering to the needs of a multi-generational workforce, you must first make sure you’ve have hired the best-fit talent for the organisation, shares Peter Law, Head, People Development & Recognition, Mah Sing Group. Then comes alignment.

In this case study, he shares how the firm works towards a culture of excellence where four different generations are empowered and able to work together.

At property and lifestyle developer, Mah Sing Group, 90% of its existing workforce is dominated by a mix of Millennials (55%) and Generation X (35%). The remaining 10% is made up of Baby Boomers and Generation Z, equally.

As Peter Law, Head, People Development & Recognition, Mah Sing Group, says, learning how to effectively leverage on the diverse experiences and talents each generation brings gives the organisation a competitive edge.

How then, does the organisation’s HR team tackle this? For one, Law shares: “The launch of ‘New’ Mah Sing in 2016 underlies the commitment of the group to kick-start the transformation journey in reinventing new ways of working to enhance the lives of our people.

“We want to build a culture of excellence in attracting, recruiting and retaining best-fit-talent and one of the strategies is to address the key needs of the multi-generational workforce.” In doing so, the team has implemented a slew of initiatives that shift old mindsets to new ones.

First, there is a shift from workplace rigidity to workplace flexibility, whereby the team aims to shape a culture of employee empowerment by introducing flexible working hours and emphasising performance over presence.

According to Law, this caters to the Millennials and Generation Z, who make up 60% of the emerging talent pools. Second, comes the shift from retrospective to real-time performance feedback.

Employees are empowered to take ownership of their careers through initiating meaningful real-time career conversations with their line managers, and vice-versa.

“This is effective in bridging the communication gap between generations, and more importantly, the hierarchical gaps which were very prominent in Mah Sing Group prior to the transformation.”

Third, the company has ditched the inside-out, or top-down approach to decision making in favour of an outside-in approach. What this means is that greater value is now placed on employees’ feedback, such as through its employee engagement survey. From this, the company has undertaken a number of policy enhancements, including annual leave, dental benefits, maternity leave, and more.

In line with the implementation of such changes, the company has achieved “great milestones” and consistent recognition in the industry, for instance, by winning awards, which have been used to affirm the company’s progress and ROI. Further, Law shares that Mah Sing has also seen more quality CVs coming in since, with a 30% year-on-year increase in applicants since 2017.

Overcoming hurdles along the way

While introducing these initiatives, the biggest challenge faced by Law’s team has been integrating them into the organisational culture in the midst of transformation, and having to face some sceptical employees. However, he believes with the top leadership’s support, a new norm will be formed “slowly, but surely”, through consistent reinforcement of these new initiatives.

“What’s more important than catering to multi-generational needs is to first make sure that we have hired the best-fit talent for the organisation. Then, make sure that when catering to their needs, the initiatives should strategically align to the organisation’s vision, mission and core values, and eventually, the culture.”

To conclude, Law shares his view on avoiding stereotypes and keeping an open mind towards each generation. He says: “Despite research proving that each generation is distinctly unique in general, we have to move beyond stereotypes and recognise that innovation comes in all shapes, sizes and ages.

“Besides valuing the differences, we should also value the commonalities among generations.”


This interview first appeared as part of a Talent Management feature in the Human Resources magazine Malaysia, Q3 edition.  

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