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From 0 to 100: Managing the employee life cycle

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In this exclusive, Jerene Ang speaks to HR leaders from Scoot, TWG Tea, Arrow Electronics and YITU to derive best practices for each stage of talent management.

HR’s key role is to manage the process across the employee life cycle – from recruitment and onboarding to performance management and career development. In this feature, we speak to organisations that have successfully optimised each aspect of talent management.

Scooting candidates off to Europe

In October 2015, Scoot launched its first “live” cadet pilot recruitment campaign, which helped it clinch silver for the Best Recruitment Advertising Strategy at the Asia Recruitment Awards 2016. Back then, the low-cost carrier had not merged with Tigerair. Faced with stiff competition from other airlines, what Scoot needed was a recruitment strategy that was aggressive, fast and low cost.

Hence, it came up with the idea of a unique “live” Q&A session on Twitter, allowing it to engage as many potential candidates as possible on its cadet pilot recruitment process.

Theresa Tan, VP of human resources at Scoot, says: “Our pre-campaign consisted of boosted advertisements and leveraging on our own social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We spent a mere S$350 on the campaign, including a prize (flight simulator experience), which translated to five to six times more impressions than average and 2234 interactions (all positive), followed by an impressive turnout at our subsequent assessment centres.”

Fast-forward two years, with the merger with Tigerair and an increase in the network, Scoot needed to focus on long-term strategies. This included forming a set of common and meaningful values for the expanded workforce.

“Both management and employees were brought in to define these values, which today are ‘different’, ‘open’, ‘empowered’, ‘rewarding’ and ‘safe’. These values helped shape our recruitment strategy in terms of who we look to hire and to refresh our employer branding.” A focus was then placed on the employee experience, with the first step to conduct an employer brand study.

“We found people loved Scoot most for its casual and fun work environment, the amazing travel opportunities, and of course, the many opportunities for career development.”

The objectives are two-fold – showcase Scoot’s unique culture and differentiate our employment brand, and recruit more cabin crew to support our growth.
– Theresa Tan, VP of human resources at Scoot

Thus, the team focused on these messages during recruitment. An example of its innovation can be seen in the “Epic Interview” – a cabin crew recruitment campaign Scoot launched in September this year (2018). “In essence, shortlisted applicants are scooted off to either Athens or Berlin for the final round of their interview, where they will undergo a series of challenges, ‘Amazing Race’ style, so we can observe whether they have our desired cabin crew traits – of course, while having lots of fun in the process, just like our Scootees at work.”

The objectives, Tan says, are two-fold: “Showcase Scoot’s unique culture and differentiate our employment brand, and recruit more cabin crew to support our growth.”

Bringing teams together over a cup of tea

When luxury tea brand TWG Tea started to expand, it needed something that could bring all its teams together – the front of house (staff in the shop) as well as the people in the office.

Maranda Barnes, co-founder and director of business development and corporate communications at TWG Tea, says: “We wanted to create an environment where people felt they had joined a company that had a culture and to help them to understand it. We also wanted everyone to communicate the same messages about the brand – from those working in corporate communications and HR to the finance team and even our drivers.”

In line with that, every new employee – regardless of department – starts their journey with the company by spending three days attending TWG Tea’s brand experience workshop at the Tea institute. Held twice a month, it covers things such as tea knowledge and the company’s values (thoughtfulness, willingness and grace). Not only does this help set the tone for what the company expects staff to develop in their relationships with colleagues, suppliers and clients, but also, as Barnes says: “It was a way for us to attract staff to stay in the long term and to feel we were taking care of them and investing in them.”

After going through the brand experience workshop and other follow-up workshops and trainings, we have a 48% retention rate for Singaporean employees.
– Maranda Barnes, co-founder and director of business development and corporate communications at TWG Tea

One of the key challenges TWG Tea faced when making the brand experience workshop an obligatory programme for all staff was getting managers to really follow the process.

“HR had to completely revamp its entire hiring process and not hire people ad hoc whenever they were first available. They had to tell the new hire to wait until the next date of the brand experience workshop before they could start at the company. That wasn’t always convenient – for HR, for operations who were probably suffering from lack of staff or for the employee who maybe needed a job.”

As such, when it was first implemented, there were times when employees slipped through the cracks – starting work before undergoing the workshop. “Interestingly, we found that it is twice as likely for staff to stay with our company after they have attended the brand experience workshop, as compared to those who have not.”

Apart from the workshop, the Tea Institute hosts more than 300 workshops for TWG Tea’s staff and partners in Singapore and around the world. “After going through the brand experience workshop and other follow-up workshops and trainings, we have a 48% retention rate for Singaporean employees.”

Performance versus job mastery

To stay true to its employee value proposition of a fast-paced, performance-driven culture, at L’Oréal Singapore, a minimum of two mandatory performance conversations are carried out in a year. Each conversation focuses on a different area – performance in role, and job mastery.

This creates conditions where transparent development and performance conversations go hand-in-hand, explains Atul Gaur, human resources director at L’Oréal Singapore, adding: “Our differentiation between performance and job mastery is key to our development principle, especially as we provide diverse experiences to our people across different functions and divisions.

“Therefore, we take time to review people’s job mastery so we can help our people develop relevant skills for the job and to help them perform in the new role.”

Separating job mastery from performance allows the French personal care company to still focus on its people’s performance while they master their new roles. Thus, allowing them to continue taking bets on employees for new and stretching roles without any prior experience, true to L’Oréal’s entrepreneurial spirit.

At the same time, L’Oréal understands that performance and development is a more dynamic subject than just two conversations a year.

“Therefore, we encourage more regular feedback between managers, employees and colleagues as a way to accelerate performance and development in a job on an ongoing basis.”

We try and make performance factual, removing biases and subjectivity as much as possible. This openness, focus on KPIs and dashboard, and a direct feedback culture creates conditions for open, respectful and transparent conversations.
– Atul Gaur, human resources director at L’Oréal Singapore

Being an entrepreneurial organisation that values freedom-based management, coupled with performance accountability, the company encourages open talk and direct feedback – both between managers and employees, as well as between colleagues.

“We try and make performance factual, removing biases and subjectivity as much as possible. This openness, focus on KPIs and dashboard, and a direct feedback culture creates conditions for open, respectful and transparent conversations.”

One of the toughest aspects of managing performance is having tough conversations with under performers. Asked about how it’s done at L’Oréal, Gaur says: “Our focus is on individuals and we don’t try to tag people as top performers or average performers. It’s a mission-based conversation which can change very quickly as our people move quickly to other roles to develop their skills. A focus on an individual conversation for a particular mission, both for development as well as performance, allows us to maximise every employee’s potential.”

A programme for every developmental need

American Fortune 500 company Arrow Electronics places significant focus on creating an environment that fosters employee engagement at all levels. One way it does so is through offering challenging and rewarding career opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds. This is done through its comprehensive talent movement programme that provides staff with internal career progression opportunities and broadens their exposure to the business.

Vivian Kwok, vice-president of human resources at Arrow Electronics, says: “Employees will have a chance not only to move vertically within their functions, but also horizontally to branching out to other functions, and even relocating to other cities, countries or regions to broaden their regional exposure.”

Apart from that, staff also have the opportunity to take on expanded roles, from assuming greater responsibilities to coverage of a wider geographical or functional scope to prepare them for future progression roles. These help facilitate knowledge transfer among employees and builds talent and succession pipelines.

“This is important because employees are expecting their roles to evolve and progress rather than staying at the same role working on the same routine work over time. Companies need to offer them opportunities to grow as they want to.” Employees are also empowered to take charge of their career growth and development by partnering with their managers and HR.

This is important because employees are expecting their roles to evolve and progress rather than staying at the same role working on the same routine work over time. Companies need to offer them opportunities to grow as they want to.
– Vivian Kwok, vice-president of human resources at Arrow Electronics

“We use what we call the global career framework as a tool for our managers to hold career discussions with team members and also for individuals to learn about career progression pathways and requirements.”

Apart from the talent movement programmes, the company has a range of T&D programmes for every level.

Programmes for people managers include “management essentials”, a global training designed to help people managers learn and apply practical leadership skills to maximise performance, develop teams and retain talent.

There’s also the Global Arrow Leadership Academy, also known as GALA. Catered towards executive-level talent, this programme is focused on driving Arrow’s transformation by building key capabilities across a global population via a combination of formal and informal learning, assessment, individual coaching and group action learning work.

On top of that, Arrow invests in a nine-month APAC mentoring programme every year to build and accelerate its key talents’ succession readiness. Last year, the firm also launched its reverse mentoring programme where young Millennial management trainees are assigned to mentor executives.

Explaining the benefits of reverse mentoring, Kwok says: “Executives, as mentees, learned about Millennials’ values, lifestyles, use of social media and technology, career interests and world views. At the same time, the management trainees, as mentors, benefit from the opportunity to play a ‘leadership’ role as a mentor and to understand executives’ perspectives on business, leadership and career.”

Exposing staff to real-world applications

Chinese artificial intelligence research firm YITU believes in diversified development, that is, growing employees both professionally and personally. Louisa Zhang, human resources vice-president at YITU Technology, says: “Apart from providing technical and product trainings to deepen their technical expertise and skill sets, we coach employees on soft skills and provide them with people management opportunities to develop leadership qualities.” A key initiative that contributes towards grooming future leaders is the “AI Camp”.

Conducted on a monthly basis for all new hires in a technical role, the programme’s curriculum is designed and conducted by YITU.

“This initiative provides hands-on training while exposing new employees to real-world business applications. The training is held at YITU’s headquarters in Shanghai, which further helps new employees understand YITU’s culture, technologies, processes and priorities better.”

The programme has sparked greater co-operation and trust between our local and global offices.” She adds it also helps new hires build their internal networks with current employees.
– Louisa Zhang, human resources vice-president at YITU Technology

One key challenge for YITU in implementing this programme is ensuring employee learning and development is conducted regularly and on a timely basis, even as YITU pursues business expansion and growth opportunities. “To overcome this, we train our employees to develop an open mindset and foster strong learning agility to keep up with job demands.”

On the benefit side, she observes: “The programme has sparked greater co-operation and trust between our local and global offices.” She adds it also helps new hires build their internal networks with current employees.”

Always customise where possible

Despite the programmes mentioned having worked so well for the respective companies, one shouldn’t be too quick to duplicate these experiences. Instead, programmes should be customised to your specific needs.

Underscoring the importance of this, Mitch Young, vice-president and general manager for Asia Pacific and Japan at ServiceNow, notes that moving forward, employees are going to drive the workspace evolution.

He says: “In an age of hyper personalisation, employees are less likely to accept off-the-shelf solutions and prefer to make, modify and control the things they interact with every day. Employees will continue to expect their consumer experiences to transcend into their work environments and for CHROs, the challenge lies in attracting and retaining talent by delivering personalised HR services that satisfy employee expectations.”



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