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Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), ComfortDelGro Group, and InterContinental Singapore speak to Wani Azahar on why having a staff-centric benefits programme is truly rewarding for their companies.

Whether it is a nation-wide incentive that calls for the Singapore government to offer its professionals when it comes to upskilling, or a smaller-scale benefit such as having snacks in the office, rewards are a great way to boost the engagement, morale and wellness of the workforce.

In fact, Human Resources is a strong believer in rewards and recognition – which is why we have our regular Extra Miler Awards, and Salesperson of the Month. Nominated by peers and line managers, recipients of both awards receive cash vouchers to be enjoyed for their hard work.

Sharing the same sentiment, let’s hear from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), ComfortDelGro Group, and InterContinental Singapore on why their benefits systems not only reward their workforce, but also their business.

Unique needs, unique benefits

Established in 1938, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) is Singapore’s pioneer arts education institution. As an institution that’s widely recognised in Southeast Asia, its reputation is founded on its innovative curriculum, teaching approaches, as well as its diverse artistic creations. Currently, the academy is staff ed with an age-diverse workforce of about 276 full-time faculty and administrators, along with more than 500 adjunct.

With core values of care, passion and excellence underpinning its work culture, these are used to shape a pro work-life balance environment that benefits all of its staff.

Some of the key benefits include flexible work arrangements (FWA) such as staggered work hours, telecommuting and fractional/part-time employment. NAFA staff also get to enjoy other benefits such as family care leave, workplace health promotion programmes, employee assistance programmes, time-off for SkillsFuture courses, National Silver Academy courses, and CSR activities.

Additionally, Sim Choo Lee, head of human resources at NAFA, comments: “The establishment is also equipped with a lactation room and childcare centre, along with an in-house staff gym/fitness interlude for the convenience and wellbeing of all its staff.”

When it comes to its work-life strategy, NAFA recognises that every staff member has unique needs and may require different solutions to effectively manage their careers and personal lives. In line with the government’s stance of pro work-life integration for employees and tapping on WorkPro, NAFA introduced staggered work hours and telecommuting in 2016.

To date, 38% of NAFA employees have utilised FWAs, with NAFA receiving positive feedback. Thanks to the implementation of staggered work hours, staff have more flexibility to pick up their children or attend to some family needs in the morning before coming to work (as they start and end their days earlier).

To date, 38% of NAFA employees have utilised FWAs, with NAFA receiving positive feedback.

Meanwhile, NAFA says staff save a lot of time on travelling thanks to the telecommuting perk. In fact, this allows them to focus on paperwork such as writing proposals/papers or tasks that require planning.

NAFA has also put in place other staff support initiatives such as workplace health promotion and mental wellness programmes aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles and enhancing the overall wellness of colleagues. For that, NAFA was proud to have been accorded the 2017 Corporate Excellence Award and 2012 Silver Health Award by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

In addition, its employee assistance programme serves as an avenue for staff to seek counsel in managing challenges.

To instil a strong culture of corporate social responsibility, staff are also given time-off to participate in CSR programmes.

Taking care of employees begins in the workplace – which is why NAFA understands the need for a dedicated space for new working mums to use. Following the successful 100% take-up rate, NAFA has plans to launch a childcare centre at its campus premises in January 2019 which will benefit colleagues who require childcare arrangements. Beyond the on-site facilities, NAFA also offers family care leave – capped at nine days to help meet colleagues’ personal commitments.

In conjunction with its expanded on-site gym, NAFA has recently launched the fitness interlude initiative which allows staff to spend up to an hour per week of their working hours at the gym.

“By constructing a holistic staff-centric experience that goes beyond monetary benefits, NAFA’s work-life strategy and transformative practices have proven to be effective. For example, the institution has seen improved scores across all categories in its organisational climate survey with a high sustainable engagement score of 84% against market benchmarks,” Sim says.

“Furthermore, we also saw a low turnover rate vis-à-vis industry average, an impressive average staff tenure of eight years; an increase in student enrolment, with student satisfaction – all indicative of the success of our initiatives.”

For its efforts towards staff welfare, good labour-management relations and NTUC initiatives, NAFA is a proud recipient of various awards and recognition from the NTUC and Education Services Union (ESU), including the NAFA president being conferred the Medal of Commendation Award 2018 at NTUC May Day Award; the 2015 ESU Pink Heart Award; the 2015 Best Companies for Mums (Most Supportive Supervisor Award) and Plaque of Commendation in 2013.

Real wealth lies in employees’ health

As one of Singapore’s largest land transport companies with a global workforce, a global shareholder base and a global outlook, ComfortDelGro Corporation (ComfortDelGro) also has a significant overseas presence. The group’s operations extend from the United Kingdom and Ireland to Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as across 11 cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu. In fact, the group employed 21,918 employees in 2017 worldwide where two out of the nine board directors (22%) were women.

With its headquarters in Singapore having a staff strength of 12,623, ComfortDelGro believes that having healthy employees is important to its productivity. Ang Wei Neng, CEO of ComfortDelGro Taxi, says: “Subscribing to the philosophy that health is wealth, the group has been proactively encouraging its staff and drivers to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle.”

With that said, its taxi business, ComfortDelGro Taxi, by virtue, shares the same philosophy and has also been actively encouraging healthy living to its staff as well as its cabbies, who are valued business partners.

For example, one of the company’s benefits includes its “check car, check body” health screening and coaching programme that was jointly launched by ComfortDelGro Taxi and HPB for cabbies in 2014, and is still continuing this year.

About 13,000 cabbies have benefited from the programme to-date. “For its efforts, ComfortDelGro Taxi received the Special Mention (Distinction) Award for Mature Workers for the programme, and won the Achievement Award and the Excellence Award at the Singapore HEALTH Award by HPB in 2017,” Ang says.

Through this one-year collaboration, cabbies were given access to ActiveSG facilities such as the gymnasiums and swimming pools once a week.

One of the cab drivers, Song Hee Pheow, 65, shared his feedback on the “check car, check body” health screening and coaching programme in July 2014 at the Health Check Centre in Sin Ming.

During his first visit at the health screening, he found out he was diabetic. As he was previously aware he had high cholesterol, Song was going for regular follow-ups with a doctor. However, he was not on medication for diabetes.

Following that, the first health coaching session has benefited and improved his lifestyle as Song made some lifestyle changes. For example, he took the initiative to walk the stairs of his car park, about three to four storeys high, instead of taking the lift.

He also actively reduced his sugar intake by reducing his soft drinks and drinking his coffee without sugar. He heeded the health coach’s advice and cut down on red meat and fried food to fight his cholesterol levels.

Adds Ang, on further interventions: “Other health initiatives that the group has in place include bowling competitions, cross-country runs, yoga, Zumba, brisk walking and jogging sessions.”

Another great example where ComfortDelGro truly upheld its “health is wealth” motto is when the company partnered with ActiveSG in 2015. Through this one-year collaboration, ComfortDelGro Taxi cabbies were given access to ActiveSG facilities such as the gymnasiums and swimming pools once a week.

ActiveSG also helped to educate ComfortDelGro cabbies on the range of sporting activities that were available to them.

Seeing the benefits of such a partnership, the free access to ActiveSG’s gymnasiums and swimming pools every Wednesday for cabbies was further extended until last year. At the moment, ComfortDelGro Taxi is in the midst of discussions with ActiveSG to sign another memorandum of understanding to extend the free access from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2020 to benefit its staff.

According to Ang, the company’s ongoing efforts in promoting a healthy lifestyle and improving staff welfare at the workplace have led to a significant jump in the staff satisfaction rate from 78% to 89% in the biennial employee survey that was last conducted in 2016. He adds its staff attrition rate is also below the national average.

Meanwhile, Lau Boey Eng, VP (SG) of group finance at ComfortDelGro, who participated
in workplace activities such as Zumba, K-pop and kick-boxing, comments: “The fun and interesting activities have helped me to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

“They enable me to work out with my colleagues and we are able to encourage one another to achieve new exercise goals. It helps that these activities are held in our office premises after office hours, which saves me the hassle of having to travel elsewhere.”

Refining your rewards and benefits

With IHG having a staff strength of more than 350,000 people across its hotels and corporate offices globally, InterContinental Singapore plays home to around 360 full-time personnel.

In February 2018, the hotel enhanced its benefits to support staff development and promote better work-life balance. The new programme includes increasing maternity and paternity leave; encouraging flexible work arrangements; allowing encashment and the purchase of annual leave; promoting cross-training in different departments for skills upgrade and enhanced career development prospects; adding more items which can be claimed under its flexible benefits scheme; and offering paid leave for employees to undertake volunteer work.

In addition to the enhanced benefits, the hotel raised the re-employment age from 67, as implemented by the Ministry of Manpower in 2017, to 68.

With the new extended maternity and paternity leave, new mums at InterContinental Singapore will receive six months of paid maternity leave, while male employees, who are not eligible for paternity leave funded by the government, will be entitled to five working days of paid paternity leave supported by the hotel.

Following that, InterContinental Singapore also offers flexible work arrangements through perks such as job-sharing, staggered work-hours and telecommuting arrangements to facilitate the needs of employees. To the delight of its staff, this is in addition to the hotel’s current family care leave that permits up to five working days of paid leave for employees to take care of immediate family members.

Employees are given the opportunity to be trained in another job function for up to five working days per calendar year.

Another benefit is the encashment and purchase of annual leave, where employees enjoy the flexibility to encash accrued annual leave or purchase annual leave in addition to their entitlements.

When it comes to the development of staff, Intercontinental Singapore encourages cross-training between departments. With this, employees are given the opportunity to be trained in another job function for up to five working days per calendar year, allowing employees to upgrade their skills for versatility in career development.

As a strong advocate on cultivating a healthy balance between work and wellness, the hotel has offered flexible benefits redemptions for union and gym membership fees, yoga and Pilates classes, flight tickets, traditional Chinese medicine treatments and outpatient expenses for immediate family members. This is in addition to the current coverage of dental and optical care, health screening and the Portable Medical Benefits Scheme.

Furthermore, each employee is granted paid volunteer leave for community programmes at registered charity organisations of their choice or to engage in activities to support the IHG Foundation, a non-profit organisation with four key areas of focus: hospitality skills development, disaster relief, local community investment and environmental sustainability

While it has only been about two months since it has launched these initiatives, there is a noticeable shift towards greater promotion  of work-life balance within the hotel such as  an increase in annual leave application and less overtime.

Speaking to Human Resources, Gabrielle Choy, director of human resources at InterContinental Singapore, says: “Other popular benefits include airfare claims under our flexible benefit scheme, the purchase and encashment of annual leave and flexible work arrangements.”

According to Choy, hotels in Singapore have been facing a tightening supply of talent in recent years because of new hotel openings and the increase in job opportunities available in the industry has resulted in stiff competition for a limited pool of talent.

“It is, therefore, crucial that we develop a truly robust benefits structure focusing on the wellbeing and development of our team, and continually review and enhance our employee benefits to attract and retain talent,” she concludes.

Talent Experience Forum - a new one-day conference discussing candidate and employee experience, happening in Kuala Lumpur on 23 October

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