With a gold win for Excellence in Workplace Culture at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, the APAC HR team at CMC Materials shares how it has improved its performance management process and leadership training to create an inclusive learning culture for all.

In this interview, Priya Veeriah discovers how the culture journey at CMC has changed from its initial launch in 2015. This includes stronger alignment and the commitment from a long-term perspective.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Our HR team seeks to be globally consistent in our values, while locally relevant in implementation. We seek to be fair, and committed to everyone’s wellbeing and development, giving them the tools, they need to grow and succeed within our company. We seek to simplify processes, drive efficiency through technology adoption and to make decisions and allocate resources based on data.

We are customer-focused, meeting the most urgent needs in talent acquisition and leadership development. We are innovative and focused on operational excellence.

Most critically, our continued efforts in fostering the target cultures – results-oriented, caring & candour, and learning under this challenging COVID-19 situation have helped us to be more successful.

In the year of 2020, we have achieved various milestones – people and culture focused. Some are:

  • Attained the award of “Employers of Choice 2020” 
  • Completed the business integration project after the most impactful M&A in our company’s history (i.e. harmonising people policies and launching flexible benefits for our employees for better wellbeing and experience).

How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

To achieve our priorities, we focused on the three aspects:

  • Integration of culture, systems & processes, building the foundation of one global company.
  • Team rules/mindsets - Driving efficiency & effectiveness in every area.
  • Building our people - Globally consistent, locally relevant & high performing.

From the leadership team, managers and supervisors, they have been encouraging and empowering the team to steer their projects and tasks with trust and close or frequent communication. Especially with the travel restrictions, the local HR managers play a critical role as a business partner to bridge any gaps.

Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

In March 2020, our global team had initially planned for a HR global offsite in US, Aurora where we get to meet everyone in the team to go over our HR roadmap, goals, projects or plans and team building. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, we had to cancel and conducted a virtual meeting.

There were some challenges to conduct it virtually as we need to ensure that all are engaged. To overcome it, we encouraged everyone to turn on their cameras and participate in the conversation. Through this, learning increases – learn new online tools to conduct meetings (i.e. Zoom, Kahoot, TEAMS).

As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your game plan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

We started our culture journey initiatives as of 2015. We have done our culture survey every other year and have been continuously monitoring where we are as compared to our target culture - result-driven, caring & candour, and learning.

With various initiatives, we are seeing improvement in terms of achieving our target culture and mindset transformation with certain scores by country and by function.

We have also been trying to track the co-relation with the company performance and we do believe this has been one of the critical factors of our significant business growth recent several years. In addition, externally, what we clinched is the Employer of Choice 2020 in Asia.

Internally, have seen the increase in the number of awards (Attitude of Gratitude) from the previous years. Colleagues are rewarding (bronze, silver, gold, platinum) to both their team and non-team members for exhibiting our company’s values and cultures. This is a clear indication that our employees are aligned with the company’s direction.

The key point here for us is we strongly consider the culture is not a nice one-time event but a longer-term continued effort as a journey.

Q With WFH being the norm for the bigger part of this year, has your organisation recently adopted any new forms of technology to improve the HR processes/overall work processes?

The COVID-19 situation, it has forced us to speed up our project’s implementation. One of them is process innovation in multiple HR programmes using HRIT system / new IT collaboration applications which has been an essential tool that helps to move our processes to more digitalised/online:

  • Performance management process - We have made our performance review and goals setting exercise to go fully online globally and flexible. We trained our managers how they can be more effective online (e.g. effective performance discussion online, how to lead virtually, etc.)
  • Leadership training - We have not stopped our learning culture and have been even more active in this area. We re-designed all our leadership development programmes to go online. After every session, we have reflected on all the feedback from the participants to make the programme more effective online.

Though this might something new or different to a certain cohort of the employees, we acknowledged it and provide developmental opportunities as we create a continuous learning culture for all.

Furthermore, higher focus on our employee’s mental health is another highlight in line with our target culture of caring and candour. We have launched multiple initiatives to support our employees in managing their mental health as well as physical health. We now have a global programme for counseling services - 24/7 and mindfulness campaigns.

Another example in Singapore is that we are introducing more flexible benefits where people can choose even alternative medicine and mental health programmes using their eligible benefit points.

Photo / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section! 

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