Townhalls with heroic themes, make-up, cooking and cocktail-making demonstrations, as well as auctions to raise funds for charity are all part of DBS Bank's endeavour to constantly exceed employees' expectations.

With a bronze win for Excellence in Employee Engagement at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, DBS Bank’s Regional Head, Customer Centre & Strategic Initiatives, Kailash Ramalingam discloses the team’s 3G framework - Go, Grow and Glow focused on celebrating success, wellness and giving back to the community.

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

DBS Customer Centre operates on a 24x7 servicing model and 70% of our employees are Millennials. Given the reality of rotating shifts which makes it difficult to reach out to our entire employee base in one physical sitting, we rely heavily on a digital strategy to connect with our employees, who are mostly digital natives.

Our in-house mobile app, Alive, is the main platform we use for employee engagement. The Newsfeed function serves to keep our employees close in touch despite them working different locations and shifts. It also empowers them with ready access to useful information like their schedules, performance and rewards.

On the other hand, our People Engagement team which cares for the wellbeing of our employees, organises events to engage our people in activities. Our engagement strategy is underpinned by our 3G framework – Go, Grow and Glow, which focuses on celebrating success, wellness and giving back to the community. They include townhalls with heroic themes, make-up, cooking and cocktail-making demonstrations by our very own staff, and auctions to raise funds for charity, all of which took place virtually due to the pandemic this year. We are constantly thinking of how to exceed our employees’ expectations, thus every event is curated to appeal to our youthful employee base.

Our events are generally well-attended, with participation rates averaging about 80%.

Using a data-driven approach, the People Engagement team set up seven interest groups based on employees’ common interests in June 2020 to facilitate employee bonding and departmental camaraderie. We have music enthusiasts who come together to record songs for live events, photography fanatics who share their best photos and skills as well as passionate runners who talk about their favourite running routes and tips. To date, these interest groups have cumulatively attracted close to 300 members, which is over 40% of our employee base.

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

By going digital and using a data-driven approach, employee engagement rates and staff morale have remained high even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing restrictions have prevented face-to-face interactions. Support and enthusiasm from the DBS Customer Centre management team has been integral in bolstering the success of our employee engagement initiatives – for example, for one of the quarterly virtual town halls, eight management staff donned masks representing different Avengers heroes, the popular Marvel Universe characters, as they addressed staff. We could tell that this was a big hit with our staff as they shared their candid responses through the interactive live chat function.

Q 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?

It is always challenging to engage employees through purely digital channels, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when we could not run any physical engagements to complement our digital engagement strategy.

One key learning our team had was to really try and tap into our employees’ emotions and concerns, and focus on the employee journey and experience when crafting our engagement strategy.

One particularly successful employee engagement initiative that we rolled out this year, together with our group of music enthusiasts, was 'Project Hope'. We put together a video collage of over 50 employees singing 'Heal the World'. Through the video, we tried to convey the collective hope and strength of DBS Customer Centre, as our employees focused on being purpose-driven and successfully adapted to new challenges during the pandemic. As the video was played during one of our events, we could tell it really resonated with employees based on the countless messages and GIFs shared via the live interactive chat.

While we have focused on leveraging technology to enhance our employee engagement, we have also taken time to maintain the human connection. The People Engagement and the management team packed over 600 goodie bags for our employees personally in office (with safe distancing measures in place). The goodie bags included items like DIY planting kits, snacks and a wellness kit. Each bag was couriered right to every employee’s doorstep as a surprise to share with their families. Employees began uploading unboxing videos onto the Alive App, sharing their excitement with the rest of their colleagues.

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

Participation rate of the 50 events in 2020 rose over 50% as compared to 2019 and employee satisfaction rates hit an average high of 97%. This tells us that our people enjoy our engagement programmes very much. Customer Service Officers serve our customers daily and it’s crucial to keep their morale high so as to deliver joyful service. Due to Covid-19, over 80% of our workforce had to work from home this year and it posed several challenges to our workforce. Despite an increase in manned-interaction volume caused by branch closures and Covid-19 financial relief queries, which resulted in longer call wait times for our customers, our Customer Satisfaction Score climbed to an all-time high of 4.6 / 5 in 2020. Our attrition rates also dropped by 10%.

Q One of HR’s biggest responsibilities this year has been crisis communication and engagement, as a bridge between the management and staff. What are some lessons you’ve learnt in an eventful year of improving communication?

One important lesson is that there is a need to communicate more frequently, so that our staff are kept abreast of the ever changing landscape, and feel connected with each other. We had to vary our styles and modes of communication to suit the virtual setting - being mindful to not have only one way conversations, encouraging participation through the chats, and including quirky games to stay engaged.

Above all, this crisis year has reinforced the need to have the message of hope, and solidarity in all our communications. Our staff have appreciated the thoughtful gestures shown by their managers and peers - from a simple call to ask “Are you ok?” to a surprise care pack, curated specially for them, or a collaborative effort like Project Hope.

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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