Learning & Development Asia 2024
Winning Secrets: Ramboll's drive for sustainability at work is led by a three-dimensional EX strategy

Winning Secrets: Ramboll's drive for sustainability at work is led by a three-dimensional EX strategy

The focus lies in bringing passion and vision to sustainability, creating a sounding board for employees, and engaging people, Yvonne Wong, Head of HR, APAC, Ramboll shares. 

Founded in Denmark in 1945, Ramboll — global architecture, engineering, and consultancy company — today operates across 35 markets, including Singapore. The team prides itself on combining deep local insight and experience with a global knowledge base to create sustainable societies and drive positive change for its clients.

It calls this: 'Bright ideas. Sustainable change.'

With sustainability at the heart of it all, the team in Singapore emerged the bronze winner for 'Most Innovative and Sustainable Office Design' at the Employee Experience Awards 2024, Singapore.

Catching up with HRO following the win, Yvonne Wong, Head of HR, APAC, Ramboll, talks about the organisation's secrets to achieving sustainability in its overall people practices, led by a three-dimensional employee experience strategy.

Q How would you describe the pillars of your employee experience strategy, and what are the principles you have taken into account to develop this?

Ramboll is a global engineering, architecture, and consultancy company known for partnering with our clients to create sustainable change. One of the key reasons people join Ramboll, and stay with Ramboll, is because of our focus on creating sustainable societies where people and nature flourish.

Our industry is constantly trying to attract talent to solve some of the region’s most important development challenges, and we have expanded quickly in APAC, led by our regional head office in Singapore. This expansion required a focus on the employee experience to ensure we attracted and retained the best talent in the region and the industry. We therefore developed a three-dimensional employee experience strategy that addresses care for the environment, our people and the communities in which we work:

  1. Bringing passion and vision to sustainability – a Sustainability Taskforce was created, extending the work we do with clients and applying it to our own business.
  2. Creating a sounding board for employees – we set up what we called our Employee Work Council (EWC) that encourages employees to raise important issues and questions, and allows our regional leadership team to get a greater insight into the employee experience through ongoing dialogue with staff.​
  3. Engaging our people – our Care Ambassador programme was developed. This is a volunteer group who come together to develop initiatives and events that promote a caring and sustainable culture.

So, even though our pillars were each very different, they were linked by a common thread of achieving innovative sustainable outcomes.

Q In a world propelled by rapid change, what measures do you have in place to maintain a people-centric, human approach to your EX as it evolves?

You can’t rest on your laurels when it comes to employee experience. The needs of our people are constantly changing, particularly in Singapore, where we have such a diverse workforce, and the competition for talent means that it’s not enough just to meet the market; we need to influence change.

Following the success of our employee experience programme over the past year, we are already looking at ways to expand on this and ensure people are recognised, not only for the contributions they make to the financial sustainability of our business, but also to Ramboll’s cultural, social and environmental sustainability.​

The promotion of our employee engagement initiatives has naturally been internally focused to engage our staff, but we recognise the importance that employee advocacy has on future staff, so we want to do more through our external communication and link the programme to our recruitment initiatives. This is one of the reasons that being part of the Employee Experience Awards has been so important for us this year, to showcase to the broader community the achievements of our people, including our bronze win for 'Most Sustainable Office Design', which has been a key part of our employee experience.

What initiatives do you undertake such that the delivery of employee experience is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders in the organisation?

Our employee experience programme has been designed and supported in collaboration with our APAC Regional Director, along with me as APAC Head of HR so that there is a level of governance. But ultimately ​this was a staff-led process.

The programme and its initiatives have been widely celebrated because they were designed in consultation with staff. We took feedback through our annual staff survey and through team meetings to develop a strategy from the ground up. These initiatives are not imposed, but we see most staff wanting to play a role, whether it’s providing feedback to the EWC or participating in our Care Ambassador-run events. The Care Ambassadors themselves are held in high regard by staff and are often asked to lead initiatives outside their original intended scope because of the engagement they have within the business. ​

What we have created is more than just an experience; it is a culture of care. We have empowered our employees, many of them junior, to have responsibility for managing event activities and advocating on behalf of staff what is important to them.

It has given all our staff a greater voice in our business.​

Q Do you have words of wisdom to share with others in the industry on the best ways to keep your employee experience consistent and beautiful?

The overarching takeaway from our experience is that an employee advocacy programme can’t be top down. It needs to be, and for Ramboll it has been, led by our people from bottom up – we gave people the freedom to design their own experience programme supported by the business, which funded it, guided it and gave it parameters to work within.

Consistency in our internal and external experience was also very important for the success of our programme. We couldn’t tell our clients that we are their partner for sustainable change if we are not also partnering with our people internally to create a culture of sustainability within our team. While Ramboll’s growth as a business in the APAC region is directly linked to our external goal to be the partner for sustainable change for our clients, we knew we had to look internally first and be our own changemakers.​

Q Finally, what is the positive impact of employee experience that you’ve seen on the business as well as the workforce?

There was a clear before and after. We didn’t just rely on anecdotal evidence of success; we wanted facts and figures so that we could clearly identify outcomes related to the areas of retention, attraction and satisfaction. ​

When we began our employee experience programme in 2023, we really looked into our key staff satisfaction metrics and identified areas for improvement so that we could clearly track performance or areas where we needed to do better.

Within one year of the programme we saw a significant reduction in our employee turnover, a reduction in sick leave and our annual satisfaction survey saw scores of more than four out of five for each of our six satisfaction indicators.

Our employee experience programme has made a significant improvement in the office work environment, creating a more positive culture, and increasing the engagement level among employees. It’s something that all our staff as contributors to this programme are very proud of.

We are transforming our business in Singapore and the broader APAC region by harnessing the power of every employee to drive what matters to them – social and environmental sustainability.

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

Photos: Provided

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