Before embarking on a new initiative, Certis employs human-centred design thinking methods to uncover and understand the different stakeholder perspectives, says Tan Toi Chia, SVP Head, Group HR, Corporate Planning, Communications & Marketing, Certis (pictured below)

With a gold win for Excellence in CSR Strategy at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, Certis’ Senior Vice President Head, Group HR, Corporate Planning, Communications & Marketing, Tan Toi Chia takes pride in the organisation’s culture that promotes care and empathy whilst staying committed to achieving the KPIs outlined in the corporate scorecard.

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

Our strategy is to put our people at the heart of all that we do. Every day, our customers across the world depend on our people to keep them safe. Hence, it is vital for us to ensure that employees are engaged and motivated to bring their best to work. This means adopting an employee-first approach, and rethinking the entire employee experience from their point of view. It sounds simple, but it is not easy.

Some milestones that the team has accomplished along the way include:

  • Formalising and rolling out our employee value proposition pillars (of career growth, diverse opportunities, technology; innovative work) globally across the organisation to attract and engage talent.
  • The setting up of our global COVID-19 taskforce to coordinate our integrated response to the crisis.
  • Building an agile workforce by retraining employees working in the airport and deploying them to other assignments in the organisation.
  • Building a safe culture by improving psychological safety through our ALIVE charter. ALIVE stands for agenda, learn, information, voice, and engage, and was established to encourage employees speak up in a safe environment with mutual respect.

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?

Strong buy-in from top management and senior leaders is crucial to the success of any initiative. At Certis, top leadership has always been supportive of our HR efforts and has walked the talk by embedding our key performance indicators (KPIs) into our corporate scorecard.

For example, we embedded our employee value proposition (EVP) pillars into our senior leadership's KPIs. This builds a culture which exemplifies our EVPs and inspires all our employees to live them out.

Our senior leaders have also been very supportive in the career development and mobility of employees.

Employees are given time to attend courses offered by our Certis Corporate University and are encouraged to apply for job rotations to grow their careers in the organisation.

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?

The biggest challenge this year has undoubtedly been COVID-19, which has redefined how we work. With the blurring of lines between work and life, showing care and empathy has never been more important in these unprecedented times. For example, we have distributed over 60,000 care packs to our employees in Singapore since February.

Currently, the mental wellbeing of our employees is a top concern for us. That is why we have set up a para-counselling service for employees affected by the pandemic. We will also be implementing a three-week 'Recharge and Renew' period in December where no meetings will be held. This period is meant to give employees a breather to take stock, rest and plan for the year ahead.

Employee engagement has had to keep pace with these changes too. Our townhalls went fully virtual and we adapted policies to the current telecommuting work arrangements. When the Circuit Breaker was in effect, we had to transition our usual recreational activities over to Zoom with a variety of workout and yoga sessions.

COVID-19 has also put our workplace safety and health (WSH) policies to the test. The majority of our employees are front-liners and many of them are in COVID-19 operations. Hence, it is paramount that our WSH practices allow our people to perform their roles with minimal risk of exposure to the virus. This includes receiving the appropriate personal protective equipment as well as the training on how to use it effectively.

tan toi chia

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?

We believe in data-backed insights and decision-making. Before embarking on a new initiative, we employ human-centred design thinking methods to uncover and understand the different stakeholder perspectives.

As mentioned earlier, our key performance indicators are embedded in the corporate scorecard, which ensures accountability and that we track and measure progress. Another way of measuring the effectiveness of our programmes is through employee surveys. We conduct a yearly employee opinion survey as well as regular pulse surveys as a temperature check of our culture, and have been improving year on year.

Within the organisation, our Project eCertis inculcates a digital way of life among employees.

This meant applying technology to re-think, re-invent and re-engineer the way we work. Taking an employee-first approach, we developed a range of new apps which eliminated and streamlined outdated work processes, resulting in a more pleasant employee experience. By the end of the change management exercise, the entire workforce had migrated over to the new platforms.

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 with regards to employee engagement and improving communication?

We are still in the midst of a pandemic, so the safety of our people is foremost on our minds. This means that we have had to ensure that our health advisories to employees are timely and consistent at a minimum.

However, communicating what we want employees to hear is no longer enough. We must know our audience to truly engage and communicate with impact. This means focusing on the employee experience and understanding how employees are feeling, before we even start crafting our messages.

We also realised that employees are bombarded with messages on a daily basis, so it is important to understand how employees prefer to interact with the organisation. This means relooking not just the communications channels at our disposal, but also how we use it these channels to reach employees.

Photo / Provided

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

Human Resources Online is on Telegram! Follow us @humanresourcesonline or click here for all the latest weekly HR and manpower news from around the region.