Arree Thongpream, HR Director – Thailand & Laos, Danone Specialized Nutrition (Thailand) on creating a workplace that values and supports employees.
Danone is a global leader with a unique health-focused portfolio in food and beverages and a longstanding mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible. It has historically been present in Thailand through the Dumex brand, which has happily raised generations of Thais, as well as the iconic global brand Hi-Q.
At the third annual edition of HR Excellence Awards - Thailand in 2023, Danone Specialized Nutrition (Thailand) won bronze for 'Excellence in Workplace Wellbeing'.
To celebrate this milestone, we catch up with Arree Thongpream, HR Director – Thailand & Laos, Danone Specialized Nutrition (Thailand) (pictured above, with the award), on workplace wellbeing initiatives that revolve around creating a workplace that values and supports employees.
Q Congratulations on your top performance at the HR Excellence Awards! How has your HR and people strategy contributed to your success this year?
At Danone, our mission is "bringing health through food to as many people as possible", and we believe that the first step to achieving our mission starts with our employees. We put people at the center of everything we do. The wellbeing of employees is of utmost priority and is embedded into our strategy.
We always strive to give employees the best working environment, seeding new growth opportunities for them to grow and flourish. We believe that sustainable value creation and performance always start with people, where the emphasis is on capability building and career growth creation for our people to make Danone a one-of-a-kind work destination for talented people who want to make an impact to the world.
Furthermore, we focus on culture and building capabilities in continuing to upskill and reskill team leaders to ensure they are equipped to take care of their teams, in order to make wellbeing programmes more effective in the organisation. To keep the programme successful, we continuously review it to ensure it makes an impact to employees and to the organisational purpose through focus groups and employee surveys.
Our wellbeing programme is aimed at enabling employees to be at their healthiest. There are three key pillars to it, namely, mental health, physical health and nutrition, all of which leverage on Danone’s expertise to foster healthy and sustainable food choices and diet. Last but not the least, critical to our wellbeing culture are both the workplace environment and a leadership style that fosters care and collaboration.
Q Looking back at your achievements, what aspect of your HR initiatives are you most proud of and why?
Our proudest HR initiatives in workplace wellbeing revolve around creating a workplace that values and supports our employees. From our parental policy to our ‘work from anywhere’ policy and our focus on employee health and wellbeing, each initiative reflects our unwavering commitment to fostering a positive work environment. These efforts have resulted in higher job satisfaction, engagement, and a workforce that is more motivated and connected.
One of our most standout HR initiatives is our parental policy, which offers extended parental leave to both birth parents and legally adoptive parents. This policy doesn't just meet legal requirements; it goes above and beyond to support employees in their roles as parents. We recognise that caregiving responsibilities extend beyond one parent, and we provide flexibility in how these responsibilities are shared. This inclusivity reflects our dedication to all forms of parenthood, ensuring that every employee feels supported and valued.
Our parental policy significantly contributes to creating a positive company culture. When employees know that we prioritise their family needs, it results in higher job satisfaction and engagement. We believe that a supportive work environment is essential for our employees to thrive both personally and professionally.
Work from anywhere policy:
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped work trends, emphasising the importance of remote and flexible work arrangements. Our 'work from anywhere' policy, which enables employees to work from anywhere on Mondays and Fridays, aligns with these evolving expectations. This policy demonstrates our commitment to employee wellbeing, flexibility, and adaptability in the face of changing work dynamics.
Employee health and wellness:
Our commitment to making a positive impact in people's health starts with our employees. On the last Wednesday of each month, we offer nutritious refreshments crafted from Danone products, and we partner with popular food and beverage brands to enable Danoners to be at their healthiest and be proud of their products. Additionally, we provide massages to help our employees relax and release stress, thereby enhancing their physical and mental wellbeing.
Q During your HR journey, what were some significant obstacles you faced, and how did you overcome them to achieve excellence?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many challenges, business uncertainty, and unprecedented disruption. However, the pandemic has also been a moment for companies to learn leadership. Since the pandemic took place in 2020, Danone has continued to transform as needed according to the situation.
The company has made adaptations to enable digital interactions and collaborative efforts between existing functions in the company, while ensuring the safety and health of employees as the main priority.
Emphasising on employees’ positive morale and motivation were also one of the main focuses of the company for ensuring business continuity through structured engagement interventions and employee connections. It is also becoming Danone’s top priority to look out for employees by providing them with opportunities to develop and learn continuously. Further, Danone advocates that employees are given the opportunity to design a meaningful career journey with the company, and this is co-built with their leaders, and supported by the HR business partners.
With the people agenda as company’s top priority, the objective is not only to secure our people's health but also that of their family and our ecosystem.
Q How does your organisation measure the success and impact of your HR initiatives?
Focusing on the health and wellbeing of employees is something we've always done, but we've also initiated a sustainable organisation project, and put in place health & wellbeing as one important pillar.
In our 2022 Danone people survey, safety & wellbeing was selected as having the highest score for the topic: “What works well in our company?”
Our success is also reflected in awards we have achieved, such as '2021 Environmental Governance Flag and Certificate', certified as a 'B Corp Business' in 2021, and awards for 'Managing Health at Work' from Asia's Best Employer Brand Awards 2022.
These encourage us further to develop the health and wellbeing of our employees continuously and sustainably, in line with our commitment to our vision 'one planet, one health'.
Q In what direction do you see the HR/people function evolving in the future, considering the emerging trends?
We strongly believe that health and wellbeing are more critical than ever in impacting employees and employers in the future. For a company to be successful, it must provide greater employee health & wellbeing, awareness of a healthy lifestyle, foster a positive workplace environment that nurtures holistic wellbeing, improved wellbeing culture, and mindset of caring & collaboration, and as a result, we will see increased productivity, and engagement.
To achieve such a goal, we have to fully implement 'Be Well' which is our wellbeing & benefits programme. The programme is the combination of mental, physical, and nutritional priorities to make our employees at their healthiest. In addition, we have to introduced a leadership programme focusing more human leadership.
We should also emphasise on equipping leaders with the required leadership competencies to handle current challenges. Such programmes can strengthen empathy, adaptiveness, as well as help to create authentic leaders for our employees. Whilst equipping and preparing our employees, it will help us to be healthiest organisation as well as to continuously to create meaningful impact for our company.
Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!
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