Cloris Gu, HR Director for the East Asia operations of power management multinational Eaton Electrical, manages the human resource strategy and direction for Eaton in Southeast Asia countries, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan—including developing and maintaining a cohesive and productive workforce, and localizing the company's global practices to the various offices around the region. People Matters asked Cloris for her thoughts on employee engagement and the measures that work during COVID-19.
Could you share a little on Eaton’s approach to creating a strong and positive employee experience?
The aspirational goals and leadership attributes that form the basis of our company’s vision take center stage in our approach to employee experience. We are continuously working on creating an environment where creativity, invention and discovery become reality, each and every day.
Beyond ensuring the well-being and safety of our employees, we aim to be a model for inclusion and diversity in our industry, and to make work exciting, engaging and meaningful for our employees. Living our leadership attributes every day is how we take steps towards achieving these aspirational goals.
From talent attraction to engagement, development and retention, our focus is to bring our culture to life by being ethical, passionate, accountable, efficient, transparent and willing to learn. These values help drive how we interact with each other, make decisions, and accomplish our daily work successfully.
Eaton's global policies place a lot of emphasis on inclusion and diversity. What are your thoughts about the link between I&D and employee engagement?
I&D is a critical part of our business’s success. When the team is able to provide and adapt differing ideas and perspectives, they become more agile and responsive to the needs of diverse communities.
This requires constant engagement with employees to ensure that they feel valued, free to share their ideas and pursue their passions alongside their work achievements. Through a variety of formal and informal ways, such as conversations with the team during leadership site visits and our employee listening program, we seek to find out if employees are facing any challenges, and address them accordingly.
In our latest biennial global employee engagement survey, 81 percent of employees said they were proud to work at Eaton and feel personal accomplishment from their work—a positive validation of the importance of an inclusive workforce.
With so many different markets to look after, what's your approach to personalizing the employee experience?
Given the vibrancy and diversity of culture and backgrounds in East Asia, employees tend to have different career expectations as well as communication and working styles. At Eaton, we have always believed in leveraging this diversity in ideas, perspectives and backgrounds to drive innovation, collaboration and growth of the company and its employees.
With the help of our I&D committees and inclusion employee resource groups in key countries, we tailor country specific I&D initiatives to suit different cultural norms and expectations. On the talent development front, we recognise that each market is unique in their challenges and learning requirements. We address this by planning and organizing Learning Days for employees across East Asia according to country-specific feedback from our employee surveys.
We also take pride in empowering our employees to pursue causes that they are passionate about in their local markets. This has resulted in a range of meaningful community outreach and environmental initiatives across the region, from delivering food to the less fortunate in Singapore, to cooking lunch and providing scholarships to underprivileged children in Thailand.
What are some common pain points you’ve found among the teams in East Asia, and how do you address these?
When the region consists of teams from different time zones and cultural norms, this creates logistical and cultural barriers that may hinder effective communication and rapport within teams. As the HR lead, it’s my responsibility to work closely with teams to bridge these differences, and act as a mediator to address any issues that may cause misunderstandings and problems in the long run.
It’s a constant learning process as we grow and expand across the region. In order to address these pain points effectively, one must be able to understand the difference in cultural and societal norms, which I try to pick up through interactions with the team, and keep myself updated with current HR trends and global affairs to aid my understanding.
What are some ways in which you help employees feel a sense of connection to the broader organizational purpose?
We believe that developing our employees by helping them to succeed not just at work, but also in their personal lives, plays a critical role in our vision of improving quality of life and the environment where we operate. Part of attracting and retaining the very best talent is helping our employees balance and achieve their work, family and personal demands and aspirations.
Through platforms such as inclusion employee resource groups (iERGs), we hope to create a welcoming, supportive environment where all employees feel empowered to contribute and succeed. For instance, some of the initiatives organised by the Women Adding Value at Eaton (WAVE) iERG in East Asia include a panel discussion with APAC leaders, held recently around International Women’s Day, to generate meaningful conversations on making Eaton a more inclusive workplace for all. WAVE iERG is also launching a mentoring program that matches promising female talents with senior managers. Beyond engaging, retaining and developing key talent, the program facilitates sharing of best practices as well as fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches across the organisation.
As HR, how would you describe your role during this particularly challenging period?
Our focus is on protecting the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers, suppliers and the communities where we operate.
During these difficult times, our main role as HR leaders is to help ensure that essential functions remain up and running. Our leadership and human resource teams have been actively listening and engaging in constant communication with our colleagues. It is important for us to understand each of their unique concerns and needs, so that we can provide the right support and resources to help.
Aside from practical support, such as flexible working arrangements, we have developed a range of resources to ensure our employees’ mental and emotional well-being during these unprecedented times. For example, we have launched a COVID-19 support helpline under our Employee Assistance Program and made online seminars and resources on anxiety and stress around the outbreak available to all staff via webinars and Eaton University, our internal online learning platform. We’ve also conducted training to help our managers lead effectively in the midst of uncertainty.
For our employees who continue to work on the ground, we are monitoring the status of the outbreak in each country closely and taking utmost care to ensure our colleagues’ health and safety. This includes precautionary measures, such as the provision of masks and basic medical supplies to employees where needed. Ultimately, our goal is to help teams navigate this uncertainty and ensure that they are well-prepared for opportunities when the situation improves.