Employee experience is closely intertwined with the culture of an organization, and to improve both, one sometimes has to start with the people who are hired. People Matters had an interaction with Lebon Tan, the senior HR business partner of iProperty.com in Malaysia, around this approach. Here are the highlights of the conversation.
Could you share a little about your role and how you work together with the other business leaders?
Although we are a technology-based organization operating in the digital space, we see ourselves very much as a people business, and we wanted a partner who would take care of that aspect and drive the people and culture agenda. This role was designed to be a consultant to the business leaders, to understand on a day to day basis what is required and to coach and advise the managers.
I develop the key talent agenda and the solutions that our people business needs; I make sure that we have the right capabilities to match our organizational requirements. On a daily basis, I do a lot of coaching and counselling on people issues and how to deal with these. And I also serve as the bridge between the business and HR operations such as recruitment and payroll.
What's your approach to employee experience?
We call it the "employee journey", just as we call the customer experience the "customer journey". This journey is essentially the roadmap for how an employee or customer interacts with the organization, from the first touchpoint to where they separate from the organization, and in between, we think of each touchpoint the "moment that matters". From our perspective, employee experience is about culture. We build our culture on the basics—technology, processes, policies, guidelines—and then we add on learning and development, helping people grow, and most importantly, our fundamental values.
What are some ways your culture creates a good employee experience?
We've applied the core values of our culture, such as teamwork, putting the customer first, and value creation, to all our HR functions from performance management to training to even the administrative functions such as job rotation. How can we do this as one team, how can we care for the people we're serving, how can we create value for them—we take all these into consideration.
The interesting thing is, the more we developed our organizational culture, the more difficult it became to hire, because we had to shift towards hiring in terms of values and mindset. Our definition of the "right people" changed. So we might hire a "body" that is very good for the organization, with the right skill sets and the right experience, but the "brain" is very different because they might have come from an organization that's more numbers-driven, perhaps less flexible. Yes, we care about the outcome we deliver, but we also care about how we deliver it. Top performance isn't just about getting the numbers. It's about getting them in line with our values.
How do you balance that—the need for technical skills versus the need for values and cultural fit?
Our interview process has actually gotten much longer in terms of the number of interviews and their length. Over time, we started including peers and managers as well as the head of the hiring department, and this has resulted in many layers in the hiring process. But our turnover is now much lower than it used to be, and we are keeping people for longer.
The hiring process also becomes much more complex for leadership. When I myself joined, I attended five or six interviews, because the more complex the management role, the more stakeholders are involved. I think with leadership, we can afford to be more lenient in terms of technical skills, but people management is absolutely key.
Within the many functions of HR, which one do you think makes the greatest difference to employee experience, and why?
Building a strong leadership. I personally believe that strong leadership will create the best employee experience, because every individual in the organization comes with their unique needs and personalities and behavior. To build a team that works together, to meet their needs and sustain their engagement, to uphold the values of the organizational culture—this is where you need a strong leadership.
Finally, what are some measures you've put in place to keep things running smoothly during the current crisis?
Communication and engagement is the first thing. We've mandated the business leadership, the country leader, to send weekly updates on how the situation is impacting our business and the way we are going to conduct our daily tasks and our way of working. We've been ensuring that employees are aware of travel restrictions and health advisories, and putting our own restrictions in place to ensure good hygiene within the office and reduce their exposure outside. We also created our own internal COVID-19 informational site, and we've started weekly town halls that include business updates, function updates, and people updates to keep morale high.
And of course there is working from home. We actually had very good arrangements for that even before COVID-19, but in this situation we wanted to make sure that people remain very engaged with their work. So we set up some very strong guidance for how we would operate during this period, from cybersecurity to how to set up a workspace at home, and even how to continue presenting a professional image on video calls. And because we believe in the importance of leadership, we put a lot of effort into boosting our managers' capabilities so that they would be able to lead their teams effectively.