To consolidate our series of global HR Roundtable Sessions for 2017, ChapmanCG and Philip Morris International (PMI) co-hosted 20 HR leaders from various industries in Thailand to discuss the evolving corporate culture in anticipation and support of business and organizational transformations. Along with Najaya Jotikasthira, Thailand HR Head at PMI, as well as other HR representatives from Agoda, Allergan, Colgate-Palmolive, Clariant, Foodpanda, Kohler, Monsanto, Nissan and PepsiCo etc, the spotlight was on redesigning the office space supplemented with the necessary change management tools to support it.

As businesses transit and transform in this highly competitive and technology-driven economic landscape, HR plays an ever-critical role in leading forward-thinking and ensuring success for the new visions. Corporate cultures need to adapt in order to cater to the future requirements of sustainable organisations. It is important that this effervescent culture and its key principles be defined clearly, beforehand, in order to move employees along in the right direction.

Employee-centric Approach and Bottoms-up Initiatives

There are several elements that constitute a culture change, apart from simply renovating or moving an office to its new premises. From introducing new benefits, such as flexible work hours and respecting an employee’s idiosyncratic dressing, to equipping off-site remote work for instance, it is prudent to balance the needs of both business and employees. It is equally important to ensure alignment from global stations so that the Thailand office would not branch away with its own separate culture; as it is with appreciating the feedback of your people instead of dictating instructions from Management. A helpful approach would be:

  • Agree on certain principles that would not be compromised through the change process – for example, productivity, collaboration, innovation, agility, risk-taking and avoidance of additional administrative work.
  • Start buy-in from focus groups – selecting a good and diverse representation mix is crucial. These key influencers play an effective agency role in change management during the implementation phase as they understand the rationale/objective behind and help promote acceptance among their peers.
  • Small things create big impact – employees would appreciate, for example, the installation of an ice machine or meal allowance for late work that would otherwise be costly for the individuals to bear.
  • Constant engagement with employees – use varied and regular channels of communication to keep employees educated or at least enlightened along the way. Consider creating mini competitions linked to social media which would be good for both internal and external branding.
  • Measurement and evaluation – frequent employee and corporate surveys in getting feedback for fixed durations of shorter time lengths. Consider trial periods for new programmes and make adjustments along the way.

One Organisation

Sustainable organizational transformation is a learning journey, not a fixed policy destination so HR practices can and should change based on survey/focus group results and the discipline and aspirations of employees. More importantly, the organization should fully trust the employees and reward them so long as they deliver the right optimal output. In building new organizational capabilities, especially when new skill sets are required with the wave of digitalization, there will always be an awkward period of transition and HR needs to take cognizance and make a concerted effort in bringing the organization to a holistic, integrated mindset, thereby avoiding a 2-tier skill set of ‘second-class citizens’. This is best achieved through:

  • Visibility of the management team – drive the employees’ confidence towards the leaders who, in turn, walk the talk.
  • Simplification of processes, interdepartmental interactions and quicker decision-making – recognition and support from management team is needed to encourage these positive activities.
  • Do not be too quick to judge – you would be surprised that employees with the least expectations ended up being the best people in the new set up. Trust and real opportunities are the best way to tap potential and create change.

The group agreed that finding purpose, apart from making people happy, should be the main focal point. If employees sense they are part of the company, they would naturally be excited in creating a new future together. This synergy requires a balance between building the corporate culture you want and ensuring employees are engaged to continue working with the organization to realise it.

Leaner enterprises would encourage swift decision-making, risk-taking attitudes while reducing inefficiencies to free up time for more innovation.

Change certainly can’t happen overnight but with the right mindset and behaviourial change in place, coupled with leaders encouraging their people to accept failures in terms of new learnings, nothing is impossible and it is just a matter of time that success would follow.

Here’s what participants had to say

I was energized by the interaction. It was a great forum for exploring and bringing into focus the high correlation between organization performance, innovation and personal interactions, which are key drivers for organization success and “renovating the workplace” is one of the key enablers.

Bhavna Bhaskar, Director & HRBP Categories, Functions & Organisation Transformation at PepsiCo APAC Region

I enjoyed the meeting and I think transparency and open communication was not only helpful in making the smooth and successful renovation of the workplace, but was also helpful in bringing more trust, innovation and productivity.

Phenkhae Hassadeevijitr, Head of HR - Thailand at Clariant Ltd.

A great visit and an eye-opener on what could be done to further enhance the office environment and “people friendly” changes to make it a conducive place to work.

Nagalingam Subramaniam, Human Resources Director-Asia Supply Chain at Hanesbrands Inc