Firms Must Engage More with Employees


Wednesday March 2, 2011


In conjunction with the StarBiz-ICR Malaysia Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010, the Star hosted the StarBiz-ICR Malaysia CR Exchange yesterday a forum on CR In the Workplace: Issues & Best Practices.' Past winner Guinness Anchor Bhd human resources director R. Sujitha Rajaratnam and finalist Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd president and CEO Bi Yong Chungunco who won in the workplace category shared their views and strategies on how to create a safe and vibrant workplace. Leaderonomics founder and CEO Roshan Thiran also shared his insights on how to integrate CR into the organisation


PETALING JAYA: Corporations large and small, which wish to succeed in the years ahead, will have to engage more with their employees and the community around them as part of efforts to develop their presence beyond just profits.


Speakers at the StarBiz ICRM Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010, who presented a dialogue at Menara Star yesterday on CR in the Workplace: Issues & Best Practice, said engaging with employees included cultivating their talent, making sure the workplace was safe and healthy as well as encouraging work-life balance.


Leaderonomics Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Roshan Thiran said companies needed to have a social purpose in order to attract or retain talent, especially among younger employees.


Star Publications (M) Bhd, the publisher of The Star, has a 51% stake in Leaderonomics.


“Organisations that don't have a social mission will not be around long-term, as corporate responsibility (CR) creates shareholder value and makes business sense,” Roshan said.


He said examples of companies which have integrated their businesses with this “social mission” were AirAsia Bhd, whose tagline of “Now everyone can fly” underscored the company's mission of opening up opportunities for air travel to more people.


Roshan pointed out that other firms which have made commitments to engage with the communities around them included the General Electric Co with their “ecomagination challenge” and PepsiCo Inc, a maker of soft-drinks now moving towards providing more health-based drinks.


“Companies that want to win need to start engaging with the communities around them, this is a win-win situation as when communities thrive then businesses will also thrive,” he added.


Roshan said many might view such corporate exercises as marketing gimmicks but the companies' leadership must believe it and be seen taking proactive steps, even if it meant short-term losses for the businesses.


Predicting that in 20 to 30 years all businesses would have a “social mission” with a profit motive for sustainability, he said senior management must be seen to not only talk about CR but must be seen to actively take part in it to show colleagues of their commitment. Roshan predicted that over the next 20 to 30 years, all businesses would be social business with a profit.


Meanwhile, Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd president and CEO Bi Yong Chungunco said one area in which the company promoted CR in the workplace was via the health and safety aspects. She said logistics safety was one area of importance for Lafarge as the company transported almost all the cement it sold in the peninsula with the mileage for one day equivalent to rounding the globe three times.


Chungunco believed companies cannot achieve “excellence in business if they cannot achieve excellence in safety”.

This was the reason why the safety and health aspect was emphasised by Lafarge. “We've a health and safety engagement every year where we revisit and re-state the policy and commit ourselves by signing that policy in every country where we've a presence,” she said.


Chungunco said the company used the spouses of the predominantly male truck drivers to appeal to their sense of responsibility on the road, where they were often driving alone.


“We ask the wives to tell their husbands to come home safe, that their families needed them, in fact we make them hold hands at our Transporters' Safety Day and make that commitment,” she said.


Besides this commitment, Chungunco said the company has equipped reflector safety belts as well as GPS systems in the trucks in order to better monitor the drivers.


Fellow speaker Guinness Anchor Bhd human resources director R. Sujitha Rajaratnam emphasised how the company engaged employees by giving them opportunities to reach their full potential.


Describing it as part of the company's human resources vision, she said “each employee will have a career development plan encompassing training and development, to encourage and enable their growth”.


Other initiatives included a responsible drinking policy, healthy living and encouraging work-life balance where the company practiced flexi-time which in future would also include a “home early” programme.


Sujitha said the investment in people was paying off. “We've delivered nine consecutive years of growth in revenue, profit and market share,” she added.