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  Award-winning Engagement Initiatives Motivate Employees to Go the Extra Mile

"To win in the marketplace you must fi rst win in the workplace," says Doug Conant, former Campbell's Soup CEO. Employee engagement, the key to activating a high performing workforce, is built on trust, empowerment and two-way communication. It's the best way to win the pride and loyalty of staff working for any company as well as being great for stakeholders and enhancing the connections between staff and an organisation's various missions. After all, it's employees that ultimately take the initiative to go that extra mile to fi nish a piece of work.

Kevin Kruse, a Forbes contributor, points out that employee engagement is the 'emotional commitment' among staff. Employees with a high degree of commitment care about their work and their companies. "They don't work just for a paycheck or the next promotion, but rather work on behalf of the organisation's goals." An engaged workforce leads to better quality, higher productivity, higher customer satisfaction, increased sales, and this eventually results in higher levels of profi t along with higher shareholder returns.

Most human resource professionals understand the importance of enhancing employee engagement in their companies. However, it's easier to say than to actually execute. With the influx of more and more younger workers, and the proliferation of information technology at work, the increasing need for a more flexible and transparent workplace environment cannot be overlooked by HR executives.

"Complexity is usually the main feature behind the organisational structures of many large corporations. This may dilute the communication effectiveness among staff at different levels and makes it diffi cult for management to get closely in touch with markets, " says Teddy Liu, General Manager for Corporate and Talent Development at New World Development Company Limited. "By implementing an unconventional array of employee engagement initiatives, including Incubation Circle, i.World and Artisanal Journey, we have succeeded in 'de-layering', which in effect means we've informally simplified our hierarchy and thereby strengthened the connection between our management personnel and general staff. De-layering has also allowed us to listen to the 'voices of customers' in a more direct and effi cient manner, which keeps us from driving development in the wrong directions."

Incubation Circle Driven by General Staff

Teddy Liu General Manager íV Corporate and Talent Development New World Development Company Limited

Liu explains that Incubation Circle is a 'you have a say' bottom-up initiative which aims to encourage and empower staff to proactively bring about change initiatives through pragmatic suggestions that improve existing operations, and to help the Group as well as its other business units move one step forward. This employee-driven quality excellence programme allows staff members to voluntarily form teams and make practical work improvement proposals. The process itself helps foster and realise a spirit of innovation and intrapreneurship. It also reflects on how much the management treasures the opinions of rank and file employees.

Currently there are a total of 240 circles comprising about 1,400 employees, with around five members on average in each circle, making it a small but highly involved work team ambience. The majority of team members comprise middle management, general staff and frontline level employees from different departments and business units.

"Last year, we received over 400 proposals made by these circles with 18 outstanding ideas ultimately selected by a judging committee," adds Liu. "These shortlisted circles presented their proposals in interesting ways through drama, role playing, video and other creative formats before management and other colleagues at the annual Incubation Circle Convention held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre." The senior personnel from other reputable corporations such as MTR, CLP, Towngas and others were also invited to attend the presentation events as panel judges.

Lawrence Law, Senior Manager of Business Development & Project Management; and Daphine Ng, Assistant Administration Manager of Human Resources & Administration, both from New World TMT Limited, formed a circle with five other staff members three years ago. The team continued to submit work improvement proposals year after year and also won one silver award and two bronze awards.

"Participation in the Incubation Circle has broadened my knowledge in many aspects and has enhanced horizontal communications as well as team spirit within our circle," says Law. "It's really a valuable experience which sparked our real engagement in the company and fostered better work relations between different departments." Ng also agrees that she has learned a lot from the guidance and support Liu's team provided throughout the entire process, such as project planning, data analysis, fi nancial impact, plus a host of problem-solving skills and other management tools.

TMT's circle proposed initiating a series of physical exercises that can be done during office hours and in different workplaces to improve everyone's health. "In our surveys, we found out that 90% of our staff understands the importance of relaxation and exercises but ironically 80% never take the time and effort to do so," Law says. "Most forget to exercise while some think it may be strange to exercise alone in an offi ce environment or perhaps don't know how to do a work out." Based on these findings, his team suggested a 2-minute pop up video shown automatically on the staff's computer monitors at 4pm every offi ce day to lead everyone to stretch properly.

Last year, TMT's circle submitted another awardwinning proposal - 'Shadow Project'. "Some of us were interested in various training courses organised by the company but couldn't attend due to other business engagements. As a result, we asked those who attended the course to act as 'shadow instructors' in order to share with other interested staff what they had learned from the classes. This idea allows others to gain a brief understanding of the particular training session and prompts them about the next training arrangements. It also encourages course attendants to focus more on learning and knowledge transfer." Ng adds that they used shadow dancing as a gimmick to present their idea, which successfully attracted the attention of the judges and audience.

Connecting Employees Across Boundaries via i.World

i.World, an enterprise social network, was exclusively established for the Group's staff members to connect, collaborate and share information with each other. "It is another popular and effective initiative in employee engagement whereby our staff can conduct secure, realtime conversations with other colleagues anywhere," says Liu. "We can stay in the loop even out of the office by posting news and updates, asking questions, making announcements and sharing company information, such as product promotions and the launch of new properties. This platform can facilitate internal communications and also engage staff members in the company's priority initiatives."

He also adds that staff can post, like or share many personal things in different chat rooms. Ng also browses and posts on i.World frequently. "We often upload photos and videos taken at staff birthday parties, volunteer activities, sports competitions and other recreational events while also checking the staff canteen's daily menus, training programmes and other information. It's a really convenient and useful platform."

Liu points out that more than 12,000 staff in both Hong Kong and mainland China can gain access to i.World. "Our staff members across different cities make use of this virtual media to help facilitate cultural exchange and mutual understanding," says Liu. Extra effort has been put in to organise many interactive online promotions such as games and gift offerings, maintaining momentum with incentives and creating viral effects.

Join the Artisan Journey and Become Champions of the Corporate Brand

Without any doubt, staff motivation and effi ciency are greater when employees have a better understanding and recognition of their companies' missions and values. At the New World Group, a unique corporate brand identity - The Artisanal Movement, has been solidly established. Under this concept, the management believes that every staff can be an artisan and apply their imagination to pursue perfection in their work. With this in mind, Liu and his team have carried out a series of Artisan Journey activities with the aim of nurturing the new generation of corporate ambassadors.

"The Artisan Journey is part of a mindset cultivation campaign to engage our staff into becoming brand ambassadors," says Liu. "It's a guided tour for our employees to experience how the Artisanal spirit is manifested in a business context. Through visits to our flagship projects, including residential developments, shopping malls and dining outlets, participants not only observe and feel the Artisanal representations, but also learn about how management has come around to this concept and how different elements of The Artisanal Movement integrate." He adds that these colleagues also share their experiences on i.World and their personal social media channels to maximise the viral effect.

More than a hundred brand ambassadors are recruited through self-enrollment or a manager nomination process. "Most of them are our management trainees and members of the YoungSTAR programme, along with other group company talents," he explains. "Being young, presentable and energetic, they have a keen sense of quality and are eager to pursue excellence."

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