At Employee Experience Awards 2022, Singaporehotel company Far East Hospitality (FEH) received the silver award for best response to COVID-19.
In this interview, the FEH team tells Online human resources how the organization is adapting to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, while ensuring the protection, engagement and productivity of its staff.
Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you explain to us the highs and lows of your winning strategy? How important is it to the organization that the strategy be recognized this year?
We are honored to receive the best COVID-19 response (silver). It is a great recognition of the courage and resilience that each of our employees has shown during this pandemic.
Since 2020, FEH has offered our hotels to be converted into government facilities to support the country’s fight against COVID-19, providing over 2,600 rooms during the critical part of the pandemic. We were the first to support and today, as many are back in business, we are still joining the Department of Health for the potential next wave. We strive to liven up our role as Singapore Hotel Company, and therefore this award is a wonderful recognition that we are on the right path.
Over the past two years, frontliners in the hospitality industry have made great sacrifices, both in their professional and personal lives, in the performance of their duties as frontliners. This Employee Experience Award added a sweet note to our appreciation for our employees who supported and supported the company in its response to COVID-19.
Q Understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of your employees is never an easy task. How did the organization identify business and employee needs and craft the perfect solution?
Our main business priorities were:
- maintain the employment of all employees, and
- Protect employees working in facilities.
Furthermore, our top priority was to ensure that every employee was meaningfully engaged. As the media made headlines about employees losing their jobs, many worried about their livelihoods and mental well-being peaked. However, our FEH employees were reassured and fulfilled, among others, such as:
- care kits including vitamins, mask, disinfectants
- virtual mental wellness sessions
- coping mechanisms to COVID-19 and its situation
- annual increase and promotions
- virtual training
On that note, with every announcement of COVID-19 in the news, our employees receive a clear picture of the situation through our internal communication channel. FEH has a daily post, a vehicle we use to share ever-changing government notices in a brief and contextual way for our employees. Messaging communications, media learning, role-playing and on-the-job training were the important factors that helped us engage and demonstrate to our employees that we care about their safety.
Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organization, in terms of return on investment, when it came to fruition? Share with us the benefits of having such a strategy in place.
Employees have always been our number one priority.
Our corporate culture cultivates trust and excellence – where we work, play and excel together. Our employees are equipped with the right skills, the right tools and enhanced learning.
With this in mind, employees are guided by our culture, “Acts of Grace” – which includes 11 attributes – a common language that has enabled FEH to excel in crisis management. These attributes are ingrained in our people and guide how we interact and treat our internal and external customers. He has cultivated a positive work environment, which is essential in times of crisis. Additionally, our strategy to focus on employees was well grounded in the results of our employee engagement ratings. The positive results encouraged our management team, as it could be much worse, given the outcry of mental issues and the big resignation that is sweeping industries with frontliners.
Q Could you offer recommendations to your peers in all sectors? What advice or lessons would you have to guide them in implementing something similar for their own EX foundation?
“Learning transfer” is important. Even though we operate as a government institution, we have applied our “acts of grace” to personalize our service, despite the restrictions. We have learned all the safety protocols, applied at every touchpoint in the facility to make the stay of those in our care enjoyable, comfortable and safe.
Additionally, agility is important throughout the pandemic. Ever-changing opinions, alerts and measures often shared at the last minute by agencies, it is difficult to pass them on to operations. But with great teamwork, openness and agility in place, employees were able to adapt quickly and operate seamlessly.
Last but not least, “employees first”.
“Take care of your people and they will take care of the rest.” The saying is true, and trust has been built, bonds have strengthened. Genuine care and a hands-on approach had supported the psychological and emotional well-being of our employees, and they succeeded!
Q If you had to think about it, what is one thing you would do differently in executing this strategy?
We wouldn’t do anything different. However, we will continue to improve and focus on two key points: agility and anticipation.
For agility, we have seen how COVID-19 has caused many disruptions and introduced many changes to our lives. It’s no stranger and in fact, a reality that companies and their employees need to work faster and smarter to accomplish more in less time. This skill allows us to identify issues/problems and quickly resolve impediments in real time. True agility means being prepared with different solutions for each scenario, and we need to achieve that.
And being prepared leads to the other definite power skill in the workplace, which is anticipation. It is a competitive advantage because we would offer more value than our competitors. When we can anticipate and be ahead of industry trends and needs, we gain an edge, allowing us to thrive.
Q Going forward, how will the organization take this winning strategy higher and further in the years to come? Give us an overview of your upcoming plans to improve the overall employee experience.
We have seen from this experience that keeping FEH focused on people is an area that we will need to not only maintain, but improve. We are looking for more proactive ways to develop not only the physical well-being of our employees, but other aspects of well-being as well. It is essential that we focus more on organizational issues than on the experience of our employees as we prepare for a very different workforce.
Another aspect we’ll be exploring is integrating more technology and analytics into our employee experience. This will provide us with meaningful data that will allow us to perform organized and deliberate actions around well-being, inclusion, flexibility and what matters to an employee. We recognize the major change and therefore we would need plans that would guide with empathy, flexibility and employee perspectives towards what works best for each individual and for the organization.
Q In 10 years, where do you see the future of HR?
COVID-19 has accelerated all predictions of the future and we see them happening now rather than 10 years later. The work landscape has evolved tremendously over the past 30 months. We see blurred boundaries, functions and spaces. HR professionals can no longer simply stay on top of current HR trends and operate with the “now,” but they must reposition themselves to be strategic thinkers and think ahead faster than before.
The HR function must be agile enough to cope with an increasingly agile and restless workforce
It also means that it is essential to establish and promote an environment of continuous learning, which means that the acquisition of knowledge and transparency throughout the organization must be part of daily operations. With the speed at which things happen and changes happening more frequently than before, employees need to be able to constantly unlearn and relearn.
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Picture / Provided
Read more interviews about why organizations have won trophies for their HR practices – head over to our Winning secrets section!