#LEAwards 2020 highlight: Nippon Sanso's employee engagement strategy

Nippon Sanso Holdings Singapore (NSHS) is a leading manufacturer of industrial gas in Japan with over 100 years of experience as The Gas Professionals.

As it moves into the modern era, the bronze winner of our best employee engagement category at the recent Loyalty & Engagement event wanted to reform its work style and promote diversity within its organisation to have a culture of inclusiveness. It also hopes to establish a succession plan for global management of human resources and enhance its education and training programmes.

At Nippon Sanso Holdings Singapore (NSHS), employee well-being and engagement is a shared responsibility between HR professionals, business leaders and employees from all divisions. With the support of its chairman, president and CEO, and other business leaders, NSHS’ HR division sought to make the company an inclusive one that meets employee needs.

Challenges

When the company conducted an internal review in 2018, the team noticed that there was minimal interaction amongst local and foreign employees. Moreover, there wasn’t as many employee engagement activities put in place and there was a low take-up rate of learning management system. One telling sign of a need of an overhaul was the fact that the company lacked a feedback channel for employees to voice their concerns.

Strategy

To enable the continued success of its gas professionals in Nippon Sanso, there was a need to build competent and highly qualified HR professionals in its regional subsidiaries through the following measures. This was then thought to be put in place through annual ASEAN+ HR Network Meetings and regular communication to HR Community of Practice to share best practices and ongoing HR initiatives.

The team wanted to provide ample training and development opportunities and employee feedback channels through organising:

  • Annual Learning Festival
  • Monthly HR / We Care brown bag seminars
  • Quarterly Keep Our People Interactive (KOPI) sessions

The team also looked to bring diversity and inclusivity by celebrating an annual “Unity in diversity day” to educate employees to embrace the uniqueness of every individual. Moreover, policies and initiatives to support employee well-being such as monthly activities with Health and Wellness Club were also organised. The Health and Wellness Club was formed in April 2018 with the aim to enhance employee’s well-being to cultivate camaraderie amongst colleagues through monthly activities.

Execution

The main groups of target audience for the initiatives were the senior management, NSHS employees, regional HR professionals and high potential employees. Majority of this group are between the age of 31 to 50 years old and most of the time, the barriers to their learning revolved around time constraints and tech fears.

As such, basic functions of tech and Microsoft office were used for the collaborations. Three considerations when selecting communication tools and channels:

  • Effective outreach to target audience
  • Cost effectiveness
  • User-friendliness of technology

ASEAN+ HR Network Meetings

The initiatives kickstarted with the annual ASEAN+ HR Network Meeting in Singapore, where Asia and Oceania regional companies were invited to share their past year achievements, HR trends and best practices with the goal to boost overall HR standards across our region. NSHS HR division produced HR Competency toolkit and Leadership Competency Model to guide subsidiaries in building and policy development. In 2020 virtual conference, NSHS and overseas subsidiaries presented results from special projects. HR toolkits, learning materials and PowerPoint slides submitted by respective subsidiaries were shared through Dropbox after end of network meeting.

To continue to connect with regional representatives and strengthen HR competencies as a community, NSHS HR created HR Community of Practice Group on TNSC's OSTI system. This platform enabled the team to reach ASEAN+ HR representatives globally. HR Community of Practice members can make comments or give a "like" on posts on this platform. This enabled members to interact on the OSTI system freely and have constructive feedback and suggestions through this platform.

NSHS HR also held its first inaugural annual learning festival under the theme “Enjoy Learning, Enjoy Life” in the office to inspire employees to embrace lifelong learning. During this session, external speakers were invited and in 2020 the conversation morphed to be around “Be Future-Ready, Be Future You!”. In 2020, employees were encouraged to take charge of their personal development to stay competitive and relevant. Once again, external representatives were invited.

We Care Brown Bag seminars

Meanwhile, with the objective of equipping employees with general and leadership competencies, the team also organised monthly HR Brown Bag seminars to conduct bite-sized training for employees. Brown Bag seminars served as a two-way communication channel for employees to provide HR with constructive feedbacks to improve HR policies, processes and procedures for the company. In April 2020, the HR team restructured from HR Cares Brown Bag seminars to We Care Brown Bag webinars. With COVID-19 pandemic forcing employees to telecommute, HR team converted this programme into a live webinar by adopting Microsoft Teams.

KOPI Seminars

HR team kickstarted quarterly HR Cares KOPI Seminars in August 2018 with the purpose of updating employees HR policies and Singapore government labour laws. Example of topics shared were the Employment Act, Tripartite guidelines, and WICA.

KOPI seminars serve as the second two-way communication channel for employees to provide feedback on HR policies, processes and procedures.

Till date, HR has:

  • Clarify and enhanced employees’ understanding on HR policies and Singapore government labour laws, governmental updates.

  • Planned and executed fun ice-breaker games to promote interaction and teamwork amongst employees such as puzzles and memory games.

  • Invited external speakers to share topics to improve financial wellness. For example, lasting power of attorney, will-writing.

  • Multi-divisional presentations to update on internal policies. This includes overseas travel reimbursement, staff claims, process safety, business continuity development guide for subsidiaries.

Unity in Diversity Day

Unity in Diversity Day started on 8 August 2018 became an anchor annual event in NSHS with the aim to educate employees and embrace the mindset of a diversified and inclusive workplace.

NSHS created a marketing tagline #UnityinDiversityStartswithUS and shared its Unity in Diversity slides with co-created answers to ASEAN+ regional subsidiaries. The team held individual ethnic costume to identify its Unity in Diversity ambassador and group costume competition. Making a push through content, the team also produced unity in diversity corporate videos for NSHS and ASEAN+ HR Network Community.

Moreover, there were also policies and initiatives to support employee well-being such as the Health and Wellness Club which was formed with the objective to enhance employee’s wellbeing and to cultivate camaraderie among colleagues.

The Health and Wellness Club comprises employee representatives from various divisions and organised monthly activities such as karaoke sessions, birthday celebration, ice-skating, and brisk walking in the company. The club brainstormed, planned and executed annual events such as Chinese New Year Lunch and Year End Party. Fun activities and games were planned and incorporated during these events.

Results

NSHS HR rolled out post-event feedback survey through SurveyMonkey after the annual meeting in 2019. Overall experience of the third ASEAN+ HR Network Meeting 2019 saw 92% of the participants giving excellent rating of five stars. Of which, 69% of the participants gave five-star rating for presenting highly relevant topics for them.

By December 2019, NSHS employees committed a total of 304 internal training hours to attend HR Cares Brown Bag seminar, proving employee’s thirst for knowledge and commitment in understanding and acquiring knowledge to make continuous improvement. In December 2019, NSHS HR team calculated 20% of the company’s employees were awarded Certificate of Achievement for meeting a minimum of 60% of attendance across 15 sessions. Certificate of Achievement was presented to employees during NSHS Annual Year End Party 2019.

The TNSC Global Employee Engagement Survey 2020 saw 96% of employees completing the survey. Results revealed that well-being, diversity and quality were the company attributes that scored the best. There was also a reduction in its high absenteeism rate, showing increase in company’s productivity and employee morale.