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This article is brought to you by Sun Life Hong Kong

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world in 2020. With remote working in place, many companies have been leaning on human resources practitioners to maintain employee engagement and keep productivity high – adding significant workload to HR’s numerous duties.

For Sun Life Hong Kong, employee engagement has always been its top priority. Even before the pandemic, the company has asserted themselves in this area, in line with all its HR strategies along the entire employee journey.

Envisioning to help Sun Lifers achieve lifetime satisfaction and live healthier working lives, Sun Life Hong Kong has been strengthening its employee engagement campaign ‘Life’s Brighter Under the Sun – 360 degree Staff Engagement’ since 2019.

The campaign aims to achieve an employee-first experience, cultivate a caring and collaborative culture and foster transparent and engaging communication through five aspects: Two-way communication, talent and culture, total reward, feedback-rich performance management, and wellness.

Reinforcing employee-first culture in wellness programmes

When it comes to wellness, employees’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing are equally important at Sun Life.

To fulfill its core value ‘putting employees at heart’, the company delegates decision-making and empowers employees to come up with new ideas. It not only invited employees to co-design its new workplace, but has also formed a staff recreation committee consisting of new and existing employees annually to organise events for all employees and their families.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sun Life Hong Kong has quickly identified new demands from employees through a series of just-in-time employee pulse surveys and has taken proactive measures for employees to ensure they are happy and productive and have sufficient support from the management. The initiatives include implementing the work-from-home arrangement, enhancing hygiene and safety precautions for business-critical employees who have to work in the office, special wellness day-offs, reimbursing employees for purchasing health and personal products and ergonomic home office furniture, and offering discounted COVID-19 tests and free professional counselling services.

“Our first priority in this situation is the health and wellbeing of all employees. We help our clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives and we want the same for our employees. We are committed to providing our employees with the tools and education they need to prevent diseases and lead healthier lifestyles,” said Cynthia Sit, chief human resources officer at Sun Life Hong Kong.

Designing an all-encompassing, winning strategy

While wellness has become the key driver of employee engagement for many companies, business transparency, career growth opportunities and employee development have always been paramount to employee engagement. Sun Life Hong Kong also underscored its campaign success on an all-rounded and comprehensive approach.

“Our employee engagement campaign does not only cover one aspect. It covers five different angles. We make sure every aspect relating to better employee engagement is being taken care of in a concerted manner. Putting employees at heart is not a slogan but we walk our talk!” said Alice Chuck, head of people development, engagement and talent acquisition at Sun Life Hong Kong.

In terms of business transparency, apart from fair and transparent total reward policies with a formula-driven and 100% performance-linked annual incentive plan, the company has moved away from the typical corporate top-down hierarchy and encourages two-way communication between senior leaders and employees.

During internal town hall meetings, not only do CEO and leaders share business results and a people-focused agenda, they also answer questions openly raised by employees. Furthermore, while employees are welcome to schedule a coffee chat with any senior leaders, for example chief human resources officer often takes the initiative to arrange one with different levels of employees.

“Our senior leaders and top management are willing to make time for employees because we are a caring employer,” Chuck said.

Another key driver for employee engagement behind Sun Life Hong Kong’s winning campaign centres on numerous career opportunities and employee development. The expansion of the company has been creating more opportunities for talent. The company also made plans to future proof the workforce through e-learning, leadership coaching workshops, and a talent development programme called WeSHINE+. The year-on-year enhancement of leadership succession pipelines with a gender balance diversity of near 50% women in senior level and near 90% retention of its talent are some of the key outcomes of our winning talent management programme.

“We hope to support Sun Lifers to stay fit for the future, support our people leaders to be engaging coaches and develop our high potential talent to be successful future leaders with new capabilities along the digital enterprise journey,” she said.

To acknowledge employees for their work and motivate employees, Sun Life cultivates a recognition culture and runs a quarterly #BEOURBEST Recognition Award and annual Global CEO’s Award.

“The number of nominations and qualified awards for the #BEOURBEST and Global CEO’s Awards has increased enormously in the past year, meaning there has been a stronger engagement in staff recognition culture and also a stronger momentum in achieving business results in pursuit for our business purpose ‘Client for Life’,” she said.

Sun Life Hong Kong was awarded three golds in Excellence in Employee Engagement, Excellence in HR Strategic Planning and Excellence in Talent Management; three silvers in Excellence in Employee Wellbeing, Excellence in Employee Work-Life Balance and Excellence in Crisis Management; and one bronze in Excellence in Employee Caring at Human Resources HR Distinction Awards 2020. In addition, the company also secured the overall HR Grand Winner and Employer of the Year award.