Sands China, an integrated resort developer and operator, clinched the silver award for Best Rewards and Recognition Programme at the Employee Experience Awards 2022, Singapore.
In this interview, we speak to Hongyan Wen, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Sands China, and learn what the company is doing to appreciate its employees, recognise their efforts, and keep them motivated to strive for the business in the long run.
Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs and lows of your winning strategy – how important is it for the organisation to have the strategy recognised this year?
Across many industries, the pandemic helped to promote hybrid working. Yet, for the hospitality industry, people interaction is still vital and integral to our line of business.
Our president, Dr Wilfred Wong, once stated, "It’s got to be authentic, it’s a total experience, it’s not just the hardware but also the software, so that guests feel like they are in London from the moment they step inside our resort."
Being inspired by 'The Knowledge' - the legendary part of London’s black cab-driver training - we developed 'The Knowledge – Be a Londoner Guide'. This instils knowledge and pride in the special features of the Londoner Macao.
Receiving this award recognises our strategy, and gives a lifetime memory for our colleagues who contributed and feel proud about it. Accomplishing this strategy also has a positive impact on our business investment. We deeply appreciate all parties involved and our participating colleagues’ enthusiasm.
Q Understanding and meeting your employees’ needs and expectations is never an easy feat. How did the organisation identify the business & employee needs, and craft out the perfect solution?
Through understanding. Through big data.
On the business side, the company has strong alliances with our strategic partners who are mostly big players in the travel and leisure industry. The hotel occupancy pre-COVID was above 90% all year round, which gives us abundant first-hand information to understand our customers’ needs face-to-face, and to know the business reality through the vast amount of data we collect.
On the employee side, we walk along with them, embrace the culture of diversity and inclusion and extend genuine care to employees and their families. With trust built, they share their needs, we listen and respond.
Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organisation, in terms of ROI, when it came to fruition? Share with us the benefits of having such a strategy in place.
The strategy was initially designed to ignite employees’ sense of belonging, pride, and engagement to the company with a motivating and rewarding journey.
By focusing on employee experience, we created gamification elements for employees to learn new product knowledge with excitement and recognition. The whole journey encourages employees to learn in a creative, informal environment.
When learners get excited about the experiences, they are more likely to retain information, and are motivated and rewarded more by the memorable experience than by money.
The ultimate goal is to cultivate employees into true brand ambassadors, with knowledge and passion in creating unforgettable bespoke experiences for our guests. The ROI is shown in a customer service satisfaction survey in the resort’s early opening phase. This revealed 94% of the interviewed guests were satisfied; and 96% of the interviewed guests were willing to visit The Londoner Macao again. Our guests recognised our new culture and service by scoring our hotel as one of the best in Macao and ensuring that our two top scores were in "team member quality" and "team member attitude".
Q Could you offer some recommendations to your peers across industries –what advice or lessons would you have to guide them into implementing something similar for their own EX foundation?
We have our '3 ONEs' recommendation to share: one goal, one thought, one way.
- One goal – COO clearly defines one goal;
- One thought – transparent and involves all stakeholders, and
- One way – keep mechanisms simple and consistent, all the way.
Employee experience is the key when designing the mechanism. The gamification elements of the company’s programmes add excitement, and recognition and offer a creative, informal learning environment for employees.
Q If you were to reflect, what is one thing you’ll do differently in executing this strategy?
Try our best to achieve the 3 ONEs 100% and perfectly within the company.
Q Looking ahead, how is the organisation going to take this winning strategy higher and further in the coming years? Give us a sneak peek to into your upcoming plans to grow the overall employee experience.
As mentioned, we will try to achieve 100% of the 3 ONEs. Looking forward to this year, in this programme, for example, we are at the stage of launching the Diamond Pin tour guide exam-enabling employees to become our ultimate Londoner Knowledge Ambassadors. (One Way)
From the business perspective, our employees will become our brand once they become Londoner Knowledge Ambassadors, leading real-life guided tours for our guests, and playing a key role in providing personalised British-themed guest experiences. Our employees will be recognised and rewarded with the prestigious Diamond Pin, and enjoy their own Londoner experience with a complimentary stay in the Londoner Court for them and their families. (One Goal)
This reward will further extend recognition and pride to the employees’ families. Their families will be proud of them and support them further in their work life. Employees will then be more engaged to the company. (One Thought)
Q 10 years down the line, where do you see the future of HR?
HR is all about people, and leaders are responsible to make people decisions. Successful business models are all built around providing exceptional experience or service, to satisfy demands no matter obvious or hidden.So, in the HR business it would be something similar; providing exceptional employee experience.
Ten years down the line, I believe all the transactional tasks to meet employees’ needs or experience will be replaced by AI or through digitalised workflow. HR professionals will be focusing on providing tools and platforms to connect people, to understand people in order to serve the purpose of knowledge sharing, engagement and finally, the formation of a company community. Learning capability and knowledge retention of employees will be a key success factor for companies.
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Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets section!