Oiltanking Group of Companies in Singapore took home the bronze award for 'Excellence in COVID-19 Response' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.
In this interview, Jerlyn Tan, Vice President, HR, Oiltanking Group, shares how the organisation navigated and managed the pandemic landscape, all while undergoing various processes of digitalisation, and caring for its employee wellbeing.
Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?
Our strategy targeted three areas:
- Changing our working environment and equipping staff to readily handle the fluid changes and disruptions that COVID-19 brought, providing support and incentives for staff to adapt;
- Ensuring continued safe business operations for on-site employees, whilst maintaining efficiency and productivity as an essential services provider operating 24/7; and
- Maintaining morale and enhancing staff wellbeing despite the pandemic’s continuing impact.
We are really proud that we managed to navigate our journey successfully, and in doing so, one of the main milestones we achieved was accelerating digitalisation across a multitude of processes. In particular, we digitalised our ship-shore processes (which typically require interaction between our staff and foreign crew), thereby enhancing not just efficiency but also allowing a safer work environment for our staff.
Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?
Our priority has always been our people. They are our most valuable resource, and their wellbeing is important to us.
On a business and productivity level, our strategy allowed us to facilitate business continuity in a workplace that our employees could operate safely in, with minimal impact to productivity.
More importantly, however, our employees were engaged through frequent dialogue and communications and well supported as they adapted to the changes in the workplace. Our people continued to feel connected to Oiltanking even if they were not physically present in the workplace.
The leadership was at the forefront of this strategy, choosing to focus on staff welfare and corporate social responsibility rather than only on revenue generation. Our leadership genuinely cares for our people, and this flowed through in the decisions made throughout the implementation of this strategy.
Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?
It was not easy rolling out a strategy at a short notice in an ever-changing regulatory landscape, whilst facing the many logistical challenges happening at the same time! Simply put – everyone involved was on board with the purpose of the strategy, since people were at the heart of it all. With that, staff across different functions came together to work as a team, with a can-do spirit to tackle each challenge head-on creatively and quickly.
Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?
Yes, we were really pleased with the fruits of our labour! As a litmus of success, we focused on the level of employee satisfaction, and the effectiveness of our digitalisation transformation.
For our employees, we saw how quickly they adapted to working-from-home effectively and efficiently despite being used to meeting face-to-face in our tight-knit 'kampong' culture workplace.
For our on-site employees, having the industry union acknowledge and commend us on our efforts to maintain welfare and safety was immensely validating as well.
Our accelerated digitalisation transformation is also something we are very proud of – from implementing contactless ship-shore operations for our operations staff, to using Docusign and drastically reducing our use of paper, to successfully concluding our collective agreement negotiation with the industry union via a virtual medium – these were items previously unthinkable for us, and yet we have achieved them and much more!
Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?
First, a CHRO should always be partnering with the business to identify and overcome challenges that the company faces in order to build up the brand of the company amidst the industry tug-of-war for talent.
Secondly, it is crucial to adeptly identify, develop and assign talent. In a fast-changing business environment, being able to identify and reallocate human capital to other roles to suit the business’ needs ensures having the right talent as and when needed.
Lastly, and most importantly, there always needs to be a heart for the people; focusing on the people will naturally lead to placing value on various aspects such as their overall wellbeing and development – this is something that employees increasingly cherish and value over and above the package and benefits a company can provide.
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