Kerry Express (Thailand) PCL took home the Gold award for Excellence in Workplace Culture at the inaugural HR Excellence Awards 2021, Thailand.

In this interview, Sudarat Noranitiwan, General Manager – People Development, Kerry Express (Thailand) PCL, shares the strategy behind this win – brainstorming, planning and monitoring internally to build and reinforce its ‘HI STEP’ values and behaviours.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Kerry Express has won the gold award for cultural excellence, which is one of our important HR strategies. It’s such a challenge to build a strong culture for a company with more than 28,000 employees, comprising different generations, ideas, working methods, and behaviours.

Kerry Express has been delivering services to customers for only 15 years, but we are able to build a strong culture by crystallising the expected values and behaviours in our 'HI STEP' six qualities that form the core organisational culture.

'HI STEP' comprises honesty, innovation, service mindset, teamwork, execution, and positivity.

It comes from existing behaviours and makes a huge and important impact to our business. We continually intervene and communicate in the culture journey through team building activities and have also received the best support from the management team which makes building a strong culture successful even though it is happening ground-up from brainstorming, planning and monitoring internally.

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?

The strategy behind our culture journey involves encouraging employee to get an in-depth understanding continually and participate in the related culture programmes. Our management has been a key success factor in strengthening culture from the beginning. This is based on gathering inputs from corporate management line across various units to participate in brainstorming and activities together, until we found the culture that reflects our business and is an advantage to the society. Moreover, Alex Ng (our CEO) talks about 'HI STEP’ in any media interviews as the key success factor for Kerry Express.

In addition to the activities to drive strong culture, the management has been key in being the change agent to drive programmes successfully, such as the reward & recognition programme (HI STEP Song, HI STEP Team Building or HISTEP The Idol) which gained participation from over 90% of employees.

This project originated from the vision of the management that the organisation should implement a programme that honours employees who do good deeds, behave in accordance with the corporate’s core values, conduct themselves as a good example, and create positive energy for others in the society and people within the corporation. Thus, the project was borne by bringing stories of employees from all over the country to communicate within the company by sharing stories, feelings, and motivations that drive them individually. This makes them the ideal model for other employees who may encounter similar events.

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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?

As Kerry Express has a lot of employees who are spread across provinces, this was one of the challenges we faced in creating a deep understanding on each culture’s dimension among them all. In the beginning, there was a lack of clear determination, which led to misunderstanding on the expected behaviours.

However, we got through this obstacle by brainstorming options and finding solutions to ensure employees in all areas of Kerry Express (Thailand) understand and bring the HI STEP as a part of all people process such as recruitment, development, and evaluation.

We continue to try to reach our employees by spreading the message in various channels that employees access.

We also assign their leader or supervisor to be the change agent. In addition, the company has organised many activities along the culture journey to encourage employees to encompass behaviours that are consistent and in line with corporate core values.

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?

Employee behaviour on the HI STEP framework is crucial to the success of a business as Kerry Express is an express delivery organisation, which means that employees handle more than 2mn parcels per day without knowing what is inside and its worth. Therefore, honesty of every employee is important. In taking good care of every parcel and proceeding with the cash on delivery (COD) process, it would be difficult for any organisation to carry out business strategies.

However, what works in our favour is that a well-established corporate culture affects the overall growth of the company and creates tangible business growth. If employees comprehend the vision of the organisation and adapt behaviours that are consistent with the corporate culture, this results in their dedication to work diligently.

Since the initial deployment of HI STEP, Kerry Express has seen steady growth as measured by the company's profit as well as won the award for the No.1 parcel delivery company in Thailand for four consecutive years.

Apart from the business growth, the company has conducted an employee engagement survey, which revealed 74% demonstrate employee behaviours that are consistent with corporate culture, 75% for change readiness, and 70% for acceptance of diversity and inclusion. These three aspects are all related to the corporate culture, and are a result of the drive behind the company culture over the past seven years.

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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?

In our point of view, among the top skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO, the first is change management since the world is changing continuously and we need to prepare ourselves to be ready for facing these challenges. For example, the COVID-19 situation is one of the most important lessons for HR Kerry Express (Thailand) in sourcing and retaining employees to survive with resilience during difficult situations.

Therefore, change management and smart handling in any challenge are the most important HR skills for this era.

Once we’re able to handle challenges effectively, the next important skill HR needs is data analytics. We need to be able to analyse data and statistics for forecasting and preparing actions for future situations to align with the business, such as forecasting manpower planning for peak volume and proposing this to the management team.

Finally, another skill which is equally important especially for a huge company like Kerry Express (Thailand) is communication skills, which HR needs to communicate with both internal and external stakeholders to respond and support the dynamic business.

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