UOB Thailand team

This conscious effort has led to a "higher engagement level for three consecutive years", says Preeyasiri Prapasanobol, SVP, Talent and Development, UOB (Thailand). 

At the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Thailand, United Overseas Bank (Thailand) received two silver awards — one for Excellence in Employee Engagement, and another for Excellence in Crisis Management and Recovery.

In this interview, Preeyasiri Prapasanobol, SVP, Talent and Development, UOB (Thailand), shares the secrets behind its achievements - how the organisation employed a "people-first" design to its HR strategies which proved to be successful in terms of reducing attrition rate, and keeping the workforce tightly-knit, which boosted business performance.

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

We have adopted a ‘human-centred design’ approach to all HR interventions; meaning that we put our people first, design, prototype, and pilot with function representatives in order to get their feedback, and adjust the intervention before launching.

The result of the 2020 employee engagement survey showed an 83% score, a six-point increase from 2019. The score of each dimension increased in comparison to 2019, and was higher than the benchmark target (Asia Pacific banks).

We also conducted a COVID-19 survey for employee feedback on the Bank's actions during the pandemic. Roughly 92% of respondents (4,038 people) indicated that they were coping well with the challenges; 90% said that they could maintain their work effectiveness, and 92% agreed that our Bank demonstrated care for their wellbeing and safety.

As such, our attrition rate reduced by 10% compared to 2019, while we maintained our capital strongly with a position of liquidity.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in making this initiative a reality?

We use ‘human-centred design’ as a key strategy in designing HR initiatives to ensure HR priorities are achieved, and employee experience is implemented directly. This strategy promotes 'fail fast, learn fast' in order to implement the right initiatives on a timely basis.

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Our HR leader is the person (pictured above) who has strongly believed in our core values: being honourable, enterprising, united, and committed. She influenced other leaders in adopting this strategy across other functions too.

Moreover, our senior management team has always been a role model, and leads by example; being the first one who has changed and/or adapted, which makes our initiatives a reality.

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?

Maintaining the momentum of initiatives is the most challenging part. Therefore, not only implementing the right initiatives with speed, but we also planned for regular progress tracking through meetings and activities along the way under two themes:

Make it bold:

  • We created three ‘#Better’ communication campaign: #Better workplace, #Better workforce, and #Better work/life aiming to create better employee experience.
  • Function champions from each function who are responsible for communicating activities and driving function engagement.
  • 'Progress Tracking' meeting were held with management committee and function champions.

Make it fun and interactive:

  • ‘Your opinion counts’ activities, employees shared their ideas to improve focused areas.
  • ‘Better Battle’ activities, people could vote for top 3 impressive actions for an opportunity to win lucky draw prizes.
  • Virtual roadshows; a two-way communication of improvement actions, survey question explanations, and Q&A sessions.

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?

We have seen higher employee engagement levels for three consecutive years. Also our attrition rate for last year reduced by 10% compared to 2019. Moreover, our business performance has been good even under crisis. We have been taking good care of our employees, with no one laid off, and have been able to pay an annual bonus and merit increase.

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

The top four skills for today CHRO are:

  • Agility – Including a mindset of speed and flexibility.
  • Business acumen – HR is not a support function anymore. People are a key resource of success for the organisation. So, the CHRO should really understand the business, insight, and future trends, then be able to analyse and synthesise the data to come up with the right people strategies and priorities.
  • Change management – As we are in a daily disruptive environment, people always have to face change. Therefore, an HR leader who can manage change better will succeed first.
  • Technology savviness – This is a plus. If HR leaders are able to see how technology can be utilised in people management, it will make the organisation's progress quicker.

Image / Provided

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