Engineering Change, Fostering Care
Because iCare Award winner and advocate, Mr Yip Hoong Mun, shares about creating a culture of care in CapitaLand
Issue: Feb 2012
Deputy CEO of CapitaLand (Vietnam) Holdings, Yip Hoong Mun’s reflections on what makes a company last sparked the Because iCare programme
When Deputy CEO of CapitaLand (Vietnam) Holdings, Yip Hoong Mun, spoke at CapitaLand’s 10th anniversary sharing session to fellow colleagues in 2010, he did not quite anticipate the impact his five-minute reflection would have on the organisation and its 11,000 employees.
“I thought it would be good to reflect on the past 10 years and think about how we can build on our past achievements to make the company last,” recalled Mr Yip.
Like the engineer he is at heart, Mr Yip, whose first degree is in Civil Engineering with first class honours from the National University of Singapore, thought it best to do a little research to prepare for his presentation.
Mr Yip (third from left) at the CapitaLand 10th Anniversary in Vietnam where he shared about the need for engaging people in order to have lasting success
His clear and analytical presentation of a vision for a lasting future for CapitaLand hinged on his conviction that in order for improvements to take place, people have to be engaged and encouraged to speak up; their hearts had to be touched.
“We spend more time at work interacting with our colleagues than we do at home. Yet, at home, when we see that something is not right, we speak up to make sure things work. Why can’t we do the same at work? If we think something can be improved or made more conducive, why don’t we voice it?” he argued.
That single idea captured the very essence of what CapitaLand has been doing over the years as a people-focused organisation. And it became the key message for CapitaLand's first Because iCare (BiC) campaign initiative among staff - “Speak Up, Listen, Respond.” The main purpose of the initiative was to encourage employees to show they care for people and the company by speaking up for change, and, eventually, make it a corporate culture.
Mr Yip makes it his practice to get to know his staff better to foster a ‘dare to speak up’ spirit within the office
The Conviction to Speak
With such passion for Because iCare, it came as no surprise when Mr Yip became one of the winners of the inaugural Because iCare Awards held last year. One of the tenets of Because iCare is the conviction to speak up and the basis of that comes from creating a safe environment, something that Mr Yip has been doing personally for years. In whichever posting he is in, he makes it his practice to get to know his staff so as to create an environment where people feel comfortable enough to speak up.
“I interact with them and engage them socially to build up trust and confidence. So they are comfortable enough to talk to me about what is going on in their lives, what they are stressed about. They even share with me when they are trying for a baby, for example,” said Mr Yip with a smile.
This willingness to speak up has led to some changes for the better even before the official launch of Because iCare. In Vietnam, certain approval and documentation processes have been simplified due to staff feedback.
“Some approvals and documentations used to go through many different layers and different departments and the processes could take a long time. The staff asked if things can be simplified. So, we have simplified the processes and also empowered the staff to approve things within certain limits and this expedites the processes. Here, we have optimised the system without compromising the integrity of the approval structure and staff appreciate this because this is something they have to deal with every day,” said Mr Yip.
Mr Yip, who flew to Bangkok for the wedding of his Thai staff working in Vietnam, believes in getting to know his staff beyond work
Now that the Because iCare programme is in full swing, Mr Yip is taking the lead in Vietnam to empower his staff to speak in the context of work as well.
“At my fortnightly Department Head meetings, I have started the practice where we get young executives to do presentations pertaining to their area of work to the management. This reduces their fear of speaking up and also enables us to identify good local staff for leadership positions,” said Mr Yip.
On the rollout of Because iCare initiatives in different markets, Mr Yip shared, “People from China and Vietnam tend to be more vocal probably because they are younger and hungrier for career advancement. They are eager to be heard and recognised for their work. So they want to learn more, and so they ask more and harder questions.”
The Courage to Listen
But speaking up alone cannot exact change for the better. Mr Yip feels that it is crucial that supervisors must also be willing to listen and respond.
Mr Yip noted, “Sometimes, a good idea is raised and then it stops there. In this area, I personally evaluate each idea to make sure that the worthwhile ones are implemented.”
Mr Yip encourages supervisors to listen as well and to respond accordingly
“We need to engage the person and give them our feedback [as a supervisor] about their idea and let them know why the idea is not implemented. It is not just about speaking up but a two-way dialogue,” said Mr Yip.
Supervisors also need not feel threatened by their staff who are willing to speak up, Mr Yip advised. Instead, supervisors can hone their managerial skills.
“I am very open with my mid-level managers and try to keep them informed so there are no surprises. So, if their subordinate comes to me, I will always copy the supervisor on the discussion and correspondence. This removes the element of distrust,” said Mr Yip.
The Commitment to Change
Looking ahead, Mr Yip believes that the success of the Because iCare programme depends on getting everyone to own the idea.
“It is easy to start a campaign but it is harder to sustain it. The challenge is not to lose steam and to make it sustainable. At the moment, a lot of activities are driven at the corporate level. The challenge is for the SBUs and different countries to promote the initiatives under this umbrella and maintain the momentum,” said Mr Yip.
In a year’s time, this advocate of Because iCare envisages an organisation that is fully aware and fully participatory of this corporate culture, one that do so with all their hearts.