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Aon Best Employers Hong Kong 2016: DBS makes banking joyful

Published on Friday, 15 Jul 2016
Sharon Cheng says DBS strives for constant innovation in its people management practices. (Photo: Berton Chang)

When Sharon Cheng Yee-ching was appointed managing director and head of human resources for Hong Kong and China at DBS Bank (Hong Kong) four and a half years ago, she had little idea that the group would be scooping up awards for its employment practices in such a short time.

With the company recognised as both a Best Employer – Hong Kong 2016 and Best Employer for Women in Aon Hewitt’s latest awards programme, Cheng explains that juggling good people practices with business success requires a clear strategic direction.

“We believe that, to achieve greatness, we must go beyond having a good bottom line. We need to achieve success in our people strategies as well. We do this by aligning with our strategic direction of ‘making banking joyful’,” she says.

“In HR, we focus on ‘making the workplace joyful’ through providing caring and flexible benefits, and all-rounded learning and talent development opportunities. This creates an open and collaborative environment where people are recognised for performance and helped to achieve more in their careers. Happy employees contribute to the bank’s performance, producing a win-win situation.”

Cheng explains that as a leading Asian bank, innovation is part of its DNA. “In such a fast-paced industry we always seek to inject innovation into our people practices to ensure we meet the changing needs of our employees.” 

One such practice is the bank’s Talent Conference Hackathons, which encourage employees to embrace a digital mindset through experiential learning and experimentation. Participants choose from a selection of programmes, such as leadership development courses and digital master classes.

“For example, last year we organised a series of digital mindset talent conferences at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. Our talent from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and India worked together in the hackathon to develop digital solutions that can create immediate value to the bank,” Cheng says.

“A few start-up companies from across Asia were invited to help participants with their innovative solutions by leveraging the latest technologies. This was a big plus for participants, who gained further exposure to digital culture, agile methodology and other digital concepts.”

Another innovative people practice is iHealth@DBS, an integrated health management programme that promotes employee wellness. Through connecting with mobile devices and wearables, it helps provide greater insights into employee well-being. This is accompanied by iFlex@DBS, which was rolled out two years ago as a replacement for the annual medical check-up.

“Data showed that not everyone was using our health benefits,” Cheng explains. “Therefore the benefits were extended to various items related to health care, wellness and lifestyle expenses, such as one-time health check-ups, vaccinations and fitness club memberships. Employees can now customise their benefits package themselves based on their own needs.”

These practices emphasise the disruptive nature of the financial industry and how the HR team at DBS has had to reimagine its function and improve its effectiveness.

“In transforming HR, my team encountered different challenges and carried out many trials to achieve ultimate success,” Cheng says. “We learned from our mistakes and built on our experience. Through these experiences, we built a strong team that has contributed to DBS being named a Best Employer.”

Ultimately, Cheng explains, this will enable DBS’s HR team to become a strategic partner to business development, and drive the people agenda to grow the bank’s role in the changing financial environment.

“The reimagining of HR is a focus for DBS this year and is in line with the group’s new strategic priorities. It will leverage key enablers in the areas of digital technology, data analysis and neuroscience to continue to build a great workplace and enhance the employee experience,” Cheng says.

“Take data analysis as an example. This doesn’t just involve things like annual performance appraisals, but also seemingly minor details such as patterns in staff leave requests. These are analysed just as closely to see the big picture and head off any looming problems.”

Cheng says women make up 51 per cent of the workforce at DBS Bank (Hong Kong), higher than the 48 per cent across the city’s general workforce stated by Census and Statistics Department figures. This is a result of the bank’s aim to be “gender blind”, she explains, with employee appraisals based on skills and capabilities.

“Management strongly supports this philosophy, so we have introduced various flexible arrangements, such as working from home, flexible working hours, part-time work and unpaid leave,” Cheng says.

“It’s also vital to respond swiftly to staff requests. For example, due to the baby boom during the Year of the Dragon, it was pointed out that there were insufficient workplace nursing facilities. Within a week we set about remodelling the executive toilets to solve the problem.”

Diversity also comes about in other forms. When recruiting, DBS likes to attract people with different backgrounds, such as engineering, law or psychology, rather than attracting only graduates from business faculties. It does this by organising campus talks and internships for non-business faculties. “Through partnerships with various university faculties and departments, “We hope to keep our finger on the pulse of the market,” Cheng says.

The team at DBS refuses to become complacent in light of its recent achievements and will continue to try out innovative people practices.

“A dedicated app for our employees will be introduced later this year with an aim to build a community to engage staff,” Cheng says. “The app will also enable more convenient HR-related administration, such as applying for annual leave, registering for training courses and even finding out shuttle bus schedules.”

 

SUCCESS SECRETS

Eye on innovation  Talent Conference Hackathons encourage employees to embrace a digital mindset through experiential learning and experimentation.

Wellness at work  Health benefits are tailored to employee needs and feedback on the workplace environment is quickly acted upon.

Data-driven insight  Even seemingly minor details are analysed to better see the big picture of working life within the bank.

 

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