Best Companies to Work For in Greater China 2014 list gives kudos for caring businesses
Employees show appreciation for firms at the forefront of a great new workplace era
As part of its commitment to promoting a culture of trust and caring in the work environment, the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTW), a global human resources consulting, research and training firm, published its annual list of Best Companies to Work For in Greater China in December last year.
This time, a total of 75 companies participated in the process – which involved an employee survey and culture audit, followed by a thorough analysis and judgment according to globalised models – of which 14 were selected for the list. Events were held in Shanghai and Hong Kong to honour those companies that made the list.
Database storage company NetApp took first place, followed by Hyatt Hotel & Resorts and eBay.
The survey covered a number of topics ranging from an employee’s sense of purpose at work and views on their company’s benefits and compensation, to whether they believed they received fair recognition for their efforts.
Jose Carlos Bezanilla, who set up the Greater China branch of GPTW in 2011, said the institute is passionate about improving society by helping companies become better places to work.
Since its founding in the United States in 1991, the institute has created a model that is built on years of research and data collected through its Trust Index Employee Survey, which is completed by more than 10 million employees annually all over the world.
“We think that we are at the dawn of a great workplace era,” said Bezanilla as he shared industry trends with the representatives of winning companies at the Hong Kong ceremony.
“Nowadays, many boards of companies have the human resources head sitting at the right hand of the chief executive as the strategic person to drive initiatives for the development of the company.
“The style of leadership is changing because the X and Y generations want more than just money. They want career development, personal development, and work-life balance. Companies have to find new ways to attract talent, and to lead, motivate and provide incentives for them.”
In Greater China, Bezanilla said, many companies face a communications breakdown in which managers fail to inspire their employees with their vision. It is uncommon for leaders to deliver the message of why staff are doing their work in the context of the company’s overall objectives. However, things are changing in the mainland and in the rest of the world as companies welcome fresh ideas and approaches.
Denzel Xin, research analyst with GPTW in Greater China, shared several examples of what companies are doing to build trust-based cultures. For example, the institute found that, when asked about their satisfaction of different aspects of their companies, staff would typically rank compensation and benefits as two of the least satisfying aspects.
In order to turn this around, companies have introduced various measures, including a benchmark of salary in the market as a correct tool for staff to draw comparisons with their peers. Others have enhanced their dental benefits to 100 per cent coverage – a gesture that made their staff feel well cared for despite the fact that not all needed such coverage.
“A work relationship is not merely transactional. It is deeply embedded in culture and full of meanings,” Xin said. “If you are willing to treat your staff with a human touch, they are likely to reciprocate.”
He went on to say that different best practices were specially designed to tackle specific issues in different industries. For example, job rotation is a good way to help programmers see how their work makes a real impact on frontline staff and customers in the IT industry, where technical staff can find it difficult to inject meaning into their everyday work.
In the retail industry, meanwhile, where emotional and physical fatigue are common, some companies may provide free counselling services with registered psychologists, while others may discourage work email exchanges after office hours.
“We find that best practices have to grow from your own culture because what works for one company may not work for another,” Xin said.
The winning companies were also invited to share their recipes for creating a great working environment at the two events. Simon Zhu, director of risk operations for Asia-Pacific at PayPal, representing eBay, said the company had made a firm commitment to communicating its business objectives with its staff, which number around 1,360 in the region.
“We care about our employees’ development,” Zhu said. “About 75 per cent of the people we hire are fresh graduates, so we have invested a lot of resources in creating a culture that helps them understand why they do their job and how their job can contribute to our business.”
Karol Kang, a director with PayPal overseeing the merchant support of Asia-Pacific operations, said the company also encourages its young employees to contribute their ideas, and gave them recognition for showing initiative. “It is very important for young people to feel that their job is meaningful,” she said.
Sophia Chan, regional vice-president of human resources for Asia-Pacific at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, says the group was thrilled to have participated in the employee survey, and was touched by the fact that most of its roughly 12,000 employees in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan had actively responded to the survey.
“We want to say a big thank you to our associates, because what we have recorded on the survey is what they say for us,” Chan said. “We care for them so they can be their best.”
David Tai, senior manager at NetApp – which topped the list for the third consecutive year – said it is the company’s priority to make staff proud of their work. The company, which has just over 300 employees in the region, was surveyed in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“I feel humbled that I am able to stand here among great people and great leaders to learn how to run a company as a safe, fun and enjoyable workplace,” Tai said.
He added that NetApp is especially known for supporting its employees in contributing to society. For example, it has launched a unique feature called a voluntary time-off programme in which staff can apply to take up to five days off per calendar year with full pay and benefits to volunteer at an organisation or activity of their choice.
“Our company organises events for us to go and support local organisations – to care for the elderly or visit families in need,” he says. “We do it in Hong Kong, in mainland China, everywhere. It makes me feel very proud of my company. We want our staff to feel that they are contributing to the community in every way through working with NetApp.”
Bezanilla said it was heartening to see more and more companies willing to invest in finding out how to make their companies a great place to work.
“We work all the time,” he said. “Imagine what a difference it will make if we can work in a better environment, where we enjoy what we are doing and feel proud of what we actually deliver.
“A good place always attracts good people. [You need to] improve the culture of your company from within, instead of just on the outside. It is about unleashing, discovering and nurturing talent, and then letting talent attract talent.
“Great people always want to work with other great people, after all.”