wholly-owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, Otis
has approximately 63,000 employees worldwide, with some 54,000 outside
the US alone. In Malaysia itself, the workforce of 250 people comprises
some eleven direct reports and the Managing Director. Serene is
supported by an Assistant HR Manager, a Communication/Training Executive
and an HR Assistant. In this capacity, she oversees human resources,
administration, communication, training and learning/development.
Serene spent a good hour and a half with us, discussing how Otis
takes its people seriously.
Can you tell us a little about your Employee Scholar Programme
Well, our employees can undertake degree-equivalent or MBA programmes,
the only pre-requisite being that they are confirmed staff. We don’t
really place any bonding requirement to undertake such study and
there’s no budgetary limit on these programmes, its complete
sponsorship. This has been a feature at the company since it was
first established here some 34 years ago.
don’t place any limit on the number of staff who can undertake
these programmes. This year itself, ten people have started on these
programmes. Frankly, we really do see the value in undertaking such
initiatives - staff retention is high and more importantly, the
pool of talented scholars is increasing. We’ve also started
the Employee Refund Programme. It’s essentially about refunding
to the employees, the cost of the education programmes that they
decide to undertake. So far, this has been mainly at the diploma
level and certificate level programmes.
mentioned that you have been engaging in a raft of company-wide
staff engagement activities. Can you outline a couple of these initiatives?
We’ve been big supporters of developing the reading habit
and we support this in two ways. Firstly, we send an article to
everyone on a monthly basis. Our Communication Executive researches
appropriate topics online, picks one and disseminates this article
to all employees. Secondly, we started a library. We buy management
books every month, which we then publicise to staff and encourage
book loans. There’s also the monthly lunch talks. Lunch packs
are provided and its really about getting our people to develop
some work-life balance. And, they’ve proven to be quite popular.
Another initiative is the Long Service Awards. Depending on the
length of service, a monetary award is provided. For example, ten
years’ service generates a RM200 payment; the long-service
award range is pretty much between 10-35 years of service. I would
say that, a fair amount of the workforce population is an aging
one. While we do provide retirement benefits, we have also been
looking at elements of succession planning being conducted every
planned around leadership development?
Yes, there is . A leadership development review (LDR) is held with
the management team every year. This year, we had it off-site in
a hotel. It’s a full-day meeting where we go through the organisation
chart and review what we call ‘hot jobs’. These hot
jobs are classified as jobs that fulfill a number of criteria. For
example, firstly, the talent position is expected to be well paid.
Secondly, it’s an emerging specialty. Thirdly, it appears
to be unique to our company and fourthly, its about profit and loss
accountability. We look at things like when would X be retiring?
What if she were to leave us now? And in that process, we identify
potential successors, a group of A-list performers or high achievers,
of which we have approximately eight right now.
also gone on to establish a mentor- mentee programme. Got it started
just this year and with this, we’ve created a set of mentoring
guidelines. We’re looking to be able to create a situation
where these mentors provide guidance on both work and personal issues.
Are there any aspects of HR recruitment or general HR which
are outsourced? Does this even work for you?
None. Even payroll is done inhouse. We can cope with it, although
we may consider it later.
do you go about attracting good talent?
Well, we are in the midst of building our pool of talent. We have
an internship programme wherein we attract final-year students;
its a relatively new initiative though. Our pre-requisites are for
a minimum second class uppers only and the internships could be
for either two, three or up to four month slots. I would say that
we tend to focus on the really good universities. We’ve shortlisted
about 20 such universities, the University of Nottingham being one
of the issues we face is that processes may not necessarily be documented
in the respective departments. Sometimes, people can be pretty involved
in what they’re attending to at the moment or perhaps even,
a little set in their ways. But we still need our SOPs or our standard
operating procedures captured. So, we started this project whereby
we get the interns to come in and start documenting these SOPs.
I mean, they’re new and enthusiastic; they find out what processes
are in place and how to manage them. This way, we establish consistency
and structure. We get these newbies familar with the job and simultaneously,
get these important processes and methodology documented and this
certainly makes it easier when new employees are inducted. We’re
also tying up with technical schools, we’re looking into career
fairs in these technical schools to build our talent pipeline. Perhaps
another thing we may explore is management trainee programmes.
If you had to choose between a person demonstrating the
key skills or experience required for the position but whose values
or behaviour were not completely aligned with your corporate goals
and a person who didn’t have so much experience but possessed
the right attitude or character, which person would you favour more?
I would say, go with the right attitude. I’d choose this because
experience and know-how comes with training but attitude doesn’t
and the right attitude usually results in the right level of commitment.
Anyway, I believe given the right training, people will be able
to come up to speed. Frankly, I employ the “tough to hire
but easy to manage” philosophy which is really about letting
the initial process of getting the right person on board be a little
hard if it needs to be. Once they’re on board, this pays off
in an easy-to-manage employee. Behavioural interviewing is also
something we are adopting in our recruitment process; a set of competencies
for the job is outlined at the interview stage and we look to only
hire candidates that meet our pre-defined competencies for each
of the job categories.
do you prioritise between developing the hard and soft skills of
Well, for the technical skills, we have this thing called On-The-Job-Training
(OTJ). Training is provided by a field supervisor and certain key
performance indicators (KPIs) have to be met. We round it off with
some training analysis. Each member of staff is given a minimum
of three KPIs and a minimum of three competencies. At the end of
the year, a performance appraisal is conducted and each person will
be rated accordingly. The HR department will look into the skill-set
of each person and training will be recommended by the head of department
accordingly . In short, a training master plan is in place.
would you consider some of the more up-to-date concepts relating
to leadership nowadays?
I’d like to quote Jim Collins who said that, “...people
are not your most important assets. The right people are. Manage
your talent before someone else manages them”. I believe,
in this era of globalisation, that managing talent is a challenge
and that all effort must be geared towards building the talent pipeline
as resources are scarce .
you consider yourself to be a key stakeholder and how have you been
able to position yourself in this regard?
At Otis, management plays a vital role and HR has always been regarded
as key to the
business. As our Managing Director, Chong Wee Meng puts it, “Management
needs to walk the talk when it comes to people development. Talent
and leadership development is not just the responsibility of the
HR Department but a key responsibility of the management team....”