05 Aug 2016

Top talent often feel that only larger organisations are able to provide them with the challenge, growth and progression that they desire. This is untrue, says Ida Lee, HR Director, Ngai Heng.

In fact, those who can perform well in an SME will find that they provide excellent grounding for the business world, she says.

“Working in an SME provides talent with greater opportunities to learn directly from, or be mentored by the CEO. Staff can take on bigger projects when they are more junior, and they can succeed in an environment where resources are arguably more finite,” explains Lee.

Employees at Ngai Heng are encouraged to take calculated risks in developing new product and service offerings.

“At Ngai Heng, we believe that innovation is fundamental to a company remaining relevant to its clients,” Lee says.

“In our safe-to-fail environment, even if the initiative eventually does not pan out, employees are not penalised.

“Having an innovative environment is important as, without it, a company will stagnate and eventually become a dinosaur.”

While Ngai Heng’s core business is printing, the company has evolved into a full-service communications company. “Our belief in continuous innovation means that Ngai Heng will evolve as the industry and technology evolves. Talents that join Ngai Heng, will therefore be able to learn and grow with an organisation at the forefront of the communications industry,” says Lee.

Talent retention

Ngai Heng believes in helping every employee achieve their personal goals and aspirations. “We believe that as long as Ngai Heng can help fulfil their aspirations, they will stay,” Lee says.

The company, which has a staff strength of 145, has introduced a number of HR initiatives to boost retention.

It conducts regular career interviews, where employees are spoken with at least three times a year. These interviews take place at the start of the work year, where work KPIs and personal and professional development goals are set; six-months into the work year where employees are provided feedback on the progress of the work year’s KPIs; and once again when bonuses are paid. “These regular career interviews provide both employees and management with continual feedback on their performance,” says Lee.

Employees also benefit from what the company describes as a personalised Route-of-Advancement (ROA). Depending on the employee’s inclination, aspirations and assessed potential, supervisors will develop individual career plans with their direct reports.

“For example, if an employee who is currently in sales has the desire to further their interest in design, the supervisor will work with them on how to successfully switch tracks. Assuming they have the potential to be an Associate Director, the supervisor will plan a path so they can reach that position via stints in relevant departments,” Lee explains.

There is also room for horizontal movements.

“If an employee is comfortable where they are, their supervisor will not plan for them to take on new responsibilities. In this instance, the ROA will then focus on how the employee can better contribute in their current capacity. ROA discussions would be based on a five-year rolling time-frame,” Lee says.

Training is also fundamental in enabling employees to reach their full potential, says Lee. The company’s career interviews are complemented by individual development action plans which help to document the training needs of each employee in relation to their own career goals.

“If an employee is falling short in their management skills or is identified for promotion within the next year, they will be scheduled to attend a management workshop,” explains Lee.

“Or, if an employee is lacking the technical proficiency to complete their work efficiently and effectively, they could be sent for specific training, or be assigned to another employee to be coached.”


Career fast-track

Ngai Heng offers a Talent Management Programme that actively identifies and grooms rising stars in the organisation. Employees under the programme are assured of a fast-tracked career. They are given opportunities to work with senior management on key projects and accounts.

“By working closely with senior management, the talented employees will then forge a mentor-mentee relationship, which will then see them develop professionally to achieve their fullest potential. Besides recognition for retention, talents are also provided with financial incentives like salary raises and performance bonuses,” says Lee.

Lee shares the example of a sales executive who joined the company in late 2012. “She was quickly identified as a valued talent and was subsequently assigned to assist senior management in developing pitches for key clients. She learnt fast, demonstrated her ability to apply what she learnt, and delivered on the project. She was then mentored by an industry veteran and continued to demonstrate her potential and abilities.

“In approximately three years, she was promoted from Sales Executive to Manager, and then to Senior Manager.”

Work culture

What stands Ngai Heng apart, Lee says, is that while it has over 140 employees, the company still prides itself on being “a family”.

“Our turnover rate is one of the lowest in the industry and we have a working culture that many describe as harmonious, with little office politics,” she says.

Ngai Heng offers employees a work environment that is casual and non-hierarchical.

“The directors all have open door policies and seek to resolve issues in an open and transparent manner. If we had to describe the work environment, it would be ‘comfortable’, where everyone is respected as an important part of the organisation,” Lee says.

It is common to see large groups of staff go out for lunch or take their breaks together.”

“Some employees even take overseas trips together,” Lee says. “What helps is that many of our employees have been with the company since we first started and we have essentially grown together.”

“In fact, many of our families even know each other and they join us in our annual company dinner and dance.”

“The interconnectedness of our employees beyond the workplace fosters a family-like environment.”

While Ngai Heng pays competitive salaries, it also believes all employees want to do meaningful work, be treated with respect and value, and grow professionally and personally.

“As such, Ngai Heng complements our monetary incentives, and training and growth opportunities, with employee recognition via annual awards, presented in front of their families,” Lee explains.