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Why staff are wedded to their work

Maybank's people-centred culture a winner: e.g. staff get 2 weeks of paid marriage leave

Why staff are wedded to their work

WHEN employees in Maybank Singapore get hitched, they can party on for a fortnight without a worry. That's because they get two weeks of paid marriage leave, a practice that was introduced at the bank more than 20 years ago.

'Marriage is the biggest moment of a person's life. It makes sense for us to come together... to make it happen for the individual. It is not every other day that you get married,' says the bank's chief executive, Ms Pollie Sim.

She emphasises: 'It's people that really make things happen. We let them take care of their families so that they can take care of us.'

This sums up the people-centred culture at Maybank Singapore and is what helped it clinch this year's Spring Singapore's People Excellence award last month. The award recognises organisations that have excelled in developing their people for business success.

In a recent interview with The Straits Times, Ms Sim talks about some of the popular practices at Maybank Singapore.

There are lunch talks on topics unrelated to work. Once a year, the bank hosts a 'Little Ones At Work' day, where employees can take their children to work. 

To demonstrate its pro-family stance, it even gives out monetary awards to staff members' children who do well in school.

'Basically, it is to have the staff's children appreciate their parents' work environment and also get to know their parents' colleagues. To foster family bonding, not just at home but also at the workplace,' says Ms Sim.

To get staff to work well, it makes sense for the bank to provide for them and to nurture them so that they can put their minds to work, she adds.

'It is a delicate balance.'

One of the ways the bank engages staff is to encourage them to contribute ideas that can help improve how the bank works.

It has set up italk, an annual event that allows staff to do that. 'In the past one to two years, I have seen a lot of quality ideas coming from the staff. Some of the ideas got implemented and the staff were very excited,' says Ms Sim, who spends one whole day listening to her staff present their suggestions and 'make it a point to not say anything'.

'It is this official acknowledgement, and not really the monetary rewards that count. It is the attention given to this group of people, most of them are the Generation Y.'

Ms Sim, 49, who has been with the bank for 30 years, makes sure staff get access to her. She holds sessions with staff members of different levels.

'It's painstaking but it's worthwhile. At the end of the day, staff can connect the dots and they appreciate it.

'Now, I have more people who e-mail me jokes. They can even tell me off,' says Ms Sim. 'They realised 'hey, I don't get sidelined because I said something bad'.

'People appreciate that you look after them and in return, naturally they will look after the bank,' says Ms Sim.

'Every year, we have record profit. Our net profit per staff cost is rising... Our attrition rate is below the industry norm.'

Indeed, research by human resource, risk and financial consultancy Tower Watsons has shown that organisations should focus on creating a work environment that fosters employees' physical, social and emotional well-being.

Just last week, another HR consultancy firm Mercer released a global survey that showed non-financial factors do play a prominent role in influencing employee motivation and engagement. It is a finding that 'could prove useful to employers facing budget constraints', it says.

Workers worldwide, it says, value being treated with respect. This is the most important factor, followed by work-life balance, the type of work, the quality of co-workers and quality of leadership.

In the Asia-Pacific, financial factors ranked higher in importance than they did in all other regions, with base pay among the top three most influential factors for employees in Singapore.

Apart from pay, 'being treated with respect' and 'quality of leadership' are crucial to them, the survey showed.

'Employee engagement reflects the total work experience, and a big part of it is how you are treated, what kind of work you do and how you feel about your co-workers, bosses and the general work environment,' said the Asia-Pacific leader for talent management at Mercer, Ms Brenda Wilson.

At Maybank, Ms Sim says: 'While it is important to ensure that our pay and benefits are competitive, we feel that the differentiating factors are our emphasis on work-life balance, and providing an enriching environment where our staff are able to develop themselves to their fullest potential.'

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