of 28 /28
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: VITAL CULTURE TRANSFORMATION JOURNEY | 2010-2012 From an Organisation Development Perspective

Embed Size (px)


  • EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT:VITAL CULTURE TRANSFORMATION JOURNEY | 2010-2012From an Organisation Development Perspective

  • 2 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    It is not often that an organisation goes from having dissatisfied workers to happy ones in a short period of time, but one shared services agency seems to have struck gold with its employee engagement formula.

    Vital, a department under the Ministry of Finance, went from being one of the least to the most engaged organisation in the Singapore Public Service in two years1.

    Since its creation in 2006, through the banding of some 300 employees from 40 government agencies, Vital had been plagued by several ills.

    For starters, its employees had typically worked in backend operations at their previous organisations and were not properly equipped to handle their new customer service roles. Yet customer service was key for Vital, as the agency handled areas like payroll, claim services and learning and development for most of the Singapore Public Service.

    It was quite a struggle. The employees tried their best, but there was still a lack of role clarity, says Ms Chua Mui Yim, Vitals Director of Corporate Services.

    The lack of streamlined work policies also added to confusion. Many employees, still used to the practices in their former organisations, were unfamiliar with how things were supposed to work in the newly established agency.

    Said Mr Clarence Ti, Vitals Chief Executive (CE): We underestimated the integration issues at our formation. It was almost like we went on a mergers and acquisition spree, absorbing 18 different cultures in our first year and then 25 more in our second.

    The chaos, explains Ms Chua, led to many types of errors, including wrongly credited salaries, to the chagrin of many public service officers who were affected by the errors.

    Employees started leaving the organisation because they could not cope with the unclear work direction and backlash from their customers. By its third year of operation (2009), Vitals annual attrition rate was 28 per cent.

    Worse, the agency underwent a re-structuring in 2008 to improve their operations processes. Some of the employees either retired or were re-deployed to other government agencies as a result of this. Morale sunk to an all-time low. In addition to having to take on the additional workload left behind by their ex-colleagues, the remaining employees wondered if they would be asked to leave the organisation as well.

    Insecurity plagued the helpless organisation.

    By 2009, the organisation lost half of their original 300 employees.

    3 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    1 This caselet focuses on Vitals Employee Engagement Transformation Journey which began in January 2010 to the release of its Survey Findings in March 2012.


    Statistics confirmed the agencys state of affairs. In 2010, Vital conducted their second Employee Engagement Survey (EES) through the Civil Service College2.

    The agency scored below norms for all categories, except for supervisory practices. Overall employee engagement scored a rating of 49 per cent 18 percentage points lower than the public sector average of 67 per cent. Among the 27 Public Service organisations who took the survey in the period of 2007 to 2008, Vital was ranked among the bottom three3.

    Vitals senior management swiftly set stopgap measures.

    Three corporate goals were set to reduce error and lapses by 50 per cent; improve customer satisfaction by 20 per cent; and improve employee engagement by 20 per cent.

    The end result, explained Mr Ti, was to create a happy workplace, where people would be engaged to go the extra mile for the organisation.

    To do so, Vitals senior management had to start by addressing one pressing issue: the growing resentment in the organisation caused by the messy work situation. There was a need to housekeep its work practices and processes, and this had to be done with the employees in mind.

    Mr Ti said: Imagine if your workplace is filled with angry customers every day. How happy can you be? No matter how self-motivated you are, a daily dose of this environment will wear you down.

    Better work quality, reasoned Vitals senior management, would drive up customer satisfaction. Happier customers would mean less grief for Vitalites, who would then be more engaged in their jobs. As Vitalites become more engaged, the quality of their work would naturally improve further.

    The virtuous flywheel continues to spin. Said Mr Ti.

    But there was a caveat. The pursuit for excellence could not be overly excessive.

    An obsession with quality can often strain relationships because when something goes wrong, fingers start pointing around. Tensions rise and fault lines begin to get strained. We needed to know how to divorce the mistake from the person. All of us make mistakes, he added.

    Roped in to assist, the Organisation Development (OD) team rolled out several initiatives to support the integration of the new goals, following senior managements approval. These activities include conducting interviews and focus groups to find out the WoW (that) employees seek, putting together an employee engagement plan and formula, and introducing the 12 tribes.

    4 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    An initiative unique to Vital, the 12 Tribes began as a communication tool to reach out to Vitalites and to explain the 12 action plans that the management team had identified as possible remedies to low engagement scores. These plans were related to factors that have been shown to impact employee engagement, a healthy workload and good culture.

    Along the way, the 12 tribes evolved into teams of Vitalites involved in various employee well-being activities including social and recreational activities, sports and games, community service and learning journeys.

    Through these 12 tribes, Vitals management hoped to cultivate a shared destiny for all Vitalites, and in so doing, build a strong community.

    To see how the 12 tribes contributed to the success of the engagement journey, turn to page 12. For a more detailed list of the 12 tribes, refer to annex A and B.

    . THE 12 TRIBES .


    5 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    As these initiatives were set in place, Vital found itself slowly pulling away from its poor results. In 2011, the organisation found itself making marked improvements. Scores on all categories saw an upturn. In fact, categories like workload, respect and well-being, performance management and leadership and culture even exceeded the 2009 Public Service Employee Engagement norm4 (PS EES).

    In terms of overall engagement scores, Vital achieved a favourable rating of 71 per cent, up 22 percentage points from its dismal 2010 score.

    But despite an upturn in their survey results, Vital knew that their engagement efforts had to continue in order for the change in culture to last.

    With that in mind, the organisations leaders and OD team continued to reach out to their colleagues.

    And with each step they took, their hard work paid off. Employee engagement scores continued to improve. In 2012, the organisation exceeded the PS EES norms in nine areas: workload, respect and well-being, teamwork, performance management, learning and development, leadership and culture, PS21, job motivation and growth and supervisory practices. From being one of the least engaged organisations in the Public Service, Vital was now one of the most engaged. Scores in overall engagement had jumped by another 6 percentage points, putting the agency in the top quartile5.

    As Vital saw improvements in employee engagement levels, they also started to see the level of customer service climb steadily upward. Customer satisfaction levels improved by more than 20% from 2008 to 2012. Vitals engaged employees were helping them to deliver better customer service to public officers and public agencies.

    In 2012, Vital was singled out by the Head of the Civil Service in Singapore during his keynote speech at the OD Practitioners Forum for its exemplary performance in engaging employees.

    It even won the runner-up prize for the Excellence Award in Culture Creation at the 15th Annual Asia Pacific Shared Services & Outsourcing Awards 2012. In that same year, the Singapore Human Resource (HR) awards, also honoured Vital with the Special Mention for HR Practices (HR Communications and Branding) and the Leading CEO award.

    In short, Vital had effectively shrugged off and lost the shadow of its past.

    So how did the OD team help to actualise their senior managements employee engagement vision and what did they do to make it work? In the following pages, we will lay out the approach and strategies that enabled the OD team to execute their successful engagement plan. (To see a full list of employment engagement strategies used, refer to annex A and B).


    2 Vital conducted their first Employee Engagement Survey in 2007. The Civil Service College administers the Public Service Employee Engagement Survey to organizations in the Singapore Public Service. The survey measures employees perception on the following topics: Job Motivation and Growth, Learning and Development, Performance Management, Career Advancement, Rewards, Respect and Well-being, Teamwork, Supervisory Practices, Leadership and Culture, Workload and Engagement. These topics are not exhaustive.3 Vitals 2010 EES results were compared to the 2008 PS EES Norm benchmark which was the latest benchmark comparison for the organisation to benchmark its results against. The PS EES Norm 2008 is made up of a dataset of 27,423 data points from 27 agencies, representative of the public sector population in terms of Organisation Type (Ministry/Statutory Board), Job Level and Length of Service.4 The 2009 Public Sector Norm is made up of a dataset of 20,352 data points from 30 agencies, representative of the public sector population in terms of Organisation Type (Ministry/Statutory Board), Job level and Length of Service.5 The 2010 Public Service Employee Engagement Norm is a dataset of 21,640 data points from 29 agencies, which is representative of the public sector population in terms of Organisation Type (Ministry/Statutory Board), Job Level and Length of Service.







  • 6 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    Accomplishing an effective employee engagement campaign requires a deliberate, but subtle, well-thought out strategy. For the OD team, two broad inter-linking strategies were at play. The first was to work closely and assist the CE to the best of their abilities to close employee engagement gaps. The second, to build on the first strategy in executing a successful employee engagement plan.

    Executing both strategies involved an umbrella of steps. Some of the more prominent steps were to:

    1. Perform effective contracting6

    For good results to occur, the first step of any project is to establish a contract with the organisations top leader. This helps to set the tone of the project, clarify expectations and reach agreements on project goals and the roles that each person would play in the project.

    From the start, Vitals OD and Corporate Communications (Corp Comms) teams set out to understand Mr Tis vision/aim for Vital (i.e., the three corporate goals listed in page 4) and what he expected of the teams. Recognising his overarching engagement strategy allowed the teams to set the stage for improving Vitals work environment.

    As Ms Chua puts it: The first thing I asked Clarence was his vision for Vital - its culture, its tone and its pace so that I could help him. Things got easier once I knew what he wanted us to build.

    As Mr Ti was a leader who emphasised good communications and was open to new suggestions, the partnership proved fruitful and set a solid foundation for Vitals successful engagement plan.

    Ms Chua says: The way Clarence and I work and complement each other is much like the sun and the moon we try not to get in each others way in doing what we need to do.

    Rather, we look at the circumstances and come to an understanding when each of us would come in to play our role. And when we do, we make sure we are doing the same thing giving light.

    6 Contract here refers to an agreement between the OD practitioner and the CE to do two main things. The first is to set the intent of the project. The other is to clarify expectations and reach an agreement about project goals and the roles that each of them would play in the project.

  • 7 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    2. Leveraged on organisational diagnostics to inform OD interventionsTo help build on Mr Tis vision, the OD team needed an insight into the specific interventions that would resonate with Vitalites. To do so, hard facts were needed. Collecting and analysing necessary data allows practitioners and leader(s) to understand what is happening and how to move forward. Diagnosis is important because without a proper understanding about a situation and the issues involved, any planned intervention will miss more than it will hit.

    Having defined the scope of the project during contracting, the team begun the data gathering and diagnosis process. Besides the exit and stay interviews that the OD/HR team conducted regularly, the OD team also collaborated with CE to conduct focus groups to find out the WoW employees sought.

    Data collection, pointed out Ms Chua, was also an intervention in itself. It gave her team a chance to observe, first-hand, organisational group dynamics, and also sent a signal to Vitalites that things were being done to address their feedback.

    She says: Its also a way for me to get to know Vitalites better. I was also able to see how they behaved as a group and if there were less positive vibes, I could explore further to see why these dynamics existed.

  • 8 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


  • 9 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    3. Took on a systems approach thinking to employee engagementIn the field of OD, organisations are seen to be part of a system. The practice focuses on ensuring that the organisation is responsive to the world it operates in and that its internal capacity matches its strategic ambition.7 OD seeks to understand the linkage between all the parts of the organisation, and how change in one part will affect the others.

    The OD team knew that building, creating and sustaining strong trust and relationships across the organisation was an intervention needed to strengthen the system. Distrust and cynicism would not benefit any engagement strategy. Vitalites needed to feel safe enough to try out new behaviours, like taking part in tribal activities, without fearing a supervisors reprimand or a colleagues put-down.

    What the OD team did was to adopt a people-centric approach. One way they did so was to keep supervisors informed of the rationale of certain employee engagement interventions. For example, in Crucial Conversations over Coffee, a monthly gathering where Ms Chua informally addresses HR-related issues like career development and potential assessment with different segments of Vitalites, she made sure to inform the relevant heads-of-department of why she was talking to their staff. Keeping Vitalites heads of department in the loop helped create trust because they knew that Ms Chuas team was not doing anything funny.

    As Ms Chua puts it: I had to show them that we are actually doing things for the benefit of the staff.

    This need to build trust was important for Ms Chuas team, as it had several new hires who were put in charge of executing the engagement survey, including its follow-up. As the various heads of department needed time to familiarise themselves with Ms Chuas new team members, the need to build rapport and trust was even more pressing. One strategy employed was for these staff to be very responsive with sound answers - to the middle managers queries.

    Ms Karen Kwok, a senior executive in Ms Chuas team who joined Vital in 2010 shortly before their second EES, said: We talked to them, related to them and really sought to understand what their functions are like and how we could help them.

    But doing so required quite a bit of pre-work. To provide accurate advice, Ms Kwok and her colleagues had to first read up on each functions work.

    In my research, I needed to make sure that I was looking at the big picture, to see how a function could set its strategic direction such that it fits into the organisations mission and vision, she said.

    Respect had to be shown as well.

    I provide my input and they will modify it to fit it in the way they think is best. If I go in and say okay, this is what you must do, the receptiveness may be very different, said Ms Kwok.

    Overall, through recognising that Vital is a living system made up of different groups of individuals, the OD team was able to take a long-term view of their engagement strategy - and the importance of building connections with different parts of the system for sustainable change.

    7 Centre for Organisation Development. Planning for OD to be Strategic. Civil Service College. http://www.cscollege.gov.sg/Knowledge/ Odyssey/Practising%20OD/Pages/Planning%20for%20OD%20to%20be%20Strategic.aspx

  • 4.1 Clear and Compelling Message

    One example of an intervention that had clear and compelling messages was the [email protected] metaphor, where the Vital community was likened to that of a family one that embraced the nurturing and supportive traits often associated with a real family.

    This was important to Vital because they lacked what many public agencies had, which was a strong association to a mission or a calling. Unlike teaching or nursing, where the profession is rich in positive associations, few people would aim to be shared services officers growing up. Hence, Vital knew they needed to develop a compelling employee value proposition to anchor their cultural identity.

    Recalling how the [email protected] metaphor was formed, Mr Ti said: The first couple of rounds of the focus groups, we did an exercise about corporate values. And I asked, Can you tell me who exemplifies these values? Many remembered the positive, very family-like stories, like how when I was sick, my colleague went to the temple to pray for me.

    So I thought that this was something I could work on. While Vital is not anchored in any social mission or calling in life, there was still an innate human nature - of doing things because we feel that we want to do it that we could tap into. Till this day, the [email protected] spirit is strong, acting as a social glue for all Vitalites.

    Ms Kwok said: We have very big functions, but within the functions themselves, they are actually very much like a family. Its multi-generational. The younger ones look up to the older ones, and the older ones take care of the younger ones like their own children. You can see such dynamics at work in the team.

    Ms Nur Bariah Abdul Makel, 26, an officer from HR, agrees.

    She said: I feel the team spirit here. It feels like a second home here with seniors I look up to and one whom I call my second mother.

    10 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    4. Developed an engagement strategy to target interventionsThe OD team crafted an engagement formula, based on the previous three steps, as a tool which would helped target their interventions. This multi-pronged approach helped guide the engagement team in their activity planning, to prevent new initiatives from being blindly introduced into the organisation.

    Step 1:Perform effective

    consulting with CE

    The formula was broken down into three main components. Every intervention should contain a clear and compelling message; have many and varied conversations involved; or be a meaningful and interesting programme.

    Step 2:Leverage on

    organisational diagnostics to inform

    OD interventions

    Step 3: Take a system approach

    thinking to increase employee engagement

    ................... ...................

  • 11 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    4.2 Many and Varied Conversations

    This included interventions such as the Crucial Conversations series (refer to page 9) and Mr Tis now-famous CE journals (refer to annex C).

    Almost every week since 2010, Mr Ti has been faithfully penning his thoughts about the organisation in an email that is sent to all Vitalites. In it, he writes poignantly about his hopes for the organisation and for all Vitalites. To date, Mr Ti has written some 150 journals, all which have resonated with Vitalites, who, in turn, became more confident of their leaders.

    Mr Jason Toh, Head of Vitals Business Growth, said: The first time I read this, I wondered what my CE was doing. But after reading the entry, I teared a bit there was finally somebody who understood our problems and articulated it.

    I am not saying that the previous boss did not understand, but Clarence shared his thoughts with everyone. So he knows my problems and he is setting up Vital in a way that would help us to resolve them. For me that was very reassuring.

  • Another important intervention was the formation and introduction of the 12 Tribes.

    Through the focus groups conducted, the OD team recognised that it was important to inject a dose of fun and community into Vitalites everyday lives to reduce tension in the workplace.

    At that time, Mr Ti had already established 12 initiatives that Vital needed to implement in order to create a more employee- centric workplace. These initiatives, or themes, were related to factors that have been shown to have an impact on employee engagement, like teamwork, a healthy workload and good leadership and culture.

    Building on these 12 initiatives, Vitalites formed themselves into corresponding tribes (see annex B). The primary purpose of the 12 tribes was to create a fun work environment and at the same time, for them to have an opportunity to connect with colleagues from other functions. This was done by getting staff to participate in informal activities such as tribal challenges.

    Participating in tribes allowed Vitalites to build social networks beyond their known circles and gave them a stake in their own engagement.

    How the 12 tribes work:

    1. Each tribe is made up of employees from different parts of the organisation.

    2. Each employee is randomly assigned to a tribe to which they will belong to.

    3. The OD team will provide support to the tribe chief and leaders who will organise challenges each month for different groups of staff.

    4. Activities can range from bowling to photography challenges to tours and quizzes.

    5. When a challenge is organised, each tribe will have to send a representative for each challenge.

    6. The winning tribe, with the most points will then be awarded a trophy during Vitals Dinner and Dance.

    12 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    4.3 Meaningful and Interesting Programmes

  • 13 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    The 12 tribes were the turning point in our engagement strategy. It works on the belief that if we bring people together to create a shared destiny, then we stand a better chance at building a successful community, said Ms Chua.

    The formation of the 12 tribes, which was named after the 12 initiatives committed by Mr Ti to close engagement gaps also served as a reinforcing message and reminder to staff that Mr Ti and the organisation took staff engagement seriously.

    Vital also introduced initiatives to encourage, recognise and reward staff for their contributions to the organisation and the community. For example, Vital introduced Kaizen Awards for innovation, Going the Extra Mile (GEMS) for customer service excellence, and even learning journeys to other organisations. Overseas community service projects under Vitals Corporate Social Responsibility plan saw Vitalites travelling to Cambodian villages to provide clean water. Such initiatives not only helped bond Vitalites, but also provided well-received opportunities for Vitalites to feel that they too, could make a meaningful contribution to the wider community.

    In essence, this third part of their engagement formula was intended to foster a sense of positive energy in the workplace where every Vitalite knew they mattered and was part of an organisation that made a positive difference in the larger human community.

  • While the engagement strategy was there to guide the OD teams interventions, an element of experimentation was also included in the mix.

    For example, some interventions, like Crucial Conversations over Coffee, had never been introduced at Vital before.

    It was the first time I started something like this in an organisation and I didnt know how the response would be as attendance was voluntary. Most people are terrified of meeting their HR or OD directors. And because I was new to Vital, I also wasnt sure how much Vitalites would trust me, said Ms Chua.

    Despite her fears, Crucial Conversations over Coffee became a resounding success.

    14 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    4.4 Dare to Experiment

    What made it work was that people went there not only to listen, but to ask questions and talk to one another. Till this day, I felt that the session allowed me to get close to the staff.

    I told myself that Id call Crucial Conversations over Coffee off if it didnt work after six sessions, but were still having it.

    > ReVITALise> Function Work Plan Sessions> Team Meetings> VoiCE> CE Informal Dialouges> CE Newbies Session> CE Journal> Crucial Conversations> Crucial Conversations Over Coffee> iSuggest (Online staff suggestion portal)> Vital Work & Play (VWP)> Vitalities, Be Heard

    > 12 Tribes> Vital Play Plan> Vitalite Moments> Learning Journeys> CSR> Mountain, Chopsticks & Honeycomb WITs> GEMS> Vital Stars> Kaizen Awards

    > Vital Grow Plan (VITAL 2015)> Vital Work Plan> Vital Corporate Goals (50/20/20)> [email protected]> Program Branding

  • 15 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    Engagement messaging was also made real and tangible in a way that resonated with the different stakeholder groups. For example, to remind Vitalites stationed at MOE mostly support-level staff - of what had been done to boost engagement in the organisation, Mr Ti based his bi-yearly check-in with them on the game show Who wants to be a millionaire, which explained management philosophy and vision in a way that was easily understood. Mr Tis presence also reinforced to that group of Vitalites, the support that senior management had for them.

    Other stakeholders who were critical to the success of the engagement plan were also identified. For example, the heads of departments. The OD department made sure that these management leaders knew the rationale behind engagement activities that impacted their team members, like Crucial Conversations over Coffee.

    Explaining the reason for targeting this stakeholder group, Ms Chua said: I find that organisations, at times, dont engage their management group. In the end, the management group doesnt know whats going in. And then when employees ask them about the changes in the office, the management group cant respond.

    We need to maintain credibility with that group of stakeholders because we want them to feel that theyre in a safe and open environment.

    Proper assessment of stakeholders helps in understanding their needs and the development of more effective engagement strategies. This was especially important in Vitals case because of its multi-generational staff.

    The agency is currently made up of around 500 Vitalites, of whom the youngest is 20 years old and the oldest, 70. About 30 per cent is above the age of 50.

    Because of the vast gap in Vitalite profiles, the OD team knew that a one-size-fits all engagement approach would not work. Thus, bonding activities catered to the different age groups. For example, there were duck tours and visits to the Singapore Flyer for the older staff. Younger staff were engaged through the 12 tribes, where more rah-rah activities, like bowling and archery, were involved.

    To conduct accurate stakeholder mapping, Vitals OD team knew they needed to have a firm knowledge of the ground. And the people in charge of Vitals engagement plan from Mr Ti to the OD team demonstrated that motivation to get to know their colleagues better.

    As Mr Ti highlighted: Many of our staff are caregivers like everyone else - young parents, people with elderly parents, or parents of teenage children. At any time, a staff can be chronically ill too. There are so many things that happen every day. As an organisation, we need to support one another in our work lives. And we need to make sure that this value proposition permeates in the way Vitalities think and interact with each other.

    5. Conducted stakeholder mapping

  • 6. Tapped on the power of informal networksWhile formalised interventions like the 12 Tribes and CE journals helped to forge bonds, it was also necessary to tap on the unseen informal networks. In every organisation, different types of networks exist. There are the formal networks, where hierarchy is spelt out clearly, as seen on organisation charts. Then there are the informal networks, like office lunch buddies or tennis mates. As a 2007 McKinsey Quarterly article pointed out, significantly much more information flows through these networks than their formal counterparts.8

    For its engagement strategy to work, the OD team also needed to garner support for it through Vitals informal networks and started to identify informal leaders. You need to have people onboard with you because you cannot do it alone. The informal leaders are very, very important because people listen to them. So you need to know who they are, said Ms Chua.

    One of the ways these leaders were identified was through conversations with the ground.

    Sharing an anecdote, Ms Chua said: Once, someone came to me and said he wanted to talk about re-employment. But he was only a young chap in his 20s. And I asked him if he wanted to talk about an older colleagues re-employment. He said no, not a person, but a group of older workers. These older workers were too shy to approach me directly.

    That man was an example of an informal leader. Though he was not a senior officer, people trusted him with their hopes and fears.

    Working with informal leaders require practitioners to be sincere, Ms Chua emphasises. You cant just approach these people and tell them to do this or that there has to be a level of trust established first. As the relationship grows, we need to show these informal leaders that whatever were doing will benefit the staff. So the moment they see that, they are with you.

    16 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    8 Harnessing the power of informal employee networks, McKinsey Quarterly, accessed July 22, 2011, http://www.mckinseyquarterly. com/Harnessing_the_power_of_informal_employee_networks_2051

  • 7. Used compelling stories

    As bestselling change management authors John Kotter and Dan Cohen wrote in their book The Heart of Change, the best way to tell people about transitions is to do it through compelling and eye-catching examples. This will help them visualise and feel the situation at hand.

    One way to do so is to tell stories.

    Ms Chua said: I think the idea is to create that buzz in your organisation when people tell their stories, share their experiences. Then other people absorb it it creates a momentum, a high. So because of that, we can start identifying other opportunities for different groups to participate in (that can generate stories).

    Opportunities were created for stories to be broadcasted. For example, several support-level Vitalites were sent on a recent study trip to Korea. On their return, they excitedly talked about their learning journey and the cold snow, which many experienced for the first time.

    17 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    The fever caught on and soon enough, other Vitalites started talking about the adventures experienced by their colleagues in Korea.

    As the engagement plan progressed, the OD team realised that story-telling was also a multi-pronged engagement tool. In addition to creating buzz and momentum, stories could also be used to recognise efforts and connect employees emotionally.

    For example, the OD team too, after winning several HR awards (see page 5) chose to display these at the front of the organisation, accompanied with a scrapbook for people to write their thoughts in. Vitalites were also encouraged to take photos with and bring these awards home with them to show their family members.

    If you see the scrapbook, youll be amazed at all the things that were written. And the feel-good stories of the pride that Vitalites have for their organisation will be passed down to future hires, said Ms Chua.

  • 18 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    Vitals swift turnaround from its once dismal state of engagement surprised many, including the OD team.

    We didnt expect engagement to improve so fast. When I first contracted with Clarence, I asked him what his time frame was. He said that wed probably only be able to attain an employee engagement index of 60 per cent in two years because there were so many odds against us. Until now, Im still wondering how we could have leapt so far in such short time, but I think it has to do with Clarences leadership. He did so much work in reaching out to Vitalites and everybody trusted him, said Ms Chua.

    As Vital moves on to its next phase of engagement for 2013, a more targeted strategy is needed to ensure that old gaps do not re-open. While the previous years focused on building a strong foundation of building a culture of engagement in the organisation, the OD team has firm plans to ensure that future interventions are customised further for each group of Vitalites.

    Still, for all its success stories, the organisation remains firmly rooted to the ground.

    Mr Ti said: Employee motivation is one of those things that will wear out faster than you can keep it fresh. We need to keep it fresh. All the things we did and are doing now will likely wear out after two to three years. Vitalites just dont feel that adrenaline rush anymore.

    We know therell be areas where we will be less thoughtful, mess up and trip. People will ask, why do things turn out like that? But sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back.

    But for all he has witnessed in the past two years, Mr Ti says that there is reason to persevere.

  • 19 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012

    Mr Ti said: For all of us involved in building this work community, we know it is a project measured not in days but in years. We are a work community but we can be one that is more than the work, one that is also constantly learning about life and its many facets together, one that is constantly seeking to learn and be inspired. And in so doing, build a stronger community, a [email protected] who will be around to support each other in what projects our hands and minds would choose.

    Looking back, Vitals remarkable transformation was made possible by a dedicated senior management team, who had vision and role-modelled what it meant to care for its employees, and employees who also played a pro-active part in their own engagement.

    In addition, what also worked for the organisation was having a pro-active OD team that made every possible effort into Vitals engagement strategy.

    As recruitment firm Hays consultancy once wrote, and as demonstrated by Vitals OD team: OD, when done right, can double and triple the human spirit, capability and motivation to create phenomenal results.

  • 20 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    Stage of Survey Initiatives

    Year 2010

    Post-Survey > Conducted both exit and stay interviews with staff to find out what the organisation could do better.

    > Conducted focus groups with staff to find out what officers wanted from the organisation, i.e., what was The WoW Employees sought.

    > Using the findings from the interviews, focus groups, and the EES results, Mr Ti put together Vitals Employee Engagement Plan. This plan was later broken down to 12 tangible initiatives that the organisation could do to improve staff engagement.

    > The OD team introduced the 12 Tribes and other team activities. Besides the tribal challenges, Ms Chua also empowered and supported staff to develop themselves beyond work. For example, taking part in community service or starting interest groups such as sports and games.

    > The OD team also worked with Mr Ti to build a culture where staff were recognised for both work-related and non-work related projects

    > The HR/Business Excellence (BE) teams also facilitated the following activities (see Vitals Employee Engagement Plan for greater details):

    ReVitalise - an annual work plan seminar for senior management to communicate their plan for the coming year. It is also a time for all staff to get together and have fun through team bonding activities. Welfare activities - such as quarterly treats and health screening. Crucial Conversations - This is a monthly email sent out to targetted segments of employees, addressing HR-related issues such as promotions. Recognition programmes - such as the Kaizen award which recognises individual employee and teams that have contributed to improving work processes and increasing productivity. Staff Feedback channels Learning and Development provides opportunities, including overseas trips, for staff to learn best practices from other organisations both public or private.

  • 21 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    Stage of Survey Initiatives

    Year 2011

    Pre-Survey > The OD team also saw the EES as an engagement effort in itself. > They reframed the EES, adopting the catchphrase Its all about you to show their colleagues that giving comments in the EES would help to make life better for each person in the organisation.

    > The pre-survey communication efforts focus on educating staff about: The purpose of the EES The importance of the EES Survey confidentiality

    Pre-survey communications were started a month before the survey administration and efforts were focused on sending daily emails to inform staff about the survey. Pre-survey communication efforts also included weekly quizzes regarding the survey.

    > To encourage survey participation, on a daily basis, Vitals management were updated regularly on how their respective functions had fared in terms of survey participation. This way, these managers can encourage staff to do their part.

    > The overall organisation participation rate as well as the countdown left to the end of the survey was prominently placed on Vitals intranet so as to encourage survey participation.

    > While 2010 was all about arresting attrition and addressing staff engagement issues, 2011 was about enhancing staff engagement on a higher level. > Learning and development was made a priority too, because the OD team wanted their colleagues to develop themselves beyond the organisation.> To carry out the new focus, the OD team:

    OD/HR Business Partnering Built on their business partnership roles with function heads to close gaps identified through the survey.

    Increase focus on Learning and Development Created more opportunities for study visits. The OD team arranged local and regional tie-ups with shared services in the private sector. For example, they planned visits to logistics firm DHL and BASF offices in KL.

    During the Survey


  • 22 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    Stage of Survey Initiatives

    Year 2011

    Post-Survey Crucial Conversations over Coffee Introduced Crucial Conversations over Coffee, where HR policies would be made more transparent to interested staff.

    Crucial Conversation over Coffee, unlike conversations of emails informing staff about HR policies is more interactive in nature. It is held monthly, most of the time in the middle of the month, from 9am 11am over breakfast, in an informal settling where staff may talk about anything that concerns them. Each session holds about 12-15 staff and the OD team has also used this opportunity to better understand staff engagement in Vital and from there, formulate interventions to address engagement gaps.

    (See annex B for the list of activities that the OD team has helped to facilitate in 2011-2012)

    Year 2012

    Pre-Survey > Unlike the focus of the pre-survey communications efforts for Vital EES 2011, the focus for 2012 was to remind staff what the EES was for and also to recap what the organisation had done for staff since the previous EES results.

    > This year, Vital also experienced an increase in the number of university graduates among their employees. The OD team made sure to include messsages that would appeal to this particular crowd.

    > Like last year, management was updated on how their respective function fared in terms of survey participation so that they can encourage staff to do their part.

    > Similarly, the overall organisation participation rate as well as the days left to do the survey were prominently displayed on the intranet so as to encourage survey participation.

    During the Survey

  • 23 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012



    12 Tribes and Intention

    12 Initiatives to Close Engagement Gaps

    Growing Tribe

    Growing the tribe, one village at a time.

    2010:Grow Headcount of Vital from 398 to 482 by the end of 2010.

    2011:Staffing framework to increase permanent positions.

    2012:Improve job fill rates.

    Targeted EES Categories Facilitated by

    Workload HR

    One Tribe Team

    Bonding. Playing as hard as we work, almost.

    2010: Create staff bonding platforms: Functional team bonding. Strengthen bonds with new officers.

    2011:Tribal team bonding, strengthen bonds between functions.

    2012: Team bonding with a partner function to strengthen work partnership.

    Teamwork HR

    Active Tribe

    Create space for recreation because staying healthy is important.

    2010:Introduce challenges such as marathons, bowling, netball activities etc.

    2011:Introduce Corporate Social Responsibility + Active Aging Programs.

    2012:Introduce Move and Groove for all ages.

    Engagement HR

  • 24 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012



    12 Tribes and Intention

    12 Initiatives to Close Engagement Gaps

    Determined Tribe

    Overcome challenges together. We can do this.

    2010:Reduce of Error and Lapses.

    2011:Introduce Customer Service Fortnights.

    2012:Introduce Productivity challenges.

    Targeted EES Categories Facilitated by

    Job Motivation and Growth

    Performance Management

    Leadership and Culture


    BE, Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

    Leading Tribe

    Everyone deserves strong leadership. Training you to be one.

    2010:Introduce new manager program, coaching and mentoring, sponsorships.

    2011:Introduce the Learning Vitalite, overseas learning journeys.

    2012:Introduce Vital Leaders Learning Passport.

    Job Motivation and Growth

    Leadership and Culture

    Learning and Development

    Career Advancement

    Supervisory Practices


    Open Tribe

    Giving transparency to staff on staff matters because these are crucial conversations.

    2010:Have open communication with staff: CE journal. CE dialogue sessions. Crucial Conversations via emails.

    2011:Introduce Crucial Conversations over Coffee2012:

    Introduce Tea Talk with D(Ops) and Time Out with D(SM)

    Career Advancement


    Leadership and Culture

    Performance Management

    CE, HR

  • 25 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012



    12 Tribes and Intention

    12 Initiatives to Close Engagement Gaps

    Targeted EES Categories Facilitated by

    Professional Tribe

    Building competencies of staff and improve Vitals organisation image.

    2010:Introduce media coverage and learning journeys: Hosted 25 organisations and 5 governments. 18 media articles.

    2011: Developing Communities of Practice.

    2012: Introduce Vitalite Voyager Programme.

    Job Motivation

    Learning and Development

    Career Advancement

    OD, Corp Comms

    Commited Tribe

    Improve customer service: Your call. Our commitment.

    2010:Create helpdesk and introduce new positions, i.e., full time account managers.

    2011:Create Customer Website.

    2012: Introduce Vital Service Ambassador and Vital Heatbeat.

    Leadership & Culture CRM, Corp Comms

    Kaizen Tribe

    Getting better at what we do.

    2010:Encourage constant improvement in work processes: introduced core value awards and productivity challenge.

    2011:Introduced Kaizen Awards recognising employees who have helped improve work processes and productivity through projects.

    2012:Introduce Vital Catalyst.

    Job Motivation and Growth

    Performance Management



  • 26 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012



    12 Tribes and Intention

    12 Initiatives to Close Engagement Gaps

    Happy Tribe

    Finding happiness in the little moments we share.

    2010:Introduce [email protected] & play (VWP: Vital-ite newsletter), corporate video, retirement gifts, EVP: [email protected]

    2011:Vital Well Being Groups.

    2012:Appreciate and recognize pioneers who have been with Vital since the beginning Vital Veteran You are Five!

    Targeted EES Categories Facilitated by


    Respect and Well-being


    Celebrating Tribe

    Rallying employees together to celebrate each others success.

    2010:Celebrate successes. Customer Satisfaction survey and staff engagement survey to have 20% increase in scores.

    2011: Hi! 5 Events.

    2012:Customer Satisfaction Survey increased by 17%, Staff Engagement Survey increased by 39%.


    Leadership and Culture


    Opportunity Tribe

    Creating room for personal development and advancement.

    2010:Creating more opportunities for promotion of Vital officers: 13 officers promoted.

    2011:40 officers promoted.

    2012:44 officers promoted.Vitalite Career Map.

    Job Motivation and Growth

    Career Advancement


  • 27 Vital Culture Transformation Journey | 2010-2012


    CE Journal #109Performance Bonus

    Performance Bonus time is around the corner. For the next two weeks, the bonus letters are being prepared. For the large majority of us, we will be receiving some. Already there could be demands on the money, be it something for the spouse, the baby, the parents or for ourselves. This is a happy time.

    It could also be an angry time. If you worked long enough, you would have encountered people who felt aggrieved that they have gotten less than someone else. This human tendency is in all of us and if we are not careful, this will cause us to be disengaged and disenchanted. Everyone feels it. Nobody ever compares with someone who has less. It is always with someone who has more, especially if this someone is not so different from us. Over the years, Ive learnt that the best way to not become involved in this destructive pattern is not to compare. I had not always been successful and sometimes succumbed to the temptation to compare, as I am sure many of you would. Theres an old poem called Desiderata that I liked. I share an extract here : If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    It could also be a reflective time. Your bosses may hold a different view of your performance than you do yourself. It is possible and depending on how many bosses you have had before, you should realise that you will always meet some who will hold a higher opinion and others who will hold a lower opinion of you than the one you hold for yourself. This is nothing special. Learn from your bosses. What people think of you is a little less important than how you think of yourself. In this community, you are encouraged to write your own resume at least once a year, not for us, not for the bonus, not for the promotion, not even for job hunting, but for yourself. If you find nothing meaningful to write, have no work experience that you think significant, then you should sit down with your bosses for a heart to heart talk.

    If you have succumbed to the urge to compare, I ask that you spare a thought and compare how much of your bonus you can set aside this year for those less fortunate. This is a far more constructive line of thought. There are those who dont even have much of an income, much less a performance bonus.

    Faithfully Yours.Clarence TiChief Executive

    Background Note : The Chief Executive Journal began in Jan 2010 as an effort to organize the thinking on topical issues affecting Vital at large on a regular (monthly or more regular basis). While originally distributed to only the management team, it was progressively introduced to all those in the Vital family as a means to update everyone on what is currently being thought about and discussed at management. Over time, it is hoped that this will serve as a log of successes and failures in the building of the Vital community.

  • 2013 Institute of Leadership and Organisation Development, Civil Service College

    This study is conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Organisation Development (ILOD), Civil Service College.

    For any enquiries regarding this resource or any questions on the field of Organisation Development, please feel free to contact us at

    [email protected]

    We will be happy to hear from you.