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Jennifer Wu, APAC talent manager at LEWIS PR, talks to Sabrina Zolkifi about building the company’s talent management strategy.
When it comes to acquiring talent at LEWIS PR, the company believes it all comes down to two critical aspects: The individual’s cultural fit within the organisation, and the relevancy of the candidate’s skill-set and local market experience.
However, the need to tailor talent for each market, as opposed to adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, is not lost on LEWIS PR’s APAC talent manager, Jennifer Wu.
“For example, the talent strategy we have adopted in the Singapore market will differ from our other regional offices, whilst recognising our global reach and the excitement and opportunities that can bring,” Wu says.
“The strategy won’t change to a large extent as we have identified that in the local market, to find the best candidates we need to have the best training facilities for staff, competitive salaries and provide interesting and challenging client work. It is through these three key components that we attract the type of candidates we want.”
At the end of the day, Wu says it comes down to looking for the best candidate for the job, and doesn’t expect the company’s talent management and acquisition strategies to change too much despite the there being a bigger focus within Singapore to build a local workforce.
“Certainly we have identified that local talent is becoming more appealing due to their exposure to international study and work opportunities. Local people have the ability to identify with local market needs.
“I wouldn’t say that the focus on creating a more local workforce has changed our strategy, but I would say that we are constantly looking ahead to predict markets and drive change, rather than just keep up.”
But outside of Singapore, Wu says one of the biggest challenges the organisation faces stems from the fact that the world is getting increasingly globalised through advances in technology.
One of the results of a more tech-savvy workforce in world where employees are used to working across borders is a shrinking talent pool.
“We are now not only competing with companies in the same market but also in other countries,” Wu says.
She adds another consideration she has to keep in mind when crafting talent management strategies is junior level candidates “are also much more focused on what they want”.
They are constantly thinking of how to take that next step in their careers and their thirst for knowledge and new challenges is insatiable.
In order to break this mindset and retain employees, the company has put in place the LEWIS Passport Scheme, which is an initiative available to all staff on all levels across all countries.
“When staff go on holiday, we will financially support them to spend an additional couple of days working with the team at one of our LEWIS offices in their holiday destination,” Wu says.
This scheme gives staff the opportunity to build their global cultural and business awareness, while receiving further training to develop both soft and technical skills.
Last year saw the launch of two brand new offices for the company in the region – Bangalore and Kuala Lumpur. Wu says the Kuala Lumpur office is a prime example of where LEWIS PR gave existing staff the opportunity to develop by establishing and building a brand new office.
“Providing existing staff a new opportunity such as this sees them develop teamwork and technical skills and become personally invested in the organisation. The reward of seeing a successful business develop from start-up is invaluable.
“When personal passion and creativity gets involved you see amazing things develop.”
The company also realises part of what makes a strong talent management strategy in today’s workforce is career development, job recognition and salaries, especially for younger employees.
Wu says the company doesn’t sit “waiting for people to come to us asking for pay raises or promotions”, and instead takes a more proactive approach.
We are constantly identifying strong performers and reward them for their successes. As an organisation, we let our teams know that we value them and are open about discussing how we can help them to that next level.
LEWIS PR achieves this through a 360 appraisal system and by setting clear goals, which Wu says gives the company visibility around staff needs and how they can address those needs.
“We have seen an increase in the number of promotions and pay raises given. The fundamental principle behind the success of our team at LEWIS PR is the fact that we believe in having an open and honest dialogue with our employees. We want to be aware of their expectations so we can work closely with them to achieve their goals.”
Wu reckons more companies will start looking at benefits and opportunities holistically, as focusing on the salary component isn’t sufficient.
She says companies have to work hard at keeping staff challenged in their role, and provide a working environment which appeals to candidates and employees. This is a process which she says begins at the interview process, as “candidates want to meet members of the team to see if there is a click, and whether the work environment appeals to them”.
The key is to constantly listen to what staff and potential candidates want and being quick to respond to these needs.
Building a talent pool internally
With the APAC region being a huge growth market, nurturing talent from within and providing employees with opportunities to take on new challenges and obstacles in the market is another critical point on the company’s talent agenda.
Wu says the company has “numerous strategies” in place to ensure they are able to leverage on talent opportunities within the region.
For starters, the company coordinates staff surveys, allowing the team to share their ideas and feedback on how to continually improve their industry skills.
“An example of this is following our most recent staff survey, we were told that enhanced training opportunities was an area that staff identified as key to career progression.”
As a result, LEWIS PR hired a global training director and will be launching its first ever training academy.
“Our training director will be responsible for driving and integrating training programmes across all levels of staff across the entire business. We see this training academy as a channel to elevate staff’s skills, help develop new leaders from within and also as a reward and recognition tool.
“Core to this development, will be the LEWIS relationship with art and culture. We strongly believe that our business can thrive and our people can become the best in the industry if we enhance our relationship with art to become more creative in our approach.”
Another challenge Wu says companies face is “great employees get promoted into managerial positions, but then they aren’t readily equipped with the tools and training to become effective leaders”.
To be in a better position to mitigate this challenge, Wu says one of the pilot training programmes LEWIS PR will be running will be focused on developing true leadership skills.
“Within APAC we have also run external training sessions on understanding workplace personalities and how to effectively manage different workplace profiles,” she says. “It is extremely important to understand how to motivate different people and working styles.”
Additional initiatives the company has implemented include providing staff with two charity days a year, in which they can work with a charity of their choice and give back to the community.
As an added layer of engagement, it also encourages staff to bring to the table initiatives for the entire business to get involved, as the company believes employees want to see that the employer they work for is an employer who cares.
“By all means this is not the be all and end all of our initiatives. I think the key thing for all businesses to remember is that we need to communicate with employees,” Wu says.
“Given that people are constantly evolving it is critical we are continually checking in with staff to ensure the initiatives we come up with are relevant and important to them.”