By Susan Tam
With more than 20 years of human resource experience, Suhaimi Sulong still wants to “play” at the workplace. By that, he wants to encourage creativity and build an environment where employees can enjoy their work in his role as Chief People Experience Officer at webe digital (webe).
The company is shaping a unique workplace culture to set itself apart from other telecommunication players by immersing in all things digital. On webe’s website, it calls itself a digital mobility services provider with a meaningful difference. It is also the TM Group’s centre of excellence for digital and mobility.
Traits like agility, speed and deep passion are what webe’s talent need to have to move the company forward. Suhaimi says the company has been speedy in rolling out its services to the market and this is reflected in its hiring criteria. “We tend to recruit more experienced hires as we need to start, run and go live. Therefore, we need talent who know their stuff, from digital services to engineering.”
But that doesn’t mean it is not open to fresh graduates as internships are offered for non-critical functions of webe’s operations.
The 54-year-old HR practitioner understands that tech-savvy recruits need to be challenged and remain excited about working in webe. Hence, concepts like gamification and setting community-based programmes are a priority in its strategy to retain talent. Suhaimi also believes that these two concepts are the way to woo talented professionals to webe.
“When you (a new recruit) join webe, you join with all your (social media) assets. You are aware and use social media and utility apps like Facebook and Waze, so you are familiar with how people are using digital platforms to stay connected.”
It is this type of networking that Suhaimi sees as a strength in webe. The employees, also known as “webees”, are encouraged to share ideas, collaborate and provide feedback on WhatsApp groups.
Co-creation is also an important factor in talent retention at webe. He explains that in the gaming field, the tech-savvy are into creation of characters, from building their facial features to acquiring certain traits.
This interest towards creating a product or character is translated into how webe works. “The youngsters like to be involved in whatever we do as they want to be part of innovation.”
Among the creative work that webees do include producing videos for internal programmes rather than be subjected to a top-down approach.
“You can feed them our values, have them memorise them but what happens if they don’t believe in them? For us to be a truly different company, we needed to ensure that the entire organisation was transformed inside out.”
One of webe’s guiding principles, “We is greater than me”, stresses the importance of collaboration in a community, helping to shape greater and more positive outcomes. This and many other principles are shared in the “webeLIVE” programme to build the culture the company wants.
Usually labelled as a team-building activity, the webeLIVE programme is geared to be easily accessed through a smartphone application, where self-produced videos of C-level managers are shared. This encourages discussions among employees who are motivated to create their own videos and take part in activities that touch on core webe values.
The company also practises an “Anytime, Anywhere” concept for its staff, which means that they are allowed to work any time or anywhere so long as they remain in communication with their managers and teams.
Its six staggered working hours also allow parents to do a school run and encourage others who are health conscious to make it to the gym after work. Perks like fresh fruit, pool tables and fitness classes are also provided.
The casual dress code also reflects its aspiration to be different, allowing freedom for the staff. “There are no rules on wearing jeans or otherwise. Wear what is comfortable, practical and works best for you,” says Suhaimi.
Suhaimi points out that webe is a young corporation working hard to emulate the open culture that thrives in start-ups in the Silicon Valley. He hopes that one day there will be no demarcation between work and play because employees would enjoy their work so much that it doesn’t feel like work any more.
But, of course, there are challenges, admits Suhaimi. An open culture needs a change in mindset as it challenges usual ways of running a business and disrupts traditional management techniques and conventional HR practices.
The journey may be challenging but Suhaimi is excited about the prospects of what webe can become. With all the right elements in place, webe will be able to make its mark.