In order to keep up with the speed of change, organizations with forward-thinking leadership regularly reinvent themselves. They may look at rethinking work, or revisiting priorities, or launching new initiatives created in response to the global environment.
From the perspective of an organization that undergoes such purposeful transformation, People Matters asked Minna Rouru, Area HR Director, Asia Pacific, KONE Corporation, to tell us a little about the company's recent evolution. Finland-based KONE, one of the global players in the elevator and escalator industry, follows a schedule of regular four-year strategic periods, and just launched its latest four-year strategy, described as ‘’Sustainable success with customers’’, this January.
Here's what Minna shared.
Now that we're a year out from 2020's upheaval, what do you see as the greatest change in the workplace?
The post-pandemic era is a chance for HR teams to rethink the way we work. New technologies are making virtual collaboration easier, allowing us to adopt new and more agile ways of working. Yet, the greatest change is our attitude towards flexible working.
Flexible work is no longer something for only gig workers or selected employees. It is the new normal and something that many candidates and employees expect. We now understand that flexibility contributes positively to the physical and mental well-being of the employees, this, in turn, can help to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. We believe that creating flexibility in where, when, and how we work, will help us engage and retain our people. With flexible working, we can increase the diversity in our teams as well as improve the well-being of our employees. This way, people’s lives and goals outside of work are also well supported.
As a company supporting essential services worldwide, what were some new ways of working from last year that you felt succeeded well enough to carry over into 2021?
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a dynamic change to the way we work the past year. We needed to rethink the way we hire, onboard, build skills and new required capabilities, and coach employees. As remote working was encouraged, processes and ways of working were reviewed and simplified in many ways, and we plan to continue these new ways of work in 2021 and beyond.
The health and safety of our people have been always important at KONE. Our safety practices, governance, and behavior have since been dramatically revised due to the pandemic. As an example, we have carefully followed the necessary safety protocols, created procedures, and offered personal protective equipment for our essential workers such as field technicians where they are needed to be on-site to provide services for customers, especially at hospitals and quarantine centers Another example is weekly Safety/Crisis meetings. These meetings gather up cross-functional and cross-border leaders to discuss, follow-up, and make decisions on the ongoing well-being and safety matters of our employees and customers.
Beyond keeping people physically protected at sites and in the office, a large focus has also been placed on the mental and emotional health of our employees. Employee Assistance Programs have been implemented in various Asia Pacific countries, and mental health talks were organized to increase the awareness of where to find information, guidance, and support. As we move forward in 2021, we seek to continue to support our employees with a range of global and local well-being programs.
KONE's new strategic period just started this year: could you share a bit more, from the HR perspective, about the "Empowered people" initiative and how that's evolving?
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace has always been a key priority at KONE as we believe that this will be key to building a sustainable culture within our internal and external ecosystem. The “Empowered people” pillar is a chance for KONE to advance workplace equality, and narrow the gender gap, where we believe this is the first step towards reducing disparity. Unfortunately, gender stereotypes still remain prevalent in technical fields, making it important to ensure that our internal diversity and inclusion practices and policies are progressive. With this, we aim to improve the proportion of women to men in operations and management positions. We believe that nurturing an equal opportunities environment to not only empower our employees but also aid in their career development. As we look into recruiting competent professionals from diverse industries, this will ultimately drive a big part of sustainability, progressively empowering people from different walks of life.
With innovation and sustainability now being a strategic focus, what are some ways you plan to lead the HR function to support this direction?
With sustainability being our strategic focus, we are demanding significant change in everything we do, and we all have a role to play in it. A World Economic Forum article said that “just like the digital revolution, the sustainability revolution promises to change everything”. At KONE, we strive to “radically rethink” and be part of this next wave of innovation.
Our new strategy brought us refreshed culture and values. KONE culture is the foundation for everything we do, and it’s built on our core principles and values. Core principles are areas we never compromise on and they include safety, quality, and sustainability. Our values define who we are and what we aspire to become, where innovation and sustainability are embedded here. My goal for the HR function is to act as Culture and Values ambassadors, facilitate employee meetings, events and bring the new values and culture alive.
KONE is defining Sustainability as something we choose every day and it includes not only environmental, but safety, quality, ethical and compliance, and diversity and inclusion aspects. For HR this can mean various things; attracting and engaging diverse employees, being fair and inclusive, making ethical decisions, acting with integrity in everything we do, and most importantly acting as the role models in sustainability to our teams and employees, every day.
We are already acknowledged for our Sustainability actions in APA HR. HR Asia recognized KONE Malaysia as one of the best companies to work for – 2020, KONE Singapore awarded the GOLD for Excellence in employee engagement – 2020, and KONE India was recognized among the 100 best companies for women for the fourth time – 2020. We will continue to lead and build our HR function and organizations upon our strengths, understanding that the world has changed and what got us here won’t get us there.
Finally, what are your thoughts on driving purposeful transformation throughout the organization, at a people level?
As the regional HR lead, I always encourage my team to make a conscious effort to practice what we preach. Being a strong believer in the ‘People First’ culture, people are at the heart of our strategy. We aim to listen to our employees and take action based on the feedback. Raising levels of internal communications by maintaining open channels of communication facilitates better collaboration, keeps employees engaged, enhances productivity, and most importantly, allows us to listen and respond, showing that we care. With this, we have advised managers to check in with their team members regularly, making sure everyone feels trusted, valued, and connected.
Investing in upskilling our employees is also another aspect we emphasize for our employees. In recent years, we have invested heavily in learning and development across the region. We want to make sure our people feel empowered to learn and have access to the right tools and online learning to increase the capability and resilience of our organization, driving transformation.