Stratos Consulting Group MD, Tina Leong, shares how focusing on talent retention and employee engagement enabled the business to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic
Tina Leong is the Managing Director of Stratos Consulting Group. She shares with us how her company was poised to support employees during this difficult Covid-19 period, with a company culture centered on learning and development of employees.
“It is important to be transparent with employees regarding the economic challenges. At the same time work together to identify strengths, resources, and find innovative solutions to re-purpose and reinvent ourselves to meet current market needs.
About Stratos Consulting Group
Stratos Consulting Group is a market insights, analytics and consulting firm. They conduct market and feasibility studies, market surveys, focus group discussions and geodemographic mapping for a wide range of sectors, including retail, property, shopping malls, banking, telco, utilities, education and consumer products.
Q: Hi Tina, we understand that with the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia, businesses are being forced to change their mode of operations. How is Stratos managing this?
The MCO caught us by surprise, but also forced us to learn new ways of working remotely. We now hold Zoom meetings regularly and track work progress by using Trello.
It is also timely that last year, during The FinLab’s Jom Transform programme, we launched an online community platform called Voice Out!, through which we are able to run online survey projects for our clients, even during the MCO. Focus group discussions, which used to be conducted face-to-face, are also now being carried out through video conferencing software.
Source: Voice Out!
Q: What are your thoughts on managing your manpower during this difficult period?
It is important to be transparent with employees regarding the economic challenges, and at the same time work together to identify strengths and resources, and find innovative solutions to re-purpose and reinvent ourselves to meet current market needs. We are now working on putting in place some of the ideas that we brainstormed together.
Even though we are working remotely, my team members are working hard to complete proposals, project tasks, reports and social media content. This is despite some of them facing challenges such as poor internet connection, having to take care of young kids, and cooking for the whole family, all at the same time. For all these, I am appreciative.
Q: In a time when many businesses are focusing on staying afloat, you have chosen to invest in training and upskilling your employees. Can you share your thoughts behind this?
Stratos has been investing in training and upskilling all along – we send employees overseas on various industry-specific study trips and seminars. Locally, our team members have attended courses on data science, digitalisation, GIS (Geographical Information System), human resources management, marketing and various other talks and workshops.
At the same time, we have internal sessions where topics are assigned for team members to research and present. The topics are not only work-related but extend to general knowledge like history and arts, as I believe those who read and research widely, have better critical and creative thinking skills, which are important when it comes to the diverse market studies we conduct. All these have proven beneficial as we have seen employees’ work quality improving as a result.
Source: Stratos Consulting
We have also subscribe to Udemy online courses and these have become particularly handy during the MCO, with some of our team members continuing their training online.
It is also good that there are now many free online webinars and live stream talks, which we attend. The advantages of online talks and trainings are that it saves time and costs. The disadvantage is there is less ability to network and exchange notes with other participants.
Overall, it is important to continue upskilling and training employees even during challenging times, to prepare for the post Covid-19 future. Bad times don’t last forever. What we have learnt yesterday, may not be relevant tomorrow. Continual or lifelong learning should be a priority.
Q: Did you encounter any situation where you had to reskill your staff? If so, how did you go about it?
The launch of Voice Out! spurred me to not just reskill but to upgrade my own team, to learn new skills like programming, digital marketing and content curation. We did this through a combination of physical and online courses, as well as self-learning.
I evaluate employees individually in terms of their aptitude, interest, experience and workload; discuss with them about the new areas we would be taking on; and with the help of our managers, form different teams to take on different tasks. For example, there is a team for programming, another for Facebook and Instagram, and another for LinkedIn and website.
“Bad times don’t last forever. What we have learnt yesterday, may not be relevant tomorrow. Continual or lifelong learning should be a priority.”
The pace of learning new skills is different for different individuals. Our managers guide those who are slower, by giving feedback and instructions. Too many step-by-step instructions can backfire, as it becomes spoon-feeding. It is better to let the individual think and apply independently what they have learnt first, even though their initial attempts may fall short. This way, they learn to solve problems and remember better. Practice makes perfect. We are all still improving as we go along.
Q: What is your approach for employee engagement and talent retention, and how has this change with Covid-19? Will you be looking to do anything differently after this season has past and life goes back to normal?
Talent retention and employee engagement are very important factors in any organisation. My approach at Stratos has been to:
- Communicate and listen to feedback from employees / as well as providing feedback
- Give them flexibility and support to try out new approaches and ideas
- Encourage innovation
- Empower them to make decisions
- Recognize individual achievements
- Nurture an environment of continual learning, development and self-improvement
- Acknowledge milestones
- Provide some flexibility in work hours
- Provide travelling opportunities and perks (overseas and outstation trips)
I would continue to do the same, even after this crisis, but invest even more in training and development, company branding, digitalisation to improve efficiency, and work towards an employee share option scheme.
If you’re interested to find out about Stratos’ journey in our Malaysia programme, you may check out these videos below.