Exclusive: How Tower Transit is banking on culture to attract and retain talent

Andrew Bujtor, Tower Transit Singapore Managing Director, says “money keeps people at the door, but culture makes people stay.”

Having commenced operations on May 29, Singapore's third bus operator, Tower Transit, is already plying Singapore roads as the country’s public bus market look set to be further tendered competitively over the coming years.

With the likes of SMRT, SBS Transit and the upcoming Go-Ahead continuing to battle for a slice of the public bus network pie, Bujtor, in an exclusive chat with HRM Asia on the sidelines of the recent HR Summit 2016, says Tower Transit is not relying on financial incentives alone to attract and retain talents.

“Over the past 12 months, we have embarked on a mass recruitment exercise to hire 1,000 people in Singapore for the start of our operations here. We’re a brand new company for Singapore. We operate very successfully in the UK and in Australia, but we’re a new name and brand for Singapore,” Bujtor explains.

According to him, the new recruits of Tower Transit are “taking a little leap of faith”.

“First of all, in order for them to take the leap of faith that we’re asking them to do, the money has to be right. It has to be appropriate and competitive with the market; in fact, it has to be superior to the market in order for them to join us as an organisation,” he says.

However, Bujtor stresses that money alone isn’t sufficient to retain them.

“The money is the ticket to the game; it will get you there. But, culture is what will hold people with you for a much longer period of time,” he explains.

Hence, Tower Transit spends a substantial amount of time cultivating its culture wherever it operates.

Bujtor says this stems from the organisation’s three families of shareholders who own the company.

“We really push that culture throughout our organisation which is one of looking after each other, transparency, and where management looks after employees. It’s not the employees looking after the managers, it’s the managers really looking out for and taking care of our staff,” he states.

Respecting employees

Bujtor cites that a cornerstone of Tower Transit’s engagement strategy entails demonstrating respect for its employees.

“Eighty five percent of them are driving buses for 80% of the time they are working with us. During that time, the facilities that we have outside of the buses are irrelevant. But, the touchpoint and the important time that we have with them is the 20% of the time when they are in our facilities, depots and interchanges,” he explains.

Hence, Bujtor says it is crucial to show employees that there is an utmost respect for them when they are toiling for the organisation.

This is illustrated through Tower Transit’s facilities.

“That is why we have dedicated rest and relaxation areas and I’m told we are perhaps the only bus depot in the world that has a mini tropical plantation area,” he elaborates.

“We also have table tennis tables, foosball tables and all sorts of different things. All of these drive home the point that we really respect our employees and value them, so much so that we invest in the highest standards of facilities and amenities for them.”

Perks of being privately-owned

Bujtor also shares that being a privately-owned company derives some benefits.

“It allows us to take a very long-term view on business and sustainability, as opposed to public-listed companies which may be subjected to quarterly and annual earnings and always wanting to meet the demands of its thousands of shareholders,” he explains.

“We have a small group of shareholders who want to see longevity in the business. Hence, it allows a much longer-term perspective on how we operate our business and to be successful over the long-term. We fundamentally believe we have to look after our employees to a very high standard.”

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