Leading energy provider YTL PowerSeraya believes in offering training and cross-functional opportunities so that its 400-strong workforce can develop and attain their full potential.
While the company’s core business is centred on generation and retailing of electricity, it is also rapidly becoming a diversified energy company, supplying utility services such as electricity, steam and cooling water, engaging in oil trading, and producing water through reverse osmosis desalination.
With these new developments and the automation of many work processes, the company has been experiencing a wave of manpower changes and in the last 15 to 20 years, says John Ng Peng Wah, CEO, YTL PowerSeraya. “The focus has shifted from oil-fired plants to gas-fired plants, so we have to reconfigure the skill sets of our people.”
Turning up the heat
Increasing productivity is one of the key things on the HR agenda at YTL PowerSeraya. The company takes a holistic approach towards this, cutting across various business units.
Efforts at raising productivity are driven by the ‘R-cube’ Productivity Task Force which comprises members from all departments of the company. The team looks at areas such as minimising the company’s environmental footprint as well as ways of using less resources to generate the same output.
Getting staff involved in these efforts makes them feel empowered and increases their sense of ownership in driving things forward, says Ng. “Productivity must come from the ground so we try to drive it at the managerial level instead of through senior management.”
YTL PowerSeraya has also been outsourcing less important work functions to third-party service providers so that its employees can focus on skills that are critical for its core business. As a result, jobs like cleaning and servicing of general equipment are now farmed out. According to Ng, this enables employees to channel their attention to core functions like jetty management, storage management as well as the maintenance and operation of key equipment.
Talent development at YTL PowerSeraya not only serves as an effective retention tool but also enables employees to meet changing job demands and external changes in the industry.
The company places a lot of emphasis on developing the creativity and skills of its employees. In 2011, it invested S$900,000 on some 800 training places for its workforce. This works out to an average of two training places per employee.
Training programmes at YTL PowerSeraya aim to increase technical competencies as well as professional and management skills. “Employees can only be happy at work if they are engaged in what they are doing and engaged with their supervisors and subordinates,” Ng says.
The Transformational Leadership Development programme for example, aims to raise engagement levels and help managers become more effective leaders. Here, the emphasis is on coaching rather than instructive learning and the programme serves as a constant platform for employees to engage their subordinates. “It helps managers understand who they are working with and why different people work in a certain manner,” Ng explains.
Group discussions are held every two to three months for the sharing of “training nuggets” or best practices. Employees are also allowed to attend external workshops, seminars and conferences to improve their professional and personal competencies. An Employee Sponsorship Scheme provides staff with the opportunity to upgrade themselves in their areas of interest. A number of employees have earned their Masters’ degree through this initiative, Ng says.
Drawing young talent
Attracting fresh blood into the organisation is a key HR challenge for YTL PowerSeraya. “Many of our young graduates do not want to become engineers. The commercial side is more attractive to them.”
YTL PowerSeraya runs a very targeted recruitment programme to draw in young talent. It offers internships and bond-free scholarship for students from the Nanyang Technological University. “This lets them learn more about our business and be excited by what we are doing. In the process, they would join us or spread the word around their campus,” Ng says.
Young employees are also encouraged to constantly upgrade their skills and the company sponsors local degrees for candidates who show good potential.
Striking a balance
YTL PowerSeraya is constantly seeking ways to help employees strike a balance between their work and family life.
A staggered start time scheme was introduced in 2010 to help employees opt for a work schedule that suits them, within management time limits. Selected employees are also given a “P.A.T” on their back through a “YTL PowerSeraya Achiever Treat.” Under this, employees get to relax and recharge at affiliated YTL resorts.
Another highlight is its Vibrancy Club, which organises activities like dinner and dances as well as family days for employees. It recently organised an excursion to Bottle Tree Park where employees learnt the basics of organic farming. Activities like these help bring strong foundations between colleagues, Ng says. “It is extremely important that staff find a balance in the organisation as they will be able to contribute a lot more.”
John Ng was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the PowerSeraya Group in May 2009. An industry veteran with more than 20 years of commercial and engineering experience under his belt, he transitioned with the Company from its PUB days to the current PowerSeraya Group.
Prior to his current appointment, Ng was the Group’s Senior Vice President of Retail & Regulations. During his tenure, Seraya Energy – the Group’s retail arm – witnessed rapid business growth and made it to the list as one of Singapore’s 50 fastest growing companies for two consecutive years.
Until his appointment, Ng has also held other management positions within PowerSeraya, including General Manager of Business. He currently serves on the PowerSeraya Board. He is also currently a council member of the Singapore National Employers Federation.
He holds a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from National University of Singapore and a Master of Science in Material Science from Carnegie Mellon University, USA.
+ I love: Working in a focused and dynamic environment surrounded by warm, passionate and friendly colleagues
+ I dislike: People who seek unrealistic success targets without putting in their fair share of hard work
+ My inspiration: Many of our political leaders who have humbly guided and shaped this nation
+ Strength: Desire to learn new things and applying them to life
+ Weakness: Impatience, and this trait reveals too readily at times
+ Five years on: Make a significant contribution towards the less privileged in countries that deserve our help
+ Favourite quote: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (known psychology professor noted for his works in the study of happiness and creativity): "Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing."
YTL PowerSeraya maintains strong ties with the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE). “The union has been very proactive in working with management of all power companies in Singapore. We have been able to close off a lot of gaps between union matters and management matters,” says John Ng Peng Wah, CEO, YTL PowerSeraya.
The energy giant also works closely with UPAGE and supports them in their various initiatives. It contributes to the UPAGE Endowment Fund, which provides bursaries for children of all members.
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