American Express Malaysia on Building a Culture of Transparency and Trust Through Colleague Experience

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MALAYSIA – 13 January 2021 – In a new normal that is constantly changing and transforming, people are at the heart of an organization’s continuity and success more than ever before. Events of the past year have shown how critical engaging employee experiences are in driving performance as organizations dug deep to draw strength, inspiration and ideas.

Helping organizations to put their people at the center of performance is Kincentric, a Spencer Stuart company with a unique approach to human capital. With decades of expertise in culture and engagement, leadership assessment and development, and HR and talent advisory services, Kincentric helps organizations to be the best in the business through the Kincentric Best Employers program.

Kincentric Best Employers is a leading employer benchmarking program which measures and recognizes extraordinary employers who demonstrate workplace excellence. For 20 years, the Kincentric Best Employers program has recognized leading employers across the world who are committed to realizing great workplace experiences with the Kincentric Best Employers certification, backed by over 50 years of employee research and a global database of over 15 million employees. Selected by an independent panel of judges, these organizations are leading the way in aspects that are crucial for success — employee engagement, agility, engaging leadership and talent focus.

This year, five organizations were awarded the Kincentric Best Employers in Malaysia, selected by a 3-person judging panel composed of industry-leading HR professionals.

Reflecting on Kincentric Best Employers in Malaysia 2020, judge Dato’ Tharuma Rajah who is also founder and CEO of Garage Analytics commented how “the recent pandemic has proven with empirical evidence that employee engagement is critical during tough times. The ‘X’ factor is senior leadership and people managers who create the motivational energy that compels employees to action even when they are working remotely. We have seen how various companies have done engagement practices in a very innovative and creative manner which had a positive impact on their business results.”

Standing ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest in this year’s program is Kincentric Best of the Best Employer in Malaysia 2020, American Express Malaysia. The global services company was also inducted into Kincentric Best Employers in Malaysia Hall of Fame, after winning the Best Employer in Malaysia for the 10th consecutive year.

“We first joined Kincentric Best Employers program in 2005 as we were interested in the program structure and learnings it could offer. Through the years, this program has not only helped us gain valuable insight into how colleagues feel about our people practices, it has also helped us acquire external perspective through knowledge sharing and best practices. Being included in Kincentric Best Employers in Malaysia Hall of Fame is an incredible validation of our relationship with our colleagues,” said Ryan Lai, Vice President and General Manager of American Express Malaysia.

American Express won Kincentric Best of the Best Employer in Malaysia 2020 by delivering an exceptional people-centric experience through three key areas — trust, open communication and top team alignment.

Lai says, “Our first focus and priority was ensuring our colleagues felt safe and had the flexibility and resources they needed at home to continue delivering world class services to our customers.”

“When we moved to work from home arrangements, we introduced an initiative called business leave, to allow colleagues to take paid time off without having to use their annual leave when they had valid reasons at home that prevented time from being able to work, such as needing to care for their children or parents’ needs until end of 2020. For colleagues who had their work or job scope impacted by the pandemic, we reallocated them to other business areas to keep them motivated, engaged and invested in delivering their best,” said Anjum Ghaffar, Director Human Resources, Market Head Malaysia.

Recognizing the importance of a health and wellness culture from the start of the pandemic, American Express Malaysia embarked on three key initiatives beginning with the launch of a telehealth service called CareClix for colleagues and their immediate family members. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free, colleagues and their loved ones could consult doctors and access expert medical care via phone, video chat or a mobile app from the comfort of their homes.

The company also provided a one-year complimentary subscription for Calm, a mental fitness app that provides motivational podcasts, stories and soothing music designed to help manage stress, experience better sleep and reduce anxiety. The app completed other dedicated wellbeing activities such as mental wellbeing sessions, virtual meditation and virtual yoga. Helping to alleviate medical concerns, colleagues and their enrolled dependents were also provided with enhanced Covid-19 medical coverage covering testing, hospitalization and death benefits at no additional cost to them.

With a young workforce composed of mostly millennials, American Express also found many of them faced difficulties especially during the lockdown and with transition to working from home. Having never experienced a crisis in their professional life, inherent stresses and anxiety from being isolated had a greater impact on younger colleagues.

“We recognized that we needed to support each other, so we quickly mobilized ourselves into action. Communication was a key part of our support and wellbeing strategy, and we knew we had to do so not only frequently but meaningfully,” explained Lai.

Despite having achieved so much the past 10 years, American Express is not resting on its laurels. The company expects a hybrid working model will be the next big change for employee engagement and is already looking at how to better connect colleagues with corporate culture in a virtual world.

Lai concludes, “We are beyond honored to be recognized as the ‘Best of the Best’ by Kincentric Best Employers 2020, particularly in a year of unpredicted changes that tested our ability to adapt and brave new ways of working together. As a company that believes in the powerful backing of our people for progress, we believe that this success is a true testament of the positive work culture and a holistic employee experience that we continuously strive to build upon. We dedicate this win to all Amex colleagues in Malaysia — which motivates us to continue building a great, diverse place to work and thrive in with opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. I truly believe that when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”