The team at Edwards Lifesciences was crowned silver for both Excellence in Retention Strategy and Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion at HR Excellence Awards 2020 Singapore.

In this interview, Judy Heng, Director, Human Resources at Edwards Lifesciences Singapore shares the company’s efforts to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce and how in turn, this keeps its attrition rate low.

Q. What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Edwards Lifesciences believes that fostering a diverse, inclusive culture is critical to our long-term success as we help more patients around the world. We leverage on strengths of our diverse workforce through greater inclusion, connection, and empowerment of our employees, enabling them to grow and thrive.

Over the years, we achieved industry accolades that recognise our efforts ranging from innovation in workforce localisation through collaborative partnerships with industry partners, diversity and inclusion, employer branding and retention.

Q. How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

Fulfilling our mission to help patients requires a strong, healthy and equipped workforce. To this end, we have incorporated holistic approaches across talent acquisition and retention; performance; rewards and recognition; together with building a diverse and inclusive culture and work environment.

Being closely aligned to the organisation’s business goals is a critical starting point - this has enabled open and ongoing conversations with business leaders who had demonstrated their commitment in providing resources to achieve common objectives.

Q. Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them? 

A few years ago, we had to ramp up our manufacturing employee base significantly to support the network capacity. This had to be achieved despite the tight labour market conditions and lack of knowledge and general awareness of Edwards Lifesciences in the labour market.

We began utilising various recruitment channels through close collaboration with industry partners, which include seeking employees from non-MedTech industries. Having recognised that it would take time to educate and raise awareness, we created a week-long Readiness Boot Camp for open sign-ups.

This program provided potential candidates with hands-on experiences on job tasks in a simulated cleanroom environment, and they even went through the preparation process of gowning up, handling typical equipment/measuring instruments in the cleanroom, etc. Interested applicants who had completed this program successfully would then be invited for job interviews.

We achieved our hiring count exponentially in a short span of 9 months, more than 3 times from our original hiring target.

Though these efforts had raised concerns on training potential candidates for our competitors in the relevant industries such as medical device, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, etc., we continued to drive the Readiness Training Camp.

This is because we always adopt a long-term vision and perspective with this strategy as we believe it’s a win-win situation for all of us - for the Singapore labour force especially those who may want to change industries and need to acquire new skills, for the MedTech and relevant industries who will be having a bigger pool of candidates to choose from, and for us, as we want to hit our recruitment numbers, and the bigger pool of candidates would facilitate our expansion goal.

Through these efforts, Edwards Lifesciences would be able to contribute to the social community as well through re-skilling and up-skilling of labour force.

Q. As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

We pay close attention to our attrition rates and benchmark against industry standards. Our attrition rate has been less than 6% thus far, with the industry standards at around 12-15% per annum.

Q. What are the biggest business drives or game-changers that have pushed you to constantly come up with new ideas and raise the bar for your retention strategy?

Most people tend to adopt tried and tested methods as it saves time and there’s proven results by others as they have already implemented the solutions. However, in Edwards Lifesciences, we believe in pushing the envelope in coming up with business solutions. Creating this mindset shift takes time.

Being open and flexible, while being agile and creative, does take a lot more efforts but the results are worth it.

In fact, this Covid-19 pandemic has been a great test for many people, countries and organisations where the fittest survive this trying time by being open, flexible and agile hence they are able to pivot and pull through it.

Another important enabler is to ensure that there is a strong sense of ownership and accountability throughout the company and across functions for the retention strategy and results. With this “shared destiny” across all functions, we believe that great and creative ideas can be developed and implemented quickly, achieving results in a much shorter time.

Photo / 123RF

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