Insights from a Great Place to Work

Learning and Development consultancy firm ROHEI Corporation came out among the top five in the “2015 Singapore Best Companies to Work For” awards, an inaugural competition organised by Great Place to Work Institute. We catch up with Rachel Ong (centre), founder of the company, Calvin Yeo (left), Principal Consultant and Eddie Emmanuel Eng (right), Vice-President, to find out what exactly makes them a great place to work at.
We have heard quite a bit about ROHEI’s culture, especially since you made it to Singapore’s list of top ten “2015 Best Companies to Work For ”. So, what is the story behind ROHEI’s work culture?
Rachel: When I started ROHEI, I purposed to build a community where we would all enjoy work. We don’t want to fall into the trap of just churning numbers and forgetting the soul. When you place people first, the culture will evolve from there.
So we are intentional about the people we bring in. We look for people who are skilled, like-minded, and who would think ‘team’ first. They will not be solo players.
Calvin: I like to think of it as the three ‘C’s – Character, Connectedness and Competencies. One of the things about our hiring is that after we get a sense of where the candidate is in terms of the heart and skills, we invite the person to come visit us. We get to better know one another, and appraise if there is a right fit.

What would you say makes ROHEI stand out as a workplace?
Eddie: We are very big on feedback at ROHEI! We are very intentional in creating programmes where our trainers facilitate in pairs, so that they can provide each other feedback. The feedback here is structured and documented, so that every one of us can reflect and follow up on it.
For example, we debrief after every training session so that everyone is clear about areas we have done well, and areas to be improved.
When you receive feedback and views across departments and from all levels, you can see issues very clearly. We have people here with different styles but we share a common goal. How to use feedback positively is regularly communicated here!
Rachel: If we go back to our mission, i.e. to inspire hope, joy, courage and purpose in the global workforce, we must first be inspired. There is no shaming here at ROHEI. We praise and affirm openly and correct in private.
It is unusual to have such a high volume of 360-degree feedback in an organisation. How does ROHEI enable that?
Calvin: There is very high trust here. When we won the “2015 Singapore Best Companies to Work For”, the management team was very grateful to learn that our Trust Index findings was at 98%.
For the first time in my career, I am able to receive feedback on a daily basis, and I am open to receiving it because I trust that they have no ill intentions. In the usual marketplace, it is about competing with each other on who is more valued. Here, we want everyone to be valued.
Eddie: One of the key pitfalls in the workplace is when there are no relationships. But because we start off with wanting to live and work together, we are intentional about building relationships. With that, trust also increases.
Because we are constantly looking out for one another, we are always looking for ways to help the other person do better. So feedback comes naturally. Thus when we have new staff, we assign workplace mentors.

In a sense, the transfer of skills and knowledge at ROHEI takes the form of constant feedback, mentoring and coaching. Besides that, how does ROHEI ensure effective learning among its people?
Calvin: We do have rigorous processes to help our trainers get good at facilitation too. They will need to observe training, conduct internal dry runs with feedback from us, and then start off with partial roles. By the time they step out to conduct a workshop, they pretty much have mastered the skills.
Rachel: We are working towards a development plan to map out our learning needs across departments. Our head of technology works hard at integrating our work to align to our desired goals and outcomes. We have an upcoming app for our staff for easier access to information and more.

Right. Have you observed any significant changes in performance resulting from such intensive workplace feedback?
Rachel: Yes. Perhaps we should share here that growth and performance are important at ROHEI. We do expect our team to give their best.
When one of our consultants first joined us four years back, he experienced a set-back in his second consultancy assignment. He thought maybe being a trainer wasn’t his cup of tea upon receiving a less than encouraging evaluation report. A few of us sat with him to reaffirm him. Then he voluntarily created this huge spreadsheet and recorded every single piece of feedback, be it appreciative or developmental, and listed his follow up actions. Today, he is our senior consultant as well as our lead trainer in charge of our trainers’ development.

Eddie mentioned mentoring and coaching for ROHEI's staff. Can you share more about that?
Rachel: We engaged an executive coach to walk with us, to help us get better. I must say this has been life changing for me personally. He has imparted much wisdom and showed us the importance of balancing relationships with results.
Calvin: We also practise relational coaching within ROHEI. It means conveying “I see you, I hear you, and I appreciate the work you are doing and the difficulties you are facing.” This way, when we challenge our team they are assured of our full support and encouragement.

Moving on, what's in the pipeline to make ROHEI an even greater place to work at?
Calvin: We want to strengthen the organisation by improving the way we coach each other relationally, and do our best to align the personal life goals of our people with the organisational goals. This could contribute to staff motivation!
Eddie: Also, looking at the skills needed in the next five years, managing change is one. We will continue to engage our staff and create greater ownership.
Rachel: Culture trumps strategy, but relationships trump culture. We shall be committed to better our strategy, build culture and pursue healthy relationships. Our desire is not just for ourselves but also to help the community achieve the same – to inspire hope, joy, courage and purpose in the global workforce.