Oon Chye Yeo, vice president, human resources, APS, Molex
Founded in 1938 in Brookfield, Illinois, U.S.A., by Frederick Krehbiel, the company was named after Molex — the name Krehbiel gave to the material he created from limestone and waste by-products.
Today — almost 75 years later — Molex is one of the world's largest manufacturers of electronic components used by leading original equipment manufacturers. It also has an expansive global footprint: More than 70% of Molex's revenues are from products made and sold outside the U.S., and its Asia Pacific operations generate 60% of the company's total sales.
That's why achieving and sustaining high levels of engagement among Molex's Asia-based employees is extremely critical to the electronic components company.
"In our Asia Pacific South (APS) region, we're experiencing rapid growth and earning considerable business revenue," explains Oon Chye Yeo, Molex's vice president of human resources, APS. "We need to depend on highly engaged workers to sustain the momentum. Our goal is to be a high-performance company, so we knew it was very important for us to understand what motivates our employees. We hadn't conducted an employee engagement survey in Asia since 2006 — more than five years earlier — so it was clearly time to survey our APS workforce."
He adds, "Knowing that engaged employees are high performers, we needed to find out how our employees had been feeling over the last five years. We wanted to understand their views regarding their workplaces and roles. The survey results would help us focus our resources on addressing the most significant issues, which, in turn, could help us strengthen the organization as we continue to grow in the APS region."
To design and conduct a credible, effective employee survey, Molex brought in longtime partner Towers Watson. "We have a strong relationship with Molex at the global and regional HR levels," says Amanda Yap, Towers Watson senior consultant. "Our involvement in Molex's past three employee surveys, as well as the external benchmarks that we collect and update annually, helped make us a valuable partner."
Laying the Groundwork
From the beginning of the project, it was clear that Molex leaders had very high expectations for the survey. HR compared the results to those of the company's 2006 survey, with hopes of improving on those engagement scores and identifying specific engagement drivers for Molex's East Asia workforce.
"We had a broader, lofty goal," adds Yeo. "We aimed to use the survey results to help Molex become a high-performing, $5 billion company by 2015."
The first step was to clarify Molex's objectives. Towers Watson consultants worked closely with the company's APS learning and organizational capability group to craft an employee survey that would yield the most useful data. "The survey would need to uncover the factors driving employee engagement in the APS region as a whole, as well as in each individual Molex location within the region," explains Yap.
Rolled out in 12 locations in seven countries, the survey questionnaire had 94 questions on issues that included career development, training, performance management, pay and benefits, management, working conditions and communication. The survey was conducted in eight languages, online and on paper. Approximately 10,000 employees were invited to participate — and there was an overwhelming 98% response rate.
Towers Watson senior consultant Amanda Yap with Tang Li Chow, senior HR manager, Molex (left), and Oon Chye Yeo, vice president, human resources, APS, Molex
Towers Watson consultants immediately began analyzing the survey data, using external benchmarks to compare Molex with other high-performing organizations. Towers Watson and Molex senior leadership then worked together to understand all of the results and create a communication plan targeting the company's leaders and employees.
"The responses were quite telling," says Yeo. "They allowed us to understand what the company can do to improve the workplace and how to prioritize our areas of focus at the country and regional levels."
Overall, the results showed that Molex's APS employees are concerned about many of the same issues that are important to workers around the world.
"Typically, pay and benefits are not primary drivers of engagement," explains Yap. "Our research has found that management, career development opportunities, company image, and the organization's goals and objectives very often drive an employee's engagement level," explains Yap. "When we studied Molex's APS survey results, we saw something similar. Leaders learned that to fully engage the workforce, they needed to pay more attention to career development, organizational culture and customer focus — while keeping pay and benefit programs competitive."
Jumping Into Action
Within six months of the survey closing, Molex leaders had conducted focus groups in all participating locations to share the results with employees. There were more than 57 focus groups involving about 500 employees. Group participants examined the results and discussed possible action plans.
In each group, an employee served as a survey champion. "We found that asking employees to lead the focus groups was yet another means of raising engagement levels," explains Yeo.
Once the focus groups had developed their recommendations for the action plans, location leadership teams reviewed and endorsed each plan. And most important, leaders made commitments to implement the plans.
One of the most popular action plans focuses on career development. "It's a significant engagement driver in the APS region," says Yeo. "And our survey showed us that seeing clear opportunities for personal development and growth is very important to our people. So we immediately created both a management development program and a supervisory development program."
The next step was communicating with the entire APS workforce about the action plans. Molex's senior management — including Martin Slark, chief executive officer, and Ana Rodriguez, global senior vice president of HR — embarked on a tour of all surveyed locations and conducted town hall meetings with employees. Their task: to discuss the company's business results and employee engagement levels, and to explain the APS action plans.
"These meetings were a huge success, largely because we had the support and participation of top global management and regional leadership. Employees really appreciated the opportunity to interact with the CEO and other top executives of the company face to face," says Yeo. "Also, we were fortunate to have focus group members who truly believed that the survey would make a positive difference to the organization."
Molex senior HR manager Tang Li Chow with Towers Watson senior consultant Amanda Yap
While some of the action plans have been fully implemented, others will take time to develop and finalize. Yeo refers to action planning as a work in progress and insists that, while the survey has been successful in helping Molex meet its goals, there have been challenges along the way.
"Some segments of our employee population were skeptical about how we'd identify the primary engagement drivers," says Yeo. "And we had to figure out how to create meaningful action plans and then manage the financial impact of implementing those plans — no easy task."
Challenges and all, Yeo asserts that strong teamwork and collaboration contributed greatly to the survey's success. "This was a team effort between numerous departments within Molex and Towers Watson. Thanks to the team's hard work and commitment, our people now know that Molex leadership is dedicated to using available resources to understand what's important to employees and to improve their workplaces."
Molex's senior leaders offer advice for organizations considering an employee engagement survey:
- Think ahead. Begin planning far in advance to ensure you have the necessary resources for the project.
- Ensure that senior leaders are committed to the survey and willing to participate in all communication efforts. For employees to pay attention and understand what the company is trying to achieve, communication from the top is critical.
- Act on the survey results. Show employees you're committed by listening and acting.
- Choose the right partner to advise you through the entire process. This teamwork and collaboration is the hallmark of a successful project.