Making Sustainable Employment a Priority

CrimsonLogic CEO Saw Ken Wye highlights the company’s efforts to support their employees and build resilience during the pandemic.

As a company that emerged during an economic crisis over 30 years ago, Singapore tech firm CrimsonLogic has made planning for uncertainties a fundamental part of its DNA. This explains why it decided to stock up on face masks in January this year, months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. As a precautionary measure, about 15 percent of the firm’s employees were also tasked to work from home as early as February, even before the Government announced the circuit breaker to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“We were forged in fire as we came about after the first recession in the 1980s. We were looking for ways to make Singapore more competitive using IT. Throughout our existence we have faced tough problems and we have had to be resilient,” said CrimsonLogic CEO Saw Ken Wye.

Today, the company develops world-class digital government solutions, products and services that are designed to create value for citizens and businesses. The current crisis has affected the ability of its employees to travel abroad and presented challenges in the way it operates amid safe distancing restrictions, revealed Mr Saw. “We build goodwill when we engage with staff and customers directly, but now we need to build it through a video call. So, we have to find a way to navigate that.”

Looking out for employees

One key aspect of the company’s business continuity strategy is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its employees. This has become especially critical during volatile periods such as the current one, when operations have been disrupted and staff are expected to make sacrifices.

“Sustainable employment means having a strong partnership between employers and employees. When times are bad, you can tell who are the good and who are the great employers. If you can ride out the storm as a responsible employer, you will strengthen the trust and loyalty of your employees. These two intangibles are key to sustainability,” said Mr Saw.

During the crisis, the management team has gone the extra mile to show that they have the best interests of their employees at heart. Early in the crisis, for instance, the company subsidised meals for staff in the office and private hire rides home to mitigate the risk of their employees being infected with COVID-19. The company also ensured that staff were equipped with the tools they needed to work effectively from home, such as VPN tokens and even printers for the secretaries.

Workflows were also tweaked to ensure minimal disruption to operations, while internal communication channels were set up to ensure all employees were kept updated on the fast-changing situation. The company also checked in on its staff regularly to ensure that they were not suffering from the mental stress of working from home.

The company’s priority was to get its people to understand the implications of the pandemic. Staff were urged to prioritise their health, and to take care of themselves and their families first, before refocusing on their work. “The message was that there are more important things than work. Only when they have settled their personal issues can they do their job properly.”

Seeking opportunity in crisis

During this period, CrimsonLogic also took the opportunity to help its employees upgrade their skills by doubling its budget for such activities. One initiative that was especially timely was an employee workshop on resilience. “We wanted our people to feel that they were in charge. If they felt that they were a victim of circumstances, everything could all end tomorrow. The key is to admit that there is a problem and focus on the things that we can control,” he said.

The crisis was also an opportunity for the firm to break out of its comfort zone and adapt to meet future challenges. “If we get too comfortable with the way we work, we can end up like the frog in hot water that does not know it is being boiled alive. A crisis gives you the opportunity to make changes and tell people that they need to do things differently.”

With the unprecedented uncertainty expected to persist, Mr Saw admitted that it would be hard to predict what would happen beyond the next few months. As such, it is important for businesses to stay nimble and maximise their available resources in order to remain competitive and sustainable.

“We are in a new normal with new ways of working. This is the era of agility which we will have to deal with things that are totally beyond our control.”