Empowerment of employees: not just a slogan

Friday, Sep 09, 2016 15:00

Do Hoang Anh, Head of LEX of BAT, for Viet Nam, Thailand and the Philippines at BAT Vietnam.
Multinational corporations have a different way of thinking in their high-level personnel management strategies. In these corporations, leaders try to balance between "WHAT" (what employees want to achieve) and "HOW" (how companies can help employees achieve). In addition, corporate giants always create a balance in the workplace, empower employees if necessary, especially women holding management positions, and help them get career progress so that they can develop both personal and professional manners. Vietnamese managers, who thoroughly understand the local market, will bring long-term benefits to multinational corporations in Viet Nam. Do Hoang Anh, Head of LEX of BAT, for Viet Nam, Thailand and the Philippines at BAT Vietnam talked with Thanh Trung about the topic.

Business owners in Viet Nam typically don't empower their employees for fear that wrong decisions could badly affect the company. Is this a shortcoming?

First of all, I would like to talk about the nature of this issue. Many large Japanese and South Korean corporations started as family businesses where power lay in the hands of owners. But then their successors, who studied abroad, have realised the shortcomings of the model. They partly renounced power and agreed to recruit outside talents, including executives. However, in Viet Nam, private enterprises dare not yet fully empower outsiders, especially in the CEO position. This relates to culture. Specifically, Vietnamese recruit employees who obey their command based on trust and acquaintance.

Europeans and Americans are interested in benefits. They carefully negotiate benefits with employers before building relationships at work. They do not worry about being "overtaken" as the rights and responsibilities of managers are defined in detail in contracts. Corporations from the US, UK or Australia do not supervise their CEOs as they are only interested in final results. I think our large private enterprises will someday have to apply Western modern corporate governance principles to ensure robust and sustainable growth.

At BAT, how are corporate etiquette and empowerment shown? Are there any Vietnamese in management positions at the international level?

At BAT we operate based on four principles that are our etiquette: Enterprising spirit - Open minded – Freedom through Responsibility - Strength from Diversity. The diversity I want to emphasise here is the support for the career development of both men and women, especially women, with the aim of increasing the proportion of women in management positions in the company.

With these principles, BAT has always provided advancement opportunities to everyone regardless of background and culture. Viet Nam is not an exception. There have been more and more Vietnamese people, especially women, holding management positions at BAT in Viet Nam and the region. For example, a Vietnamese is now head of finance of BAT in Cambodia. Some Vietnamese employees will become line managers of BAT in the Philippines, the UK and Norway.

Why does your company focus on diversity at the workplace? What initiatives do you take to ensure diversity?

We understand that we are responsible for creating common values ​​in the entire supply chain of BAT around the world. Therefore, ensuring a background of diverse and professional talent is essential. According to a report on the gender gap in 2011 by the World Economic Forum, there will be one billion women participating in the global economy over the next decade.

At BAT, women play an important role in all business areas which we participate in. They will be the main source of growth for the company. We have initiatives and diverse policies to ensure gender equality at the workplace. In 2015 the proportion of women in all executive positions at BAT around the world reached 33 per cent (It is 28.6 per cent at BAT Vietnam).

What is your view on empowerment in the context of Vietnamese personnel working for foreign corporations?

Managers empower their employees but do not let them work alone. They should be a companion to help employees succeed. When a staff member achieves success, their manager also gets success. Empowerment under this model helps the empowered people feel more confident as they always receive support and encouragement to perform their tasks.

Many international corporations operating in Viet Nam for many years such as PepsiCo, Unilever, HSBC, Coca-Cola, GE, etc tend gradually to transfer leadership to Vietnamese to "localise" the leadership, replacing foreign staff. How has this transfer been at BAT?

Currently the proportion of local senior personnel at BAT Vietnam is over 95 per cent. It was just 10 per cent in 2007 when I started working for the company. So this is a significant change.

Currently out of seven members on BAT Vietnam's Board of directors, three are Vietnamese, accounting for nearly a half. We will to appoint a local general manager in future.

Do Vietnamese companies need to adopt a policy of "carrot and stick," - empowerment associated with control?

The reality is that lax oversight causes big losses for companies due to mistakes committed by their employees.

Only business owners know which management model they should follow. However, I don't think it is necessary to use the "stick" as you said because all managers are aware of their responsibilities. When subordinates argue with superiors and the latter listen to different ideas from the former, it is actual empowerment, not just a slogan. Vietnamese enterprises should develop an authorisation process based on transparency and respect rather than control so that talented people are motivated to dedicate themselves to the company without coercion.

Comments (0)