Transforming lives one tile at a time
By MICHELLE BOON
The story of Sunway Group began in 1974, when an accountant established a conglomerate of 12 business divisions. Sunway Group is now in 50 locations around the globe with 14,000 employees.
Bold, daring and almost prophetic, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah transformed a derelict tin mine into an 800-acre fully integrated township with residential, hospitality, education, healthcare, retail, leisure and other commercial components where communities live, learn, work, and play in a safe, healthy and connected environment.
But of course we’ve heard it all before. A success story like that doesn’t happen by chance. This story, however, is about love and passion. It’s about how one person can make a difference, with the right values: Humility, Integrity and Excellence.
The vision of constantly innovating to deliver value, building synergistic and sustainable relationships and achieving the highest standards of quality and excellence is evident throughout the Group.
This vision became a catalyst for a 42-year-long legacy of positive and sustainable change; and this unrivalled sign of pure devotion continues to permeate in countless interpretations, breathing new life in all of Sunway’s business divisions particularly in Building Materials.
The rise of building materials division
Danny Ng, chief executive officer (CEO) for Sunway Building Materials, took over the division during a time of strife – it was a money-losing business. Not to mention that the engagement level amongst employees were at an all-time low and internal structures were lacking.
But Ng, armed with 30 years of experience in the building materials industry – not to mention a witty sense of humour, strong business acumen and a sassy attitude – strolled in and transformed the business with a dire future to one that is thriving, growing and dynamic.
Since then, Sunway Building Materials has continued to be inspirational, never straying from the core belief of Sunway’s founder.
Many people remarked that this division is heading towards the sunset. As he leaned back comfortably with a wide grin formed on his face, he declared confidently, “On the contrary, we are what we are today because we rejuvenate and regenerate interest, we reinvent ourselves. We give you the best.”
Passion was, is and has always been the driving force for Ng. The passion he has for the work and craft is evident. From the moment he speaks about the company and the employees and the people he meets, it’s obvious: this man loves his job. And the company’s exponential growth speaks volumes about effective leadership and his commitment to excel.
Continuity: progressing with outstanding leadership
Now, you know you’ve hit the jackpot when you’re in the presence of a leader who wants only what’s best for you. His work ethos, aligned with Sunway’s to nurture and engage people and develop sustainable relationships, is inspiring and infectious.
Everyone who has come into contact with him is aware of his leadership style and is almost always motivated to perform because that’s essentially what Ng does so well.
He gets down to the ground, with his frank and no-nonsense demeanour, to work together with the employees.
From the field workers to the administration office staff to the designers to the salespeople, Ng takes pride in and care for every employee.
You have a worker here, or a supervisor there, I will reach out. It is my belief that you will not understand the issue if you do not get down to the ground. And my main priority is to make sure they (the employees) understand what we are driving for, said Ng.
Chong Hoc Mun, human resource (HR) senior manager for Sunway Building Materials, elaborates on the leadership direction of the company, “Getting into a meeting with Ng is a real experience. One of his strengths is that he is able to help you visualise the end goal. It is really inspiring and keeps you motivated to work.”
Bespectacled and reserved, Chong speaks of how providing clear and honest direction really sets the tone at the workplace.
At Sunway Building Materials, the importance of the right kind of leadership, i.e. leadership that is rooted in Sunway’s values of Humility, Integrity and Excellence is key to inspire employees to perform better than they had before.
Putting the people first: high-performance workforce
When it comes to employees, Ng never shies away from showing his affection. He gushes about his employees like a proud father to all his children even though he doesn’t seem to admit that.
Innovation, creativity and passion are some of the qualities that Ng looks for in all his employees, ergo, the achievements of his employees thus far have been nothing but extraordinary.
The workplace culture is conceived in such a way that every person naturally is a hard worker.
I like to push people out of their comfort zones. If I know that your strength is in a particular area, I’ll push you even more to achieve even better results. And if I know your weakness is in something else, then I’ll send you for learning and development interventions. I want to push you because I know you can do better, expressed Ng.
With regard to his method of inculcating such qualities to the employees, Ng added: “What really sets the company apart from the competitors out in the market is the top-notch service of providing what customers need, right to their doorstep. We tailor to all. It’s personalised, customised to what customers need. Innovation is our DNA.”
Through the Performance Excellence Scheme, it’s an initiative that rewards employees who have performed exceptionally well based on their competencies and key result areas. In a way, this initiative keeps them on their toes and also fosters a stronger sense of ownership and achievement.
“Today, my people are hitting the sky and the sky has no limit. This year we’re looking to finish with a big bang. We’re (Sunway VCP) already seeing another year of record-breaking profit this year and next year, my people are looking to surpass this record. And everyone knows that this is what needs to be done.”
Engaged employees = continuous growth
However, from a HR point of view, it is never an easy feat to find that balance between maintaining a high-performance work culture and caring for the welfare of employees to ensure they are constantly engaged.
Chong remembers one particular moment where the engagement level among employees was so low and it was a struggle for HR to provide a solution.
“It was a very hostile environment then. The score that came back to us was shockingly low, and we just decided that was it. We had to come up with something,” said Chong.
That was back in 2012 when Chong and the Group HR department, with the help from external consultants, went through focus groups and action plans.
“I recalled conducting a focus group and no one would utter a single word in fear of being reprimanded by management,” said Chong.
It was definitely not a bed of roses but the teamwork – all efforts and focus – is key in the business turnaround of Sunway Building Materials.
Just after three years into the journey, engagement scores improved by leaps and bounds. This certainly has come a long way from the vitriolic conditions back then.
Now, communications are kept open as access to senior leaders are made readily available with the use of WhatsApp group chats and regular dialogues. Employees can interact freely and share information almost immediately.
One of the more interesting initiatives to increase engagement levels is the CEO chat where every new potential executive candidate, regardless of employment grade, will get an opportunity to speak with the CEO after the initial assessment and also attend interview rounds with the hiring manager and head of department.
“I read people very well. I’m a good people filter. Ninety per cent of the time I am right,” said Ng with reference to the hiring process in Sunway Building Materials. Imagine going for your interview and meeting the CEO for the first time. It’s definitely one way to ensure you bring your “A” game to work instantly or face the wrath of El Capitano.
Leaving a lasting legacy
But jokes aside, the core characteristic of Sunway has always been to put people first. This is accomplished by nurturing the people and developing meaningful relationships.
Every employee is aware of the organisation’s beliefs such as the importance of helping the environment and the three values: Humility, Integrity and Excellence. Hence, to further that ideology, constant innovation in the research and development (R&D) arm of the organisation – anchored with the objective to enhance and beautify the environment – can be seen in the products created every year.
“We come up with at least two new products every year because we are passionate about our craft. We want to be better each and every year and this is aligned with the organisation’s strategy,” added Ng.
And one way to always keep employees on their toes is the persistent teaching of always being curious. As Ng beckoned me to listen intently, his final advice is for all employees to always ask.
Because when you start asking questions, you’ll realise that you stop making presumptions and you get the right answers in the end. So ask as many questions as possible and never stop learning.
Learning will never stop in Sunway and the people are always looking forward to soar higher with leaders who are supportive, clear and inspiring. But most importantly, what carries weight in an organisation is the love and passion everyone has for the work.
Winning the Aon Best Employers – Malaysia 2016 is only the beginning for Sunway Building Materials.
Sunway Building Materials is one of 12 divisions of Sunway Group. There are three subsidiaries under this division namely:  Sunway Paving Solutions Sdn Bhd,  Sunway VCP Sdn Bhd,  Sunway Spun Pile (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.
1. Sunway Paving Solutions Sdn Bhd
Sunway Paving Solutions is Malaysia’s largest interlocking concrete pavers manufacturer, providing innovative and high quality external pavement solutions. Through strong R&D and quality control, the company has garnered eco-friendly certification by Green Building Index in Malaysia and Green Label Certification in Singapore.
2. Sunway VCP Sdn Bhd
Sunway VCP is Malaysia’s largest glazed vitrified clay pipes and jacking pipes manufacturer. Our products are manufactured under stringent international quality standards, made to be durable in extreme climate conditions and their products are eco-friendly.
3. Sunway Spun Pile (M) Sdn Bhd
Sunway Spun Pile (M) is the latest addition to the division, specialising in providing high-performance, high-strength pre-tensioned spun concrete piles using state-of-the-art machinery and technology from Japan.
All manufacturing plants of Sunway Building Materials Division are in compliance with ISO9001 and ISO14001 requirements and standard.