Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF): Wizlogix: Eye on Expansion

Feb 01, 2013

Wizlogix: Eye on Expansion

Wizlogix Pte Ltd was founded in 2000 as a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Design company. PCB design, an especially niche area in electronics that requires highly-specialized skills, is a sector in which Wizlogix is gaining a reputation of excellent quality in products and services. With its initial success, Wizlogix has also expanded to include Fabrication & Assembly, component kitting of the PCB and even setting up a training business unit which offers specialized courses.

Due to its quality workforce and products, Wizlogix has experienced greater customer support in recent years and faces ever increasing sales, projects and headcount. The company was on the fast track to growth and expansion. At this point, however, its Managing Director Angeline Lee, felt that the company was at a crossroad. It could either continue growing at a fast pace, but risk growing so large that its workforce became unwieldy, or take some time to reexamine its fundamental processes to position for future higher growth. Specifically in the area of Human Resource (HR) practices, Angeline was convinced that Wizlogix did not yet have the capability to be seen as an employer of choice.

 “I think the turning point for me was when the headcount reached 15. You are not able to give as much attention as you would like to each employee at that point,” Angeline recounted. “Now that we are looking at expansion, we need to put some structures in place to be ready for the future.”

With the fundamental belief that managing its people and developing them is what makes or breaks an organisation, she decided to nip the problem in the bud by addressing the company’s HR issues head on. She obtained the HR Capability Toolkit from the website of Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and started to implement some of the frameworks, guidelines, tools and templates to her company.

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However, Angeline quickly found that she needed someone of expertise to tailor the Toolkit specifically for her organisation and to guide and advise her management team in implementing these systems. As a result, she turned to SNEF to embark on a HR project which taps on SPRING Singapore’s Capability Development Grant (Human Capital Development).

 “Ultimately, we strongly believe that the quality of our staff is what sets Wizlogix apart. With highly-skilled and dedicated employees, customers will come and naturally, business will grow. That is why managing our employees well and developing the right HR processes is so important to us,” Angeline said with conviction.

Designing the Organisational structure

One of the perennial problems that Wizlogix wanted to address was to define organisational structure and job responsibilities. Like most small SMEs at an early stage, job scopes and roles were loosely defined and the organisational hierarchy was flat and wide. This placed the bulk of responsibility and authority in the hands of Angeline and Mr Shawn Ng, the second business owner. Employees were unclear as to where they stood in the organization, and their job scopes, goals and targets were ambiguous.

Take Charlene Phuang, as an example. Charlene, who joined Wizlogix in the founding years, had been with the company for almost 11 years. Initially, she was tasked to do whatever that came her way, including odd jobs that were outside her job scope.

“At that point, we were operating like a family business due to our small size. We helped each other out but job scopes got overlapped and people were overloaded,” she recounted. “There were many things I wanted to do but I was unsure as to which was my priority and direction. It was tough to focus as there was no clear structure.”

Through the expertise of the consultant provided during the HR project, the management team was able to implement a more methodical structure and framework to manpower planning.

For instance, the consultant went through a thorough Manpower Requirements Analysis which defined the roles and descriptions of each job position, the specific qualifications needed and the salary range of that job position. A big picture analysis was also performed, concerning the hierarchy of the organisation, the amount of people needed in each department and the manpower cost analysis that was tied to sales targets.

As a result of the in-depth analysis, the Wizlogix management team built an organisational chart which not only included staff currently in the company, but also potential positions for growth. Employees thus had a visual roadmap of their career paths and some form of aspiration in advancing their career. The process of manpower planning also forced management to consider long-term organisational goals and carefully consider empowering certain key position-holders by delegating more responsibilities to such employees.

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This is seen in Charlene’s example when the management team saw her interest and ability in Marketing and Sales despite her role as a Senior PCB Design Engineer. Through a series of consultations and discussions with her, they felt that a move for Charlene would fit into the organizational structure of the company. Consequently, the management defined her career path in Business and Development and provided her with a framework to reach her goals.

 “Engaging us and providing us with a structure not only increased our motivation, it also ensured that we find the direction that we are heading toward fulfilling and feel excited about reaching that goal. It was exactly the kind of system that I needed to reach where I am today.” Charlene, now a Business Development Manager, remarked from experience. 

The Wizlogix Interview

As contractual obligations increased, Wizlogix recognized the need to increase headcount in the PCB Design Business Unit to cope. Hiring the right people, however, proved to be a tall order. To design a PCB, a designer had to possess a great deal of knowledge and talent to position hundreds of components into an intricate—and some say artistic—design  that meets a whole hosts of physical and electrical requirements. Wizlogix needed highly-skilled and experienced designers to fill up positions that were labour- and skill-intensive in nature.

“The HR project made us realise that finding the right fit was not merely dependent on qualifications and achievements,” Mr Ng emphasised. “Not only must the company choose the right candidate, but the company has to also be chosen by the selected candidate in return. Only then can there be a happy marriage in terms of aligned goals and expectations.”

The consultant shared with the management optimal hiring processes in recruitment and selection, such as identifying the hiring needs of the company, defining core competencies for each position and forming induction programmes for new hires. One of the key areas that Wizlogix had benefited from this module was the unique way in which they now conducted their interviews.

As interviews were the first point of contact between potential hires and the company, it was crucial that it was done right. Angeline, as the Head of Organisation, took it upon herself to interview each applicant and spent the first 15 minutes of each interview presenting the company to the applicant through a carefully-prepared presentation on her iPad. With the company’s business, goals and culture explained to applicants clearly, they had a full grasp of the company and what it stood for even before any questions were asked. This way, applicants knew what they could expect and thus decide if Wizlogix was the right organisation for them.

“With regard to recruitment, it is tough for SMEs to compete with MNCs in terms of employee benefits and the overall package offered,” she said firmly. “We have to use interviews to showcase the company and improve on our branding to potential recruits. This way, every new hire is truly passionate in joining us in achieving our organisational goals.”

The consultant also advised Angeline that interviews had to be a more structured process in which an interviewer’s preferences and judgments do not colour the hiring process. To address this, a series of predetermined scales were developed together with the consultant and each applicant was then carefully rated accordingly to such scales. Department heads were also roped in to be present during interviews to provide multiple perspectives in finding the best fit for the job.

“The consultant explained that there should always be more then one interviewer, including the superior who was familiar with the position being interviewed for,” Angeline clarified. “This also facilitated future team dynamics as the superior had a say in picking the right person that would be working in their teams.”

As such, the candidates that were picked from such interview processes not only possessed the right skills and qualifications, but also fit comfortably in both company and department and were ideal to be part of Wizlogix’s growth.

Managing Performance, Motivating People

At Wizlogix, it was a core belief that the quality of its employees determined the success of the company. Thus, it invested heavily in staff development and stretched them to their fullest potential. To better identify developmental needs and key performance indicators, the Wizlogix management was looking to implement a system to manage employees’ talent and performance.

With the advice and guidance of the consultant, the management team built a well-organised system to assess performance and reward employees accordingly. For instance, a detailed four-page performance appraisal form was developed for each job position, outlining their performance goals and measures, achievements throughout the year and developmental opportunities. As a result, Wizlogix was able to improve employee job performance by identifying growth opportunities and career aspirations, two areas that were essential in creating an engaged and motivated workforce.

Fairly and constantly—were the two main aims of the performance appraisal system. Firstly, the performance appraisal process had to be one that was objective. The programme taught the management that the only rigorous way to assess performance was to use criteria that were as specific as possible. Consequently, managers took detailed notes on their employees throughout the year, in order to remove subjective personal notions from the process of assessment.

“It all becomes very systematic with justifications involved. Be it in interviews, projects or dealing with customers, employees were constantly being graded. Performance is evaluated strictly on how good you are at doing your job, not your relationship with your boss, your background and qualifications, or other irrelevant factors,” Shawn explained.

Before the programme, Wizlogix conducted their formal performance appraisal twice a year, once in the middle of the year, and another at the end. However, after the programme, they saw a need to be more consistent in the process of assessment, which was how the second aim of the system was achieved. Project Managers documented employees’ performances consistently, giving them feedback throughout the process via ‘informal reviews’.

“A fair system is also one that is constant. Employees cannot only be graded near the appraisal period as one might have an outstanding performance initially, but made a big blunder close to the appraisal period,” Charlene elaborated. “This system that the module has put in place avoids such ‘Recency Effects’”.

As such, the programme enabled Wizlogix to come up with a structure, which Charlene describes as an “open system of continual assessment in which employees and employers know their grades, expectations are aligned and rewards justified”.

Making It Work

Despite the benefits that Wizlogix reaped from the programme, to say that the implementation of these processes was completely smooth-sailing would be a lie. In undergoing such an intensive programme, it was only natural that some employees were unable to adapt to the many changes and as a result, dropped out of the programme.

The management team knew that communication was key to the success of the programme and employees had to also see the fruits of their labour to encourage involvement. Thus, the Wizlogix management communicated regularly with employees about the benefits of the programme and reminded them about the light at the end of the tunnel.

“After the initial pains of implementation, employees would definitely find that it is also more beneficial for them. They would have more time to focus on other areas like training and upgrading of skills as they would no longer be bogged down by administrative procedures. Such issues would have already been all sorted out,” Shawn rationalized.

Besides constant and open communication to staff, the management at Wizlogix also believed that some incentives were justifiable to reward individuals who had put extra time into the programme.

“After all,” Angeline explained, “it was the employees who were the ones that were doing the hard work of the actual implementation. From the management point of view, we believe that they should be awarded to tide them over this transition period and encourage involvement.”

Investing in a Well-Designed HR Circuit Board

Despite initial hiccups, Wizlogix knew that it had to take necessary steps to ensure the continual success of the company.“It may be tough now, but upon completion, what we would have set up would be a well-oiled machine that runs itself. This frees up time, resources and energy for the entire company to focus on upgrading, growth and expansion. Or in other words, issues that really matter,” Mr Ng shared.

From engineers who were not HR-trained and had no inkling about HR practices and processes, the Wizlogix management team, empowered by the HR project, had indeed come far. Just like their Printed Circuit Boards, Wizlogix’s new HR system is not only well-designed with attention to intricate detail, but also works efficiently and productively, ensuring the full satisfaction of its users.

“It makes things so much simpler. Everyone now has ownership of their roles and take pride and responsibility in their duties,” Angeline said proudly. “The HR project has put a structure in place where previously there was none. We are now more ready for expansion. This is definitely the number one take-away for SMEs.”

Source: http://www.hrcapability.sg/case-studies/wizlogix/

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