Employee engagement is not a “one size fits all” approach at Circles.Life. Priding itself on their employees and culture-first environment, the Singapore-based company seeks to personalize engagement so that each employee, affectionately dubbed Circles.Lifers, feels motivated to learn and grow. From family days at the office to generous stock option plans and monthly events with mocktails, Circles.Life has perfected the art of putting employees first.
We spoke with Alex Png, Global Head of Employer Branding, Campus and Diversity Hiring for Circles.Life about how the digital telco and lifestyle services company keeps employees engaged, how they respond to reviews and what advice they have for other companies looking to maintain culture while scaling.
Glassdoor: You’re about 7 months into the role, what brought you to Circles. Life? What attracted you to the company and the role?
Alex Png: As a culture-first company looking to expand rapidly on the international arena, Circles.Life presented a mix of intrigue and challenges for me. I was previously in a similar fast-paced tech startup that scaled globally within a short timeframe, so the excitement of doing this from scratch all over again was something that I did not want to pass up on.
Particularly, the brand builder and marketer in me wanted to experiment with new ways of doing things, to find out which approach lends itself to optimal results.
The fact that the company emphasises people and culture at the core of what it does – as underscored in one of its three central missions as ‘Building a Great Place to Work and Grow’ – drives me to do what I do, cultivating a brand through compelling stories.
Glassdoor: With such a dynamic culture at Circles.Life, what are your goals this year around employee engagement?
Alex Png: Overall, our goal ties in with our mission of building a great place to work and grow. Through this, we aim to cultivate a culture of high performance and recognition, drive greater advocacy and pride, as well as foster a culture of leading innovation.
Put another way, we want to create more opportunities for engagement on a personalised basis to our employees (affectionately dubbed Circles.Lifers), so they are in turn empowered to create rocketship moments with us here.
Glassdoor: How do initiatives like Family Day and creating the “unlimited career” promote engagement among your rapidly growing workforce?
Alex Png: At the heart of our efforts is this constant focus on caring for our people and their professional development. Family Day is one of many employee initiatives we roll out continuously to enable us to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting, whilst helping our Circles.Lifers’ family members understand the workplace and team members a lot more. We celebrated the contributions made by our employees at this event, and thanked family members for lending their unwavering support behind the scenes. We also organised a carnival filled with treats and games for families with children. Towards the end of the day, everyone walks away with their photo booth pictures as souvenirs, which is arguably their favourite thing about it.
All these work hand in hand with the notion of an ‘unlimited career’ at Circles.Life, as we deliver outsized recognition to our high-performing employees, and encourage them to attain their peak potential and challenge themselves, even when they are not ready.
Glassdoor: Scaling can be tough for many companies, how are you keeping Circle.Life’s core values alive despite growth and expansion?
Alex Png: Indeed, scaling can be excruciating a process. But the outcome can be equally rewarding if it is done with the right view and mindset, especially from the beginning. For us, we ensure that People & Culture (what we call our HR here) have a seat at the table when discussing and negotiating country launches. We even go as far to create dedicated Country Launchers at the People & Culture level to ensure that the right culture and principles are transmitted from HQ to other offices.
Other than that, we make sure we hire right. The team members for each country is heavily assessed for culture fit, as they would set the tone for those countries. We then train the leadership team and immerse them in our culture by having a culture immersion programme at our Singapore HQ, where they spend time with our leaders to understand what makes Circles.Life what it is. Equipped with the appropriate cultural values, they return to their offices to be our culture agents.
Going beyond that, at the organizational-wide level, we host weekly welcome sessions to formally introduce new hires from all our global offices with a fun tidbit of information about them. These are very well-received and offer a good platform for everyone to know each other.
Glassdoor: Circles.Life is expanding globally, to markets like Taiwan and Australia. How are you and your team leveraging engaged employees to recruit in new markets?
Alex Png: We encourage them to feature in our recruitment videos, and participate in recruitment drives we host in new markets. On a more personal level, we reach out to everyone on available roles with our in-house referral programme, and galvanise them to share details with us so we can follow up. To this end, we actively promote our employee referral programmes, and we make things easier for Circles.Lifers by arranging for recruiters to be on standby in the event there are questions for them.
Glassdoor: What are a few of the perks and benefits you offer at Circles.Life that contribute to the most overall happiness and engagement of employees?
Alex Png: Our employee stock options (called Circles Stock Options Plan) that allow everyone – yes, at every level of the company, regardless of role – to be true founders who share in the growth of the company. Not many tech companies do this on the grand scale we do, and even fewer do this with a laser focus to rewarding people for exceptional performance.
For the high performers, we even grant up to 6 months of salary in stock options. Offered under our prized employee recognition programme Space Explorers, this is coupled with other exciting privileges like insider access to investor relations and direct access to founders, induction into the hall of fame, sponsored training course of choice, and cash spot award.
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Glassdoor: Pop-up experiences are popular at Circles.Life. What are some of the employee favorites and what inspired your team to create them?
Alex Png: Definitely prata (Indian pancakes) booths, acai bowls, cafes and mocktail booths! We recently had a pop-up National Day (Singapore) traditional mixed nuts offering called kacang puteh as well, which received rave reviews.
As a team, we gather feedback on people’s wishlists, and constantly track them. At the same time, we observe employee diets (helps that we offer weekly company lunches and free all-day snacks!), dining trends and other health trends to determine what may work and not.
Glassdoor: What are 2 or 3 specific ways that you leverage your Glassdoor profile to engage with employees? What have you learned from responding to reviews?
Alex Png: We use Glassdoor as a sounding board to understand employee sentiments, augmenting the insights we glean from our regular employee pulse check surveys. Through this, we identify spots for improvement, and draft action plans for them. We also actively welcome employee inputs during onboarding, at their anniversaries or crucial employee events, and commit to responding to reviews.
What we have learned from review response is that a response is better than none. Employees – former and present – spare time and effort to craft something for us to act on. As a people-centric company, we need to keep our ears close to the ground. And we do this by putting a strict SLA on response to reviews.
Glassdoor: What advice would you share with other employer branding pros about investing in employee engagement?
Alex Png: Engagement comes from the heart. As long as your intent is right, employees will feel it. Budget is secondary, but your strategy and sincerity need to come up tops. Start small with something as simple as creating a new ritual of random coffee chats. At the same time, always gather feedback and data to guide you on your next steps of the employee engagement journey. The data will point you in the right direction.