How Malaysian giant UMW is driving high-performance culture
One of Malaysia's biggest companies is transforming itself through a development program co-designed with Melbourne Business School.
More than 500 leaders across five levels will take part in the UMW Core Competencies Program, created in partnership with Melbourne Business School at the University of Melbourne.
The customised development program is designed to help the $1.2 billion automotive, engineering and aerospace company diversify and respond to new market demands and business opportunities.
"Our new CREST@2021 strategy is the key to being sustainable into the next century," says Zailani Ali, Group Chief Human Resources Officer at UMW Holdings.
A leading assembler and supplier of products from such major international companies as Toyota, Rolls-Royce, KYB and Komatsu, UMW is seeking to develop more of its own products to drive future growth.
"High performance in this context means building our own capabilities and strengthening our internal business agility. The company needs its employees to first be open to change, have the right mindset for growth, and continue to adapt and be agile," Mr Zailani says.
Working with Melbourne Business School's Kuala Lumpur office, the partners have created four program levels to refresh core competencies for executives, junior to senior managers and general managers, with C-suite management as active sponsors.
"The refreshed competencies emphasise essential skills and behaviours that are vital for staff to thrive in the future and become key players who can drive the company through transformation," Mr Zailani says.
Melbourne Business School began delivering the first programs for UMW executives in late 2020. One of the participants was Wan Nur Syazzelin binti Wan Sulaiman, who enjoyed the experience immensely.
"My confidence level has increased 100-per-cent. Once you build confidence, it helps you cultivate and maintain strong relationships across every customer interaction, and this can build customer loyalty," she says.
Ms Syazzelin joined UMW 11 years ago as a website designer, responsible for the UMW website. The qualified software engineer now manages the important Investor Relations page and produces regular investor relations reports on UMW share price and currency movements, analyst recommendations, company liquidity and financial analysis and forecasts.
"To disseminate information to the investment community, business acumen and communications skills are really important," she says.
"Having worked with Group Corporate Communications previously, and now under Group Finance Division, I learned and practise both of these skills on the go."
Meeting the needs of busy investors and journalists is a tough job, and Ms Syazzelin says the program has helped her step up to the challenge.
"Throughout the training, I was given an opportunity to share my thoughts, give opinions and speak up, which helped overcome my biggest deficiency, which is a lack of confidence. I also feel grateful to have had a chance to improve myself and become a better, more refreshed person after all these years."
Mr Zailani says the program is already having the kind of impact on participants that he hoped it would.
"The program has stimulated them to be more confident and open to changes in a dynamic and complex business environment. This definitely sets the wheels in motion for the transformation work that we are pursuing."
With on-and-off COVID-19 lockdowns disrupting businesses across Malaysia, online delivery is keeping the program on track to support more leaders at different levels in the months ahead.
"By having a groupwide program that involves the employees, their managers and the leadership team, everyone's aware of what's going on and encourages one another. It creates an ecosystem and environment that's supportive – and we move forward as one big group," Mr Zailani says.
Having the right learning partner is a big part of the program's early success, he says. "We had a few rounds of discussions and meetings with shortlisted vendors, and MBS exemplified what we need in a strong design and delivery partner.
"MBS has been a true collaborator in every turn of the consultations, dialogues and brainstorming sessions – and having an efficient program management team from MBS is a huge bonus for us in ensuring the program runs smoothly."