THP is a family-owned and family-run company. Feeling part of a big extended, mutually supportive family applies to everyone here: from my mother and father who founded the company to the newest recruits who have just left school and are embarking on their first job.
This mindset sometimes comes as a surprise to people when they first join. They expect THP to behave like many other companies where people are often left to fend for themselves and learn on the job, despite what companies outwardly say about investment in training.
And this is why I have used the phrase “THP welcomes new employees” rather than “THP trains new employees” in the headline to this blog post. For while the reality is that we are training new entrants, what we are training them in is not just the mechanics of how to do the job, but the approach that we would like them to take towards it and towards every one they interact with as part of it.
It is important to get this right from the outset. So we have invested a huge amount of time and energy in our on-boarding processes. We want everyone to feel at home and immersed in our values from day one.
One way we do this is to put a photo of each new recruit on our intranet with a personalized greeting. This shows that while they may have joined THP as part of a wider cohort, we are all individuals with our own unique strengths and personalities.
We also partner new recruits with a workplace companion who can help them to find their way around. Day 1 can be a daunting experience no matter what level someone joins an organization.
So I think it is very helpful having a guide who can point out where things are in the building. That person also acts as a kind of psychological bridge into our culture as new recruits settle into their respective departments.
We, therefore, choose each office companion with great care. They normally work in the same department as the new recruit and we try to match similar personality types. This helps people to instantly feel comfortable about asking questions, or exchanging information.
I also think that it is important to define what we mean when we say that THP is like a second family. Firstly, it always makes a big difference if we feel that we “belong” at work given the amount of time we spend there.
The best workplaces offer a constructive and nurturing environment for people to flourish and grow, just as the best families do. But there is a crucial difference between the two and it is important not to forget it.
Ultimately families are for life, or at least we hope that they are, if we come from a loving one. The loyalty that we have for our immediate family members – mother, father, brother, sister – is fairly unbreakable.
Employees, by contrast, can come and go. And at THP, we always wish them all the best when they leave, just as we do when they join.
So in some ways, we are more like a tribe, or a community, which is bonded by our shared purpose and values rather than by blood. This is what we emphasize during the on-boarding period.
One thing that all new recruits learn is just how strong our corporate culture is. All companies are unique in their own way, but at THP values are everything.
This can be a lot to take in right away, so we have also spent a long time preparing an induction manual – The THP Way – which employees can peruse and reflect on at their leisure.
I think its dedication perfectly summarizes the text within. It is: “dedicated to all THP employees – past, present and future, plus their families – for helping us demonstrate to the world that Nothing is Impossible when people who are united in spirit and determination work together.”
This is the essence of what our training is about: nurturing like-minded individuals who will not only get the job done and feel proud of their achievements, but will also take pride in their colleagues’ success too.
My sister Bich has always taken the lead with our on-boarding processes. And she always makes a big effort to emphasize just how valuable everyone is, both as an individual and as part of the wider THP family.
One of her favourite analogies is the relationship between a screw and a machine. Sometimes it takes just one loose screw and the whole machine collapse.
We also emphasize that when someone walks through the door for the first time, this is just the first step on what we hope will be a long and enjoyable journey. I frequently write about our belief in self-improvement: enabling everyone to feel that their talents, ambitions and skills are being fulfilled.
So in addition to providing very clear job descriptions, we also help each new recruit to formulate a job development plan that takes them from recruitment potentially through to retirement. Employees benefit from setting a long-term goal, much as we have set one for the company – to thrive for 100 years.
We then work out what short-term steps can be taken to move towards it. What training would someone like to undertake and what additional skills would they like to develop.
We also encourage employees to consider a career path that will allow them to rotate between departments. This helps to enhance skills, forge more connections and gain new perspectives.
Understanding how the screws fit together in the machine is a prerequisite for managerial roles that require a broader view. Each rung of this management ladder also has very clear criteria concerning the skills, experience and capabilities required to undertake it.
And finally I’d like to highlight the importance of stories. All families have one about where they come from and so has THP – a fairly dramatic tale given Vietnam’s 20th century history.
Understanding the past is crucial to understanding the present and plotting a future course. It also helps to place THP within the wider context of society.
For there are many different types of family within human society and they are all interlinked: the primary one we are born into, the secondary one we experience at work, the national one that our company is based in and ultimately the global one that we all now acknowledge we must do more to maintain for future generations.