FOSTERING staff loyalty is a key tenet of Supaluck Umpujh’s management philosophy as chairwoman of The Mall Group.
Supaluck encourages a sense of camaraderie among the people who keep the retail business humming – from shop-floor workers to the executive suites.
Staff retention at the operator of a network of shopping centres, including among the top-level executives, is high and Supaluck is determined to ensure that long tenure remains the norm among those on the company payroll After all, she describes the employees as the company’s greatest assets.
She recalls that back in 1981, when The Mall Group opened its first shopping mall, in the Rajdamri district of Bangkok, it had only 400 employees. The workers from those early years were “like pioneers working alongside my family members”, she says.
“Currently, our company has around 13,000 staff, and more than 100 of them have been working with The Mall Group since that first day,” Supaluck says.
“So, the secret to our success in keeping all the top executives to stay with the company for a very long time is that we have a strong relationship between the ownership side and the employee side.
“This has produced a working culture like no other in the industry. This has resulted in the top executives and the staff working together with compassion, in a caring, loving and sharing environment.
“Here is a place where we always have goodwill and sincerity towards each other. We work together like we are in the same family, but are always professional in our work. Importantly, I love to see how my staff have grown successfully together with us at the company.”
That comes back to Supaluck’s proud assertion that the employees are the company’s main assets.
“Our motto at work, and you may heard of this, is that ‘We're family and we're professional’. We work in a professional way but at the same time we also treat everyone like a member of the family. Of course, every staff member who works here means a lot to me,” says Supaluck.
“Our employees are the greatest asset that the company has and we help them to learn and grow in their career paths at The Mall Group. We are a true learning organisation for innovation in the retail business. Employee engagement is a key factor for ensuring business and customer satisfaction. We listen to the views of our employees and their opinions are counted.
“At The Mall Group, we have an HR Care Centre for listening and collecting the feedback from workers, so that we can improve our system to make it better. This, in turn, will create greater efficiencies at work. A happy working place makes for happy employees. And this will influence other quality candidates who may be interested in joining our TMG family.”
Supaluck says the main challenge facing the company today is the intense competition in the retail business.
“For me, I think that to be successful in business depends not only on how much money you have or whether you have the highest investment amount, but on how you develop your staff to be ready for this business challenges as well,” she says.
“Employee development is important for every organisation. When you develop your staff to be ready for this competition, you have invested in the most valuable source and this commitment will make your business grow in a sustainable way.”
Supaluck believes firmly in the importance of role models when it comes to staff development, and that’s why the company’s top executives provide such a valuable role in showing the way for others.
“Another challenge for our company concerns the gap between the new and old generations in the workplace,” she says.
“Since global business trends always move fast, we need good cooperation among the different generations. The younger generation is very good in the use of innovative technologies. However, the older generations have deep business knowledge and vast experiences. Without one another, we cannot accomplish our goals, so I think if we try to build up everyone to look to the same goals, then nothing is impossible for us.”
Supaluck says she often finds that insights from her personal interests and pastimes can inform and influence her strategies for the business.
“I love to plant trees. I always love to be one with nature because it makes me calm and that is when a good idea may pop up in my mind,” she says.
“If the seed is not strong, or if the tree wasn't grown in a good condition, then it may fail. But if the seed is strong and you have taken good care of the emerging tree, you will see what you have planted comes to fruition, and it will grow beautifully. And this is how it is in my work. We are cultivating and developing our people to be good and strong, capable of being a quality person not only for our organisation but for the country as well.”
Supaluck describes as her ultimate ambition the creation of a prosperous retail business to support the country’s growth and, in turn, help it to become an important travel destination for people from all over the world. “Moreover, we encourage Thai people to work hard, which makes our country have a stronger economy,” she says. “Our success in business today comes from the cooperation among our people, our suppliers, our tenants, our partners and our alliance. To be successful in business, you cannot do it alone; every collaboration is very important to make this a sustainable success.”
Supaluck says that when it comes to enhancing the prospects for success in the retail business, the role of technology is vital.
“So, at The Mall Group, we have brought in new technology to facilitate and support our employees in their work,” she says. “Right now, we have a project called M Transformation, which will adjust and change all the working processes of The Mall Group.
“This system will help my employees have an easier life and I believe this change will create a better outcome so that we can focus more on other things that are also important. This includes the capability development of our staff members to catch up with the latest trend and make a balance between technology and humanity.”
Meanwhile, one special tree that Supaluck planted is growing just fine.