CPF beefs up cross-cultural acumen

Economy January 09, 2012 00:00

By Pichaya Changsorn
The Nation

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As company expands overseas, focus turns to training its employees

Cross-cultural acumen tops the manpower-development agenda of Charoen Pokphand Foods, which has been vigorously expanding overseas, according to its senior executives.

Adirek Sripratak, president and chief executive officer of CPF, said human resources had been among the most important factors contributing to the company’s success. And as the firm is aspiring to become a global company, the ability of its staff to adjust to different cultures and environments is one of its greatest concerns, he said.

“Some people have adopted too much Western culture and thus they can’t succeed in the Thai environment, or have indulged in too many [academic] case studies from the West that sometimes can’t be applied to the local context,” Adirek said.

He was speaking to a group of students from various Thai universities at an orientation session on Friday for its “CPF Ambassador Programme”, a mixture of employee branding and CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives.

Adirek said many successful entrepreneurs in Asia were not highly educated but were patient, diligent, devoted and engaged, dared to think and dared to do. They are practical, and accept and adjust well to different environments.

“Don’t fear hard work. Don’t fear being ‘disadvantaged’, because you will gain experience and knowledge. Pressure will allow our strengths to accumulate,” he told the participants, who would perform as “ambassadors” for disseminating CSR activities of the company to other students at their respective universities.

Emphasising practical learning and the importance of the English and Chinese languages, Adirek said he had met with Korsak Chairasmisak, CEO of CP All, operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores, which had dispatched 400 students from Panyapiwat Institute to practise work and languages at the Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel. The company found that those students had made much more progress in their learning within a period of only six months than those remaining in the classrooms.

“We have used people with bachelor’s degrees to feed pigs and chickens for more than 30 years. However, since as farming has gone all hi-tech nowadays, one man can take care of 100,000-150,000 chickens. They are no longer just swine or chicken farmers but have extended into selling animal feed, vaccines, and other related fields, thus becoming agricultural entrepreneurs,” Adirek said.

“While we may be doing a small thing, we must also think big and wide.”

CPF made about Bt200 billion in sales revenue last year and currently employs about 80,000 people, including about 20,000 staff abroad. With investments spanning 12 countries, the company earns nearly 30 per cent of its income from abroad and has dispatched about 500 Thais to work overseas.

Adirek said CPF had also deployed its Filipino staff who have shrimp-farming expertise and English literacy to help train its staff in India, while at the same time mobilising its Indian staff to work in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Cross-cultural acumen has often been cited by experts and business executives at such companies as Mercer and Siam Cement Group as one of the biggest challenges of Thai employees in the context of globalisation and the Asean Economic Community, as many of them who are regarded as talents working in the Kingdom become ineffective when working outside their home turf.

Nevertheless, Adirek said CPF, which is expanding into Africa, has had no problem finding members of its Thai staff who volunteer to work there.

Asked about the manpower-integration plan for its acquisition of CP Pokphand (CPP), the CP Group’s Hong Kong-listed subsidiary that runs Chinese and Vietnamese businesses, Adirek said that as CPF is the acquirer, it would take charge of the integration process and would aim to create harmony and assimilate “CPF’s ways” to every country unit.

Tinakorn Ruenthip, executive vice president for human resources, said CPF would this year focus on building the cross-cultural acumen of its staff to enhance their ability to work across cultures with respect to diversity and inclusiveness. The company is working with a consultancy firm to ensure commitment and engagement from its managers to the programme and will introduce the scheme next month.

Tinakorn said CPF wanted to use its distinct corporate values, such as its “brotherhood” working culture, to differentiate itself from other global companies.

Last year, CPF conducted its first employee engagement survey and found its engagement scores were higher than other agricultural-industry companies in the region, though still lower than the top companies in Thailand.