When Mr Lee Swee Chit left his home town in Malaysia 39 years ago to look for a job across the Causeway, little did he expect to find another extended family - at his new workplace.
The welcoming environment at Jurong Engineering Limited (JEL) enabled him to assimilate seamlessly within the company, helping him to build a new life in Singapore with his family.
“When I left Malaysia 39 years ago to search for a job, JEL ‘adopted' me, and I became part of a company where colleagues are friendly and superiors are understanding,” he says. He is now the head of risk management at JEL.
“JEL has given me the resources and means to raise my family here in Singapore. Today, my children’s bright prospects are the result of that.”
Empathy is central to the workplace culture at the engineering and construction company, which is ranked 137th out of 200 on the Singapore’s Best Employers 2021 list and ninth in the Construction category. JEL, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, specialises in the construction and maintenance of industrial and power plants, and has clients in more than 30 countries.
At JEL, staff know that their well-being is looked after – not just during office hours, but also outside of work. Ms Saw Liang Hiong, a secretary, is thankful to her bosses who were understanding about her family commitments when her children were growing up.
“When my kids were young and I needed to take urgent leave, my boss always encouraged me to care for my family first,” she says. “My colleagues are also helpful, and it feels comfortable to work here, like we are one big family.”
Many JEL employees have been with the company for more than 10 years; the longest-serving staff member is an engineer who joined when the company was founded in 1971.
Having such dedicated and experienced employees underpins the success of JEL, which has expanded over the years and now comprises a network of companies spanning Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
“Because many of them are long-term employees, the quality and consistency of work is reflected in our projects, often earning JEL repeat customers, especially in Asia and the Middle East,” says Mr Paul Low, JEL's head of corporate marketing.
“Human capital is the single most important and valuable asset for the company,” he says, adding that JEL provides support for employees so they can have a lifelong career with the company.
Career road map
This support starts with a three-year development plan for selected staff members.
Designed to help its employees upgrade themselves, the plan provides training opportunities and prepares them for career advancement within the organisation. It also aims to develop their general knowledge, and enhance their exposure and networking opportunities.
The company also offers employees the opportunity to contribute to the community by volunteering under various corporate social responsibility initiatives.
In the same way that the company takes care of its staff, JEL's management believes in serving the needs of underprivileged groups. The company has raised funds for humanitarian aid, granted bursaries and scholarships to tertiary education students, and donated meals as part of a Meals-on-Wheels programme jointly organised with non-profit Touch Home Care.
Chief financial officer Derick Lim, who helped to donate the meals, says: “Seeing the smiles from the beneficiaries was most rewarding. My colleagues and I felt enriched and (found) a sense of strength within ourselves after we completed our deliveries for the day,” he says.
Volunteerism not only boosts staff morale, but also builds teamwork. Design engineer Koh Pei Ying says: “There’s one thing I am sure of – we can and should do more. Through this Meals-on-Wheels event, I witnessed how teamwork can make meal distribution easier and timely. It was exceedingly enjoyable. Together, we can help more people in our community.”