Going the extra mile to provide a conducive working environment

THE visitor to Exact Asia Development Centre Sdn Bhd (Exact ADC) will most probably be greeted by the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee. 

Coffee and canned soft drinks are probably what fuel the high work rate of its 240 employees, who design and build world-class business applications software. 

“This is not your normal office environment,” said human resource manager Yeap Hock Chuan.  

“We have more than 200 people here, but you hardly hear anybody talking.” 

“They will be listening to music (through earphones), or thinking, or doing a bit of reading,” added general manager Ronald Voets. “You will not see or hear a lot of people talking out loud.” 

A walk around the office later confirmed that. It is not that the company does not allow talking at work. “But they are these kind of people,” explained Yeap.  

“They want freedom to do their own work, if necessary, no communication. They want clear objectives. They want good references. They want to drink Coca-Cola – nine cans a day, without getting scolded. If this is what they want, this is what they get. They want the best in terms of equipment. We give them the latest; there is no old equipment around, as you can see.”  

Welcome to the world of software developers. 

And new people coming on board follow the culture. Or rather, are amenable to the culture. Yeap was quick to add that company culture was not determined by the management. “Company culture can only be determined when the people in a company decide this is what they want.” 

Yeap Hock Chuan

Exact ADC not only supplies all the drinks that its employees can consume, but also picks up the tab for a night out once a month. The monthly bashes are to encourage social interaction in a work environment where people are often lost in a world of their own. 

All the efforts taken by a generous employer to provide the conducive work environment have certainly not been lost on the employees – mostly software engineers, application designers, and application developers. Since the company was set up, staff turnover has stayed at a steady 7% yearly, against the industry norm of 15%. 

“I think, may be, we are paying them too much, or the managers here are not very critical of the staff,” Voets said in jest, and added, “Everybody on my team is exceptionally good.” 

Yeap explains this in another light. “They know their work here is of world standard, and they take pride in this. That is the difference. When we bring them in we also bring them up to this level. They have this confidence that they are equal to the best in the world, if not the best.” 

Voets said he was also pleasantly surprised by the ample supply of good and skilful people.  

“Not only when we first came here in 1997, but also now in 2005. Although catching the really top ones is becoming more and more difficult, the amount of good people available is still quite high. That means every single year, Malaysia actually has been able to produce a tremendous amount of skilful people, somehow,” he said. 

Yeap added that the company was fortunate to be able to get good people in its formative years. That was when the dotcom bubble burst, and there was oversupply in the job market. 

Although in the early years the company had more women employees than men, the current ratio is about 50:50.  

Yeap said that the company did not plan to balance the men-women ratio in its workforce, adding that its stringent recruitment procedures focused on personal attributes suited for the position besides qualification. 

“We don't look at the sex, but a person's mentality, maturity, ability to stay focused and work under an environment like ours, because this is a development environment; so there are not many things that should be able to disturb this person.” 

Exact ADC is also probably the flattest company hereabouts. Nobody in the office uses the forms of address “Sir” or “Mr”.  

“In fact, they are banned,” quipped Yeap. 

“There is no company hierarchy,” he added. “Everybody gets the same perks, even Voets.” 

“Yes, I only get whatever perks our receptionist enjoys,” confirmed Voets.  

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