A Conversation with Micron Technology on their Journey to Becoming a Best Workplace™

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Micron Technology is committed to pursue and build a great workplace for their people. Since it started this journey with Great Place to Work in 2019, it has been recognized as a Singapore Best Workplace through a continuous review and improvement of company practices that contribute to its positive workplace culture. Last year, it ranked sixth in the Great Place to Work Singapore’s Best Workplaces™ List where 88% of its employees say it is a great place to work.

How does a company balance its commitment to building a great workplace as it continues to be a leader in innovative memory and storage solutions with Singapore as its largest manufacturing footprint? A recent on-site visit to Micron Singapore and panel discussion on May 24 shed light on this. The panel discussion saw two of its leaders, Senior Director Ms Lim Lee Yong, and Mr Gianpaolo Mettifogo, Vice-president of Assembly and Test, who shared their views with Senior Consultant Raymond Teo from Great Place to Work ASEAN and ANZ.

What is Micron Technology’s journey to becoming a great workplace?

Lee Yong shared that a key element for an organization and for any successful organization depends on its people, their dedication and the performance of the workforce. What does it mean to have a great place to work?
“It means you have the environment, the atmosphere and a culture where everyone likes to come to work. At Micron, we know that people who work in a positive environment will be more engaged and are also committed to produce the best results consistently, which is very important for the company. We do foster an environment where we cultivate a diverse workforce, where everyone can feel valued and respected, and we empower our people to perform to their fullest potential.”

According to Gianpaolo, Micron has 9000 employees here in Singapore and it is a deliberate decision of Micron to embrace diversity and build inclusiveness.

“We believe that diversity is key for creativity and innovation which translates to a productive and positive discussion among people from different [groups]. Our environment is extremely competitive, every six months to a year, we’d have to come up with new products and that requires a lot of energy. Diversity is the key but to foster an environment where diversity becomes a value is very complicated.”

In doing so, you need to have an environment where everybody is genuinely respected, where all the leaders have time and patience to focus on listening to every employee in the company from each level of the organization.

How does Micron Technology create a consistent and positive workplace experience?

On breaking the unconscious bias in the company, Gianpolo shared that it is a journey and one that takes time to implement. This process is bolstered by continuous communication and discussion and alignment of targets by the leadership.

“One of the challenges we face in workplaces is unconscious bias. For example, this bias can be when we hire new employees, perhaps we may tend to hire somebody that we feel close to, maybe in gender or ethnicity or when it comes to a promotion cycle, even when we base it on the performance, there is always a certain amount of subjectivity that can create the perception of bias. One of the things that Micron did was to establish and put metrics on some of the areas where we know that there is bias. For example, when it comes to hiring, we have metrics and KPIs that say we should hire a certain percentage of employees of a certain gender or we should hire a certain percentage of employees that come from certain ethnic groups, because they are minority. Metrics are important because it allows us to address any unconscious bias on areas that we can improve.”

How does Micron Technology motivate and develop employees who work in a manufacturing environment and the corporate office?

Lee Yong shared that in her 20-year journey of working with Micron, she has picked up not just the technical skills but intangible skills such as critical thinking, attention to details, and responses to critical situations that can be present in a manufacturing environment.
“Most importantly, it is the interpersonal skills, for example, how we can collaborate with others to achieve our goals. We must find the right people and place them at the right place and the right work so that it can ignite their passion. I believe everyone has got passion. But sometimes when you look at some employees, they don’t show passion at work, and maybe we have placed them at the wrong place.” To this, Lee Yong expressed that communicating to employees the purpose and meaning behind the nature of their work is important.”

In addition, a leader’s responsibility is to inspire the culture of trust and to lead in employee well-being.

Gianpaolo stressed the importance of having an engaged and motivated workforce, especially in manufacturing due to the complexity of the products, the quality requirement that is placed on manufacturing the products, the speed of the market and the speed of changes within manufacturing. Employee well-being is the top priority in the organization. He described in relation to this that “people can make any impossible thing possible or they can make any possible thing impossible”. Motivating the employees is key. Providing the right environment such as a comfortable working environment, the right tools to work and having the right employee programs is crucial.

“We have to listen to our employees either through surveys that we do periodically every six months or every year. This is done through one-on-one sessions and conduct skip-levels to listen to people who don’t report directly to you. Because people that have a different experience in the organization may come up with ideas that we may not think of.” The company also sets up Employee Resource Groups to cater to the many employee categories in the company that range from new graduates, young professionals or those who have worked for a longer period.

Gianpaolo added that the company has an internal posting system that is transparent where employees can apply for an open position in the organization. “This system is very helpful to keep people motivated because at Micron, we have so many different sections and so many different types of jobs that if the employee enjoys working at Micron, they don’t have to go out to find a different job, they can develop in several areas inside Micron and grow in their career.”

What can a leader do to create a high-trust workplace culture?

Lee Yong shared her approach of LOA. It is to Listen with your ears, Observe with your eyes and Act with your heart.

“I’ve been using this approach with my team and encouraged them to do so for their team as well. As a leader we really need to lead by example, we must be open and transparent in order to build trust with our team. I think building a trusting team is very powerful. Imagine if you can build a community that is trusting of each other, you can see how powerful it is because everyone is not afraid of trying new things. In fact, they are also willing to explore a new dimension because they are not afraid of mistakes. This is really a path to innovation and building the innovation within the team. We need to explore new things before we can say that we are an innovative company.”

Gianpaolo emphasized that a leader must walk the talk, that it is alright to make mistakes so long as a leader takes responsibility for it and to apologize sincerely when mistakes are made so as to build trust in the team.
“In general, I see leadership skills as a sum of two different components. One is the intellectual skill which is our technical abilities. Normally, most of us come from technical backgrounds if we studied physics, chemistry, communication, electronics etc. The other component is the emotional scale. The emotional scale is our ability to bring the people together, to create a creative environment to build trust and to motivate people. The emotional skills also depend on your social standing, your character, it is something that you don’t learn at school and you have to learn on your journey of leadership.”

To be a very effective leader, to create a very effective organization, you need to be good in intellectual skills and emotional skills.

You can access the full panel discussion: Micron Technology’s Journey to Becoming a Best Workplace, here.

Find out why leaders take the first step to survey and understand their workplace culture and to build a high-trust workplace model For ALL™.

Daphne Lee

Daphne believes in building community-relatable content, telling stories through narratives that add value in today’s workplace and in culture-building. Her idea of a great workplace is one that thrives on openness, support and inclusivity while building trust and working towards a common business growth and purpose. A journalist, she spent 15 years writing for trade publications, lifestyle magazines and broadsheet supplements. Daphne was also active in the Parent Support Group of her daughters’ school, chairing the volunteer-run committee for 3 years. A mum of two teenagers and two adopted dogs, she enjoys riding on her trusty bicycle to discover new sights and sounds in Singapore.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.