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A Simple Change Got This 40-Year-Old Company The Fresh Start They Needed

When I first found out I’d be paying Etika Group’s office a visit, the name rang a bell.

It took a while, but I finally remembered the Group as the main producer and distributor for popular brands such as Pepsi, WONDA Coffee, Goodday and many more.

Other than that, I haven’t heard much about the Group itself.

“Because the brands we carry are so strong and popular, the Group itself is not always noticed. We are in fact a member of Asahi Holdings Japan which also perhaps not many are aware of,” said Nicholas Ng, Executive Vice President, Human Resources for Etika Group.

As I stepped into their offices, I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of young people behind the desks with vibrant colours and insightful quotes decorating the rooms instead of the drab interior normally seen in offices.

Nicholas attributed this to the young minds they have.

“The Group is changing,” said Nicholas, speaking from his observations over the past three years since he joined. “I believe we’re continuing to attract more young minded and talented people and they are bring changes in terms of approaches and management style”.

Revamping Traditions

As the team continues to grow with the younger generation, there’s been a few efforts made by Nicholas and his HR team to address the needs of these Talents.

It all started with small steps, like using videos to launch new benefits, revamping their internal magazine from mere PDF into a digital flipbook, and even serving ice-cream during HR events.

And then it moved into bigger initiatives, like implementing a fully casual dress code (sans those in production and sales). Nicholas himself sports casual attire and even a bunch of visible tattoos which is not at all common for a HR leader.

Etika Group also implemented some attractive benefits such as their “ME-Day” and “FivePlus”.

The “ME-Day” benefit is two extra off days on top of their annual leave.

“If I don’t feel well but I don’t need to see a doctor, I can just call in and request for a ME-Day. Or maybe if I need a break after returning from a holiday,” said Nicholas.

FivePlus is meant to reward employees for their loyal service. According to Nicholas, “If you’ve worked with us for five years, you are rewarded with five days of leave. You can go for a holiday at the Group’s cost. Best of all, you get these five days for every 5 years you are with us!”

Introducing New Concepts

Nicholas explained that rolling out new initiatives often comes with bigger implications, so the HR department serves as guinea pigs.

One such initiative is “Fri-Yay” where HR members are allowed to take time off and do whatever they want within the department for half a Friday every month. They can spend time in the various themed rooms to read, watch movies, or even organise their own activities.

“The one rule is that no work is allowed, which can be quite difficult when deadlines and calls are still incoming. You’d be surprised to know how challenging it is even for us!” said Nicholas.

Their annual dinners have also shifted to carry a more meaningful theme that’s tied to how the company fared the year before.

For example, Etika Group worked hard to overcome the challenging business climate to reach their targets in 2017. In order to recognise this and reward their Talents, their annual dinner in 2018 was themed “Riding the Waves” and was held at the Surf Beach at Sunway Lagoon.

While being given a tour around their premises, I also noticed the significant number of women Talents. Nicholas mentioned the gender ratio is balanced if you exclude the production and sales department which are more male-dominated.

Because of this, Etika Group is looking into providing more convenience to the ladies of the company by establishing nursing rooms, pregnant mothers’ carpark, all through their “Women@Etika” Programme.

“We ensure that every year for International Women’s Day, all women in Etika get a gift. This has been our second year doing this and we hope to continue to show our appreciation for our female colleagues here.”

Growing Beyond Monetary Benefits

One unique Group initiative Nicholas shared with me was SLAKE, their talent acceleration programme.

Each letter is an acronym to a programme, such as “S” for STAR. SLAKE also carries the meaning “to quench one’s thirst”. How apt for a beverage company.

“Talents who come in at the entry level programme and—if successful in entering and completing all SLAKE programmes—could make senior manager in about six years after graduation which is significantly fast,” said Nicholas.

All these changes and new initiatives also resulted in Etika Group deciding to relook into their vision.

Moving away from the typical and traditional numerical goals, Etika Group’s Vision is now “Happiness Made Simple” where the Group wants to address all the stakeholders’ happiness in ways that can impact them in the long run.


As a millennial, it’s refreshing to see a large conglomerate shift away from relying on monetary incentives to keep their Talents happy.

Although the team has always made sure they share and grow together, one factor they’ve neglected in the past is publicising these initiatives to the masses. So their goal now is to dismiss the perception that Etika Group is a traditional organisation that’s all work and no play.

“We want to tell people that this is a great place to work and that you can build a rewarding career here,” said Nicholas.

Receiving Recognition

Etika Group was conferred Asia’s Best Employer Brand Award 2018–2019 at the recent Employer Branding Awards hosted by the World HRD Congress and Stars of The Industry Group, in strategic partnership with CHRO-Asia and World Federation of Human Resources Professionals.

The award is granted based on intensive and independent research showcasing an organisation’s ability to translate—through the Human Resources Department—its vision into impactful Human Resources Branding strategies.

Nicholas said the award is a timely testament of the Group’s efforts.

“At Etika, we are constantly raising the bar in cultivating an environment that enables our Talents to excel. This is a great milestone that encourages our continued efforts in establishing Etika Group of Companies as the Employer of Choice in the Asia region in the years to come,” he said.

To find out more about Etika, you can click here.

This article was written in collaboration with Etika.

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Feature Image Credit: Etika

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