Priority is on top-quality talent at GS Group

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Priority is on top-quality talent at GS Group

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GS workers stand in the shape of the corporate image, holding lit candles, at the headquarters of the group in southern Seoul. The company’s focus is on fostering young talent. Provided by the company

*From tech behemoth Samsung Electronics to automobile manufacturer Hyundai Motor, Korea’s large companies have made strides both at home and abroad over the years. But as they face a generational shift and tougher competition in the global market, the companies find themselves being challenged to foster a corporate culture conducive to enhancing creativity and teamwork. The Korea Joong
Ang Daily will publish a series on how the country’s major conglomerates are attempting to shift their corporate culture and how these changes will affect the industry’s landscape.

Chairman Huh Chang-soo is focused on acquiring top-quality talent, even if that means taking matters into his own hands.

Huh is known for participating in the interview process, and once employees are hired, he’s often the one who introduces the group’s vision and direction.

“Corporations are fundamentally human-driven and great talent is an important asset for our company,” said Huh in an executive meeting in August.

Once new employees enter the company, the affiliates of GS Group provide different types of training and support tailored for each position.

Oil refiner GS Caltex, for example, allocates 85 hours per worker every year to participate in training programs. The sessions are conducted one-on-one with outside instructors and senior colleagues.

GS Caltex also established a program where selected participants are sent to global energy company Chevron for job training and education. Chevron holds a 50 percent stake in GS Caltex.

High-achieving workers are given opportunities to study at prestigious overseas colleges to earn masters or doctoral degrees, or MBAs, in their specialized fields.

The company covers the cost of study, including living expenses and tuition.

Outside of work, the company seeks to help employees stay balanced through a corporate consultation program called EAP.

The program is aimed at helping address different things that affect workers - from personal relationships, conflict resolution, psychological assistance and stress management.

The external experts give advice for wider issues like financial planning and marriage or family counseling, as well as career counseling for employees’ children.

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The GS Group provides an art therapy program for children who been affected by experiences such as bullying. Provided by the company

“We figured that psychological stability is key for workers to gain maximum efficiency at work, as well as maintain a happy life,” said a representative of GS Caltex.

At GS Caltex’s overseas offices, the company has included on-site health management divisions to make sure its workers stay well.

The division consists of professional medical staff, advanced medical equipment and ambulances to check on workers.

“When people work outside of Korea, we heard that many of them find it hard to get regular medical checkups,” said the representative, “The program is designed to provide consistent health care. This is the first of its kind in the refinery and petrochemical industry.”

GS E&C, the construction unit of the group, is focused on training workers in construction sites at overseas offices. The company believes that working in unfamiliar environments provides opportunities to learn new concepts and skill. This year, all 58 of its rookie workers were dispatched to diverse countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including Egypt and Turkey. They will stay there at least for three years.

The decision is based on Huh’s focus on fostering young talent.

To raise more next-generation leaders, Huh pledged to recruit 9,700 jobs entry-level staff by 2017

“Developing young talent is key for the growth of the local and national economy,” Huh said.

The group will hire a total of 3,600 university graduates and interns this year, an increase by 400 compared to last year.

Huh also said GS will implement the so-called peak wage system across all of the group’s affiliates starting from next year.

The peak wage system is intended to increase the number of hires by trimming the salaries of older workers as they near retirement, though some critics argue the move will affect the quality of the jobs themselves.

One of the affiliate’s primary focuses is ensuring that its workers and their families are able to receive an eduation, even if they’re unable to pay for it.

GS E&C provides educational materials to lower-income families, and also has a mentoring program where employees teach and advise youth.

If the children in the programs show impressive academic performances, the construction company will provide scholarships to cover college tuition fees.

Besides the educational support, the builder uses its business expertise to practice corporate social responsibility.

GS E&C builds playgrounds in social welfare facilities, and workers help host educational activities like cultural events at the venues.

“We try to fulfill our responsibilities through a wide range of activities,” said Lee Seong-wook of GS Group.

One of the well-known initiatives is an art therapy program for children who have been affected by experiences such as bullying.

The program is designed to offer treatment through art, theatre and dance to children, under the supervision of professional art therapists.

The group said more than 4,300 children have received the treatment.

To expand the beneficiaries of the initiative, the organizers will cooperate with the Ministry of Education, starting from this year.

The refinery has also engaged in a volunteer program where former GS workers and volunteers provide lunch for some 300 elderly on a daily basis.

Between 2008 and 2014, the program provided over 530,000 free meals for seniors.

GS Retail, an operator of GS 25 convenience store chain, also collaborates with other affiliates on responsibility initiatives.

The retail group launched a program called “GS Nanumi” to give different kinds of help to those in need. The participants can be virtually anyone, including GS workers, students or owners of the convenience stores.

The activities range from helping with studies, making kimchi for elderly who live alone to cleaning welfare facilities.

The increasing focus on the activities seems to be driven by the CEO.

“Sharing can help raise hope and develop neighborhoods,” the CEO said in a statement.

“Sharing can make a better society and it requires attention at different levels of society,” he continued. “Companies should set a good example to this end.”

Founded: 2004

Founder: Huh Man-jung

Chairman: Huh Chang-soo

Headquarters: Seoul

Number of workers in Korea: 33,000 (as of early 2015)

Business areas: retail (home shopping and convenience stores), energy (refining & petrochemicals, gas & electric power and exploration) and construction


BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]

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