Telum Talks To... Syed Mohammed Idid, Head of Strategic Stakeholder Engagement, PLUS Malaysia
Telum recently caught up with PLUS Malaysia's Head of Strategic Stakeholder Engagement, Syed Mohammed Idid who gave us an insight on the newly-structured stakeholder engagement department, how COVID-19 pushed for digitalisation in the organisation and his plans for the unit in 2021
Why was there a need to restructure the communications department at PLUS Malaysia and what can we expect from the newly structured unit?
A need is derived from a purpose. Our purpose is to have a more robust and a closer interaction and work relationship with our stakeholders. Realising that stakeholders are crucial to our future and progress, this department, which was formerly known as Corporate Community and Public Engagement, has been re-calibrated to be called Strategic Stakeholder Engagement because the stakeholder covers all engagement, be it public, community, or corporate.
We have also injected the element that our interaction will be more strategic and purposeful to influence the right outcome for us to achieve our desired goals. Engagement is no longer about just mere relationships, it is something more powerful and interfacing, especially in the midst of the pandemic. Be it face-to-face or virtually, engagement is something very crucial. The new team is holistic in terms of its focus to ensure we have positive and pragmatic engagement results with all stakeholders
With the new normal impacting corporations, what communication strategy has PLUS implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have a very strong leadership team led by Dato Azman, our Managing Director. When the pandemic was brewing in the early months of January to February, we had our first established Crisis Management Team (CMT), meeting and his leadership steered us in the right direction through an ocean of uncertainty. The establishment of the CMT would be the first milestone locked in into our communications journey. By having the CMT and with all the core and critical role players from operations, HSSE, marketing, and our communications team, traffic safety, toll management, this cumulated task force called a CMT unified as one, very cohesive, very comprehensive committee.
We met every day from the 18th March, looking into things that were creeping up and popping off the horizons from left, right and centre. The team was in synergy and seamlessly integrating as we had clarity in what we needed to do, and because of the constant and consistent CMT meetings that we did day by day, we honed our ability to make better decisions, to support each other in a stronger, more pragmatic and cohesive manner. Of late, Dato Azman has announced for us to have a step-down in order for the team to work and dovetail together. We are very matured in terms of handling COVID-related communications or issues that pop up in our toll plazas, RNR stations, and anything of the pandemic that affects the assets of PLUS.
As corporations are bouncing back from the pandemic hit, can you share with us your Reputation Index for 2020?
In 2018, we scored at the bottom 16 out of 17 in the Reputation Index score. When I joined in 2019, along with the initiatives and collaboration of our internal stakeholders and the leadership, we managed to lift ourselves up to third place. In 2020, even though we were slapped with a pandemic, with the effort that we have put in, our reputation index score position is at number one. Now the challenge begins as we strive to maintain the top spot for 2021. Although it is challenging, this department was restructured so that we are more strategic with our stakeholder engagement and ultimately achieve the results that we desire.
Digitalisation has been an empirical move for organisations recently, how has PLUS made this transition and what are the platforms you utilise to keep efficiency internally?
Earlier in 2019, we were already looking into the digitalisation transformation journey of our organisation. It has been a purpose for us to become more efficient and more effective, even aiming to become paperless with more agility and turnaround time. What the pandemic did was just a final push for us to take that leap of change.
We have partnered with Microsoft throughout this, and they have been a very strong partner in our digitalisation journey. We use Microsoft Teams and Kaizala as well as a lot of other cloud solutions from Microsoft in terms of capturing our files and data. We have actually greatly reduced manual transactions and this has saved time as the past we had to print out documents to be sent to other departments and may take months before it comes back to the final signatory. Now, everything is online, and it has an immediate response. We have won the IDC Digital Transformer of the Year award in October 2020 which proves that PLUS is digitally savvy.
What are your hopes for PLUS moving forward and into 2021?
My hope for PLUS is to continue providing the most efficient journey that is safe and as comfortable for all Malaysians. My hope is that there will be greater support of our frontliners out there because the PLUS frontliners constitute of our PLUS Ronda highway unit, who are working at the toll plazas that are crucial for on-ground work. I hope that there's more support from our government and stakeholders in support of our initiative to maintain PLUS as the safest highway, which we were awarded the Safest Closed Toll Highway by MIROS in 2020 and the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in 2019. That goes a lot in saying that the efforts that PLUS has put in that we are above the standard expectation of what is required for a highway concessionaire, and we hope to continue and build upon that for the coming year.