Voices From Sonatus: Cong Ong, General Director of First Alliances
To find out what it's like to work at Sonatus, a new premium office building in Saigon’s CBD, we meet Cong Ong, General Director of First Alliances.
Cong Ong, General Director of First Alliances. | Source: Co Nguyen for Vietcetera.
Sonatus, a new premium office building in Saigon’s CBD, has some of the highest concentration of multinationals and Vietnam’s industry champions. Over the next few weeks, as part of our Voices from Sonatus series, we will be interviewing CEOs and executives about what it’s like to work at one of Saigon’s most prestigious addresses.
To see the inner workings of one of Vietnam’s largest headhunting agencies, we meet Cong Ong, the General Director of First Alliances, for a behind-the-scenes tour. The company he co-founded 22 years ago today boasts a 180-strong team, including 125 recruitment consultants and 30 plus HR outsourcing consultants, providing the full spectrum of HR services, including as executive search and selection, HR payroll services, staffing and RPO.
In 2016, First Alliances was acquired by PERSOLKELLY – a joint venture between PERSOL Holdings (Japan’s second largest recruitment firm) and Kelly Services (a global leader in workforce solutions with a strong track record in Asia Pacific) to provide end-to-end workforce recruitment services. PERSOL Japan has 492 offices employing more than 45,000, while PERSOLKELLY has nearly 1,900 employees in 188 offices spanning across 13 markets in Asia Pacific. First Alliances has offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, servicing large local companies and multinationals operating in Vietnam.
How do you position your company in the industry? How do you stand out?
We stand out thanks to our 4P approach: attracting, training and retaining the best PEOPLE; having the best PROCESSES in place through a system of SOPs; providing the best PLACE to work in the industry; and finally by focusing on PERFORMANCE. I believe that there is a strong correlation between success and happiness.
So how do we ensure our employees are both happy and successful? In addition to our 4P approach, we create a professional work environment that nurtures a culture of fairness, impartiality and transparency. Beside having a good work environment for our employees, we have extremely attractive incentive schemes that motivate and remunerate performance.
We are the only HR agency in Vietnam with a training academy. All our new joiners go through an intensive 6-month training course to set them up for success and give them the tools they need to suceed.
How did you get to know about Sonatus and why did you decide to move in?
Originally, we chose Sonatus because of the tower’s central location. After we moved in, it turned out that the building has far exceeded our expectations in terms of both the quality of the product and property management – very friendly and very attentive. I now have a great personal relationship with the property manager, so I’m able to give feedback directly to him and he always takes my concerns on board. With him, it’s not all just talk and empty promises, he actually gets things done, as well as always following up afterwards, making a good building a truly great one.
I could not have asked for a better experience and our employees are equally happy. In fact, they are so in love with the new office, that our employees are now working harder and are happier than ever. Not only has our staff attrition rate dropped significantly, we are now attracting many of our competitors’ employees to join us.
Our employees are very satisfied here because the space is very well designed, with great facilities, technology and amenities. People feel very welcome when they walk in. Our staff, our candidates and our clients all have complimented positively the arrival experience and the registration process.
How has the Sonatus management helped you through your move?
We moved in January 2020, but our grand opening was actually on 20.02.2020, for luck, because if you add up all the digits, you get the lucky number 8. Our office is on the 18th floor and our chairs are arranged in a figure-8 formation. So we’re feeling very lucky here!
The Sonatus team has been very helpful, attentive and supportive from the very beginning. Whenever we have a problem, we call them and they deal with it immediately. I like their transparency – when certain things cannot be done, they simply tell us how it is, instead of kicking the can down the road and then not delivering. These guys promise and deliver. That’s what I like about them.
What is your team’s experience working at Sonatus's First Alliances office like?
I travel a lot for work, so when designing the new office I wanted it to feel like a 5 star hotel: fresh flowers, sumptuous leather sofas, effective and mood-enhancing lighting, a bar for the team to hang out at. We have a motto, work and smile. Everyone works really hard but we also know how to have a good time, and our office reflects that.
We have a lot of young employees, hence the decision to set up a gaming area with table tennis, table football, and dartboards. We even have a top-of-the-range JBL karaoke system which is put to good use every Friday night.
To make the most of the stunning views, we’ve built a stage with a backdrop of the Saigon skyline and this is where we have our performance award, celebrate the top performers and welcome new employees who successfully complete our training program.
In short, we want our people to feel that they can come together, work, relax, celebrate successes and be happy coming to work every day.
For the new graduates out there, what do you think is the best way or the best place to prepare for leadership: on the job, or while studying?
I think on the job training is more important.
As mentioned, all new hires at First Alliances go through a 6-month training at our training academy. We see this investment as a crucial step in helping them build up confidence and acquire a necessary skill set to be successful.
Our aspiration is to help our employees be the best they can be and to help grow the next generation of leaders for the organization.