Welcome to Gyedong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, where Hyundai E&C is headquartered. Thanks to its authentic Korean atmosphere, the neighborhood has recently attracted more foreign tourists than ever before. Nowadays, you'll see just as many non-koreans at Hyundai E&C's headquarters as you will on the streets of Gyedong. This is because large-scale projects such as Aramco's Amiral project are on track, leading to visits from overseas partners and employees and recruitment of non-koreans workers. Let's follow in the footsteps of these employees, who are making great strides in the name of Hyundai E&C, regardless of their nationality, at the headquarters, sites, and overseas branches.
Hyundai Spirit and Hyundai Heritage All Around the World
Hyundai E&C continues to set records on the world stage, including becoming the first Korean construction company to enter overseas markets (1965) and the first Korean company to exceed $100 billion in cumulative overseas construction orders (2013). Since its founder, Chung Ju-yung, lead the "Middle East Boom" with his tenacity and drive, Hyundai E&C has become a global builder implementing more than 880 projects in 62 countries around the world. Its cumulative overseas orders hae totaled more than $144.4 billion (Overseas Construction Information Service, October 2023). Hyundai E&C is definitely the No. 1 construction company in Korea, and the only one with more than $100 billion in overseas contracts.
As a sign of this, Hyundai E&C was ranked 11th in the 2023 edition of The Top 250 International Contractors by Engineering News Record (ENR), an American construction engineering publication. The ENR International category is based on overseas sales, excluding domestic sales, and is a testament to Hyundai E&C's standing in the global construction market. Behind this solid growth are the employees, who have been outpacing the competition, equipped with the Hyundai DNA inherited from their predecessors.
Non-koreans Employees Armed with Expertise are "Cheat Key" to Project Success
There are many reasons why Hyundai E&C has been able to compete on the global stage, such as its expertise in EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) and differentiated technology. However, given that the construction sector is a people business, “systematic human resource management” is an integral part of the equation.
In fact, Hyundai E&C is accelerating its efforts to secure key talent in specialized fields of R&D and design to capture the future construction market. With overseas business picking up after a brief hiatus due to Covid19, the company is looking to recruit more global talent. Recently, in order to secure technical skills for the design part of Aramco's Amiral project, which is about to break ground in earnest, the company has hired many talented people with experience in global EPC providers. In addition, efforts are underway to bring in global specialists such as Professor Kashiwagi Masashi , a world-renowned scholar in the field of floating structures, and Kayhan, who has worked for global construction firm Bechtel for over 20 years, to spread advanced technology and expertise to the organization.
Hyundai E&C's systematic human resource management also stands out at “overseas sites” where non-koreans employees play a crucial role. As the first Korean builder to go global, Hyundai E&C has a system in place to ensure a win-win relationship with non-koreans workers. The system enables the company to find skilled laborers in various types of construction and recruit the necessary personnel to the site. In this way, it is possible to maintain the professionalism of operations by allowing employees to rotate jobs across different sites, headquarters-sites and overseas branches. The “long-term retention” of talented employees leads to stronger employee loyalty, expanded expertise, and greater competitiveness for Hyundai E&C.
▶Infrastructure Project Development Team Showcasing Global Power
There is an entity that took the lead in globalization to keep up with the increasing number of overseas businesses. This is the Infrastructure Project Development Team, which is comprised of 50/50 Korean and non-Korean personnel. The team is in charge of developing front logs (overseas projects expected to be developed in the future), sales to clients and partners, strategic planning for orders, and technical proposals. As the global business has been growing, six new non-koreans employees have joined the company. As large-scale projects such as The South Trail in the Philippines and the NEOM city in Saudi Arabia have begun, the company has recruited talents with global capabilities in anticipation of increasing the share of overseas business in the future. The nationalities are also diverse, including the United Kingdom, Panama, Kazakhstan, Nepal, and the Philippines.
Kayhan Kamali, the aforementioned global specialist from Bechtel, is in charge of global sales, while Saida and Jyoti, both college and graduate school graduates from Korea, are fluent in Korean. In addition, Annjaneth, selected from the Panama Metro Line 3 site, is in charge of technical proposals, whose fluent Spanish as mother tongue, is very helpful in Latin American projects. In addition, Reymond and Mandy, who are supporting quotations for outsourcing and purchasing orders, are veterans with more than 10 years of experience working at Hyundai E&C's overseas sites and have a strong sense of loyalty to the company and understanding of the organization's culture.
The Infrastructure Project Development Team conducts all meetings and documentation in English to help non-koreans employees integrate into the organization quickly, and also holds frequent Knowledge Sharing Programs to share work skills regarding Kayhan's tasks. To build rapport, non-koreans team members have lunch breaks for meetings, as well as opportunities to experience Korean culture, such as camping and hiking.
The next challenge for the Infrastructure Project Development Team, which is taking a step further toward globalization from conducting Korean-oriented business, is to create greater synergy by helping non-koreans employees make a “soft landing”. A member of the team said, “If non-koreans members build their careers in our team, where they can have a wide range of experiences from project development to overseas sales, technical proposal preparation and quotation support, and become more familiar with Hyundai E&C's systems and organizational culture, they will be able to contribute their capabilities to any team in the future.”
▶Line 3 of the Panama Metro Site Thrives on Understanding Other Cultures
The largest number of non-koreans working as a team is on Line 3 of the Panama Metro. This is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Panama, and a significant project that marks Hyundai E&C's first entry into the South American railroad market. With more than half of the construction completed, the site is now preparing for full-scale TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) assembly along with track beam (train tracks) and structure construction. As a mega-project, more than 4,000 people are working on the site every day.
The Line 3 of the Panama Metro site focuses on “communication based on cross-cultural understanding.” “Each country has different labor laws and customs, so it's essential to keep a close eye on all stakeholders, such as unions, politicians, and clients,” said Nam Jung-hun, head of the labor part. “As we are new to the country, there were some initial challenges in managing the workforce, but we are actively working with local labor consultancies and the Ministry of Labor to proactively tackle any issues.”
The process of narrowing down differences was essential, especially with the strong requirements around Panama's unique labor customs. Suggestion boxes are set up in various places on site to listen to workers’ complaints, and monthly employee representative meetings are held for mutual improvement. The company also provides customized training for new Korean and non-koreans employees and workers to broaden their knowledge of other cultures. The company's thoughtful employee welfare policies, such as commuter buses, additional private medical insurance, cell phones, and soccer clubs, are very popular with employees.
“We are all working hard as one, regardless of nationality, with a sense of mission to build the world's first 6-kilometer tunnel under the Panama Canal. Stay tuned to see what's next for Line 3 of the Panama Metro as we make history in faraway South America,” said one of the site staff exuding ambition.
▶Singapore Office, a Strategic Location Perfectly Blending Old and New
Last but not least, overseas offices serve as the hub for targeting overseas markets. Hyundai E&C currently operates more than 30 overseas branches and offices, including Hanoi in Vietnam, Abu Dhabi/Dubai in the UAE, Kuwait, and Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia. There are a lot of long-serving non-koreans working in the overseas branches, which is due to the fact that most of the branches/offices provide institutional guarantees for the employment of non-koreansemployees.
Among them, the Singapore office, which opened in 1982, has a long history and a group of veteran employees who remain united by their loyalty and pride in the company. They have successfully supported 91 projects since Hyundai E&C began its presence in Singapore with the Pulau Tekong Reclamation (1981).
Ku Bon-soo, a manager at Singapore office, said, “Director Tan Boon Lang Freddy, General Manager of Sales, who has been with us since the office opened more than 40 years ago, and Janice, who has been with the Outsourced Procurement Team for more than 20 years, are living testaments to the history of growing together with Hyundai E&C. Their expertise is a competitive advantage for the organization and a valuable asset that has helped Hyundai E&C grow into a global company."
The Singapore office also continues to foster managerial-level employees who can work in harmony with longtime employees. To recruit top talent, the company scouts for employees who have distinguished themselves at various sites, and selects employees through industry-academia collaborations such as internship and scholarship programs. Thanks to the non-koreans employees' understanding and expertise in Singapore's construction regulations and customs, we have been able to set up an order placement strategies to explore new markets and better support various operations in sales, finance, human resources, purchasing, post-construction management, and safety.
Janice, who was also named Outstanding Non-koreans Employee in 2015, said, “Over the course of my 20-year career, I have been able to develop my expertise in the Singapore office, a strategic location that supports material sourcing, logistics management, and more for a variety of projects.” “As a member of a globally recognized company, I have been able to experience a wide range of projects and grow with the organization,” she said.
This year, the Singapore office plans to expand orders by focusing on competitive types of construction including landfill and data centers. Just like the organization’s motto, "Let's be professional and advance dynamically with positive vibes," the future of the Singaporean team will be nothing but promising.