Staying in the game with people-focused leadership | Asian Business Review

Staying in the game with people-focused leadership

CEO Kingson Sian has steered the company towards successful operations despite the challenges facing him.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted trade and businesses of all kinds, affecting economies one after another. This had a huge impact on the hospitality industry, as travel was not allowed at the time.

Despite this, Kingson Sian, the president and CEO of the integrated resort Newport World Resorts (NWR) in Manila, led the decision to keep their hotels open and eventually found business amongst foreign travellers being repatriated, Filipinos returning home, and other travellers who were required to undergo quarantine upon arrival.

This led him and the NWR management to seek and implement various measures and innovations to ensure that the company stayed in the game whilst protecting the lives and livelihoods of its employees, called Thrillmakers.

At the same time, operating in such a high-stress environment required Sian and the NWR leadership to take care of the morale of employees. The company made the commitment to innovate win-win solutions for employees and eventually emerged from the pandemic without having to resort to retrenchment. 

Amongst these solutions is “Kamustahan with KS,” a series of casual, sit-down discussions between Sian and small groups of employees wherein the latter are encouraged to ask questions and suggest solutions. Coined from the Filipino word “Kamusta,” rooted in the Spanish term “como estas” which means “how are you?”, “Kamustahan” refers to the Filipino practice of huddling up, particularly during gatherings with friends, family, and loved ones, driven by genuine concern.

One of the most notable characteristics of this discussion, based on employees’ feedback, is Sian’s sincerity, respect, and trust. He has shown that he is a good and attentive listener and remembers well, earning the appreciation of employees who have participated in this initiative for the time Sian has devoted to talking with them.

“Kamustahan with KS” brought out several ideas and programmes that were eventually implemented for employees. These include a vaccine awareness programme, a bereavement care and support programme, and amendments to NWR’s recruitment policies to allow relatives of current employees to be hired, as long as they pass the recruitment process.

Meanwhile, with most employees staying at home during the height of the pandemic, Sian led the NWR management in creating innovative ways to keep them engaged and entertained whilst opening avenues to help the community.

One of these is “Bahay Guts Talent,” an initiative to allow NWR employees to showcase their unique talents from the comfort and safety of their homes. Employees only had to post a video via social media to join for a chance to win cash prizes, which are awarded both to the winning employees and their chosen communities. The contest proved so successful that it was eventually replicated for hotel guests who had to spend days stuck inside their rooms for the mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

Sian also delivered several online presentations to the company’s leaders about the initiatives and accomplishments of NWR despite the limitations of the pandemic, as well as the prospects for the near future. This presentation eventually evolved into a series of motivational talks that Sian delivered both to employees and partners.

Towards the tail end of the pandemic, Sian took the lead in making sustainability a bigger part of the company’s business model and operations with the I Love Earth (ILE) sustainability programme, which weaves together the company’s sustainability efforts since 2009 with that of its international-brand hotels. Through this initiative, the resort has committed not only to making operations more sustainable but also to promoting everyday, personal choices that are anchored on a personal commitment to sustainable living.

All these efforts underpin the unique workplace culture and engagement of NWR that have led to a high retention rate, with 48% of almost 5,500 employees having a tenure of five to 14 years, plus the phenomenon of employee “returnees.” There are currently 227 staff who have previously left the company and who reapplied to return to the culture that made them feel like part of a family.

Sian believes that by creating a meaningful and engaging experience that goes beyond superficial activities and truly captures the interest of Thrillmakers, the management is investing in the future of the company. “By creating a workplace that is engaging, entertaining, and educational, we can attract and retain the best talent,” Sian says.

These impactful initiatives have been honoured by the inaugural Asian Management Excellence Awards, with NWR clinching the Philippines Employee Engagement of the Year - Hospitality & Leisure category win and Sian bringing home the win in the Philippines Executive of the Year - Hospitality & Leisure category.

The prestigious awards programme celebrates the finest business leaders, innovators, and companies in Asia and commends exceptional achievements in the various aspects of operations, including employee engagement programmes, diversity and inclusion projects, and health and wellness initiatives.

The Asian Management Excellence Awards is presented by Asian Business Review Magazine. To view the full list of winners, click here. If you want to join the 2025 awards programme and be acclaimed for your company's employee engagements and management initiatives, please contact Jane Patiag at [email protected].

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