08 May 2024

Ardentec's unique "Transformative Method" to allow employees have a three-day weekend!

"Can the semiconductor industry, known for long hours and high pressure, also implement a 'three-day weekend'? Ardentec, Taiwan's top three testing companies, offer half of their employees a breathing space every two months with a three-day weekend. How does Ardentec manage to achieve this, with all customers willing to cooperate without disruption?"


"In many European and American companies, a three-day weekend is already a reality. Research by the advocacy group '4 Days Week Global,' which promotes experiments with the three-day weekend, shows that it can enhance productivity, employee satisfaction, and dedication. The Singapore government even announced that starting from December this year, Singaporean employees can proactively request adjustments to their working hours from employers, and supervisors cannot refuse on the grounds of the company's lack of support for flexible working culture, aiming to encourage companies to establish more comprehensive management systems.


While the implementation of the three-day weekend is expanding internationally, in Taiwan, where manufacturing and service industries dominate, to achieve the revolution in working hours in one step is challenging. Especially in Taiwan's semiconductor industry, which thrives on a culture of high discipline and hard work, reducing working hours by one day while maintaining profitability and production capacity poses practical challenges.


Ardentec, Taiwan's top three testing companies, is one of the few enterprises starting to experiment with a 'modified version' of the three-day weekend.


Since 2021, Ardentec has implemented a system of 'rotating three-day weekends' across its four factory sites. Excluding factory line personnel on shift rotations, about half of the employees can have Fridays off every two months, granting each person an average of 7 extra days off. This means that over 300 employees can take time off simultaneously.


After implementing the new system, Ardentec’s revenue increased, and employee satisfaction rose by 6%, resulting in a low turnover rate of only 8%. Yi-ping Huang, a project manager in the testing equipment technology department, particularly appreciates the new measures. Before the rotating three-day weekend system was implemented, even during his vacation, he needed to use a computer to handle work matters. Now, flexible vacation time reduces concerns. Additionally, if he travels to overseas factories and misses his flexible leave, the HR department automatically compensates him, which makes Yi-ping Huang feel the company cares for its employees.


"Without employees, there will be no customers, and without customers, there will be no employees. Balancing both is crucial," says Chi-Ming Chang, Vice Chairman and President of Ardentec. As one of the co-founders of Ardentec, Chi-Ming Chang, who previously taught at a foreign university for many years, sees his relationship with employees more as a mentor and a friend than as a boss, enabling him to advocate for employee benefits effectively.


Although having top-level support facilitates the smooth implementation of the new system, adjusting working hours for a company with thousands of employees is a significant undertaking. While the rotating three-day weekend system affects a smaller portion of the workforce compared to a comprehensive three-day weekend for all, it may still expose communication and trust issues within the organization. Ensuring the reassurance of external clients and stakeholders is also a challenge. How does Ardentec overcome these challenges?


Measures 1 Internal Employee Communication: Unified Vacation Time and Early Announcement of Calendar


Before implementing the rotating three-day weekend system, Ardentec previously offered seven flexible days off based on the canceled seven national holidays, but the utilization rate was very low. Employees were often disturbed during their vacations or worried about burdening their colleagues. To address this, Ardentec changed its approach to vacation scheduling. It now schedules Fridays off in rotation across its four factory sites, with the annual calendar announced in November of the previous year, allowing employees to plan ahead, arrange work handovers, and schedule trips.


For shift workers on the production line, the seven flexible days off remain unchanged as they already had autonomy in scheduling their time off.


On a management level, the unified vacation system has reduced the occurrence of engineers taking sudden leaves, allowing supervisors to plan manpower in advance and avoid emergencies affecting employees' vacations. Employees are also trained to plan their tasks 2 to 4 weeks in advance and report their daily work plans to their supervisors during daily meetings, reducing the likelihood of 'stealing time' from work and fostering disciplined work habits. This ensures that tasks are completed on schedule, allowing employees to take their vacations without worry.


“When the factory director takes vacation with you, the pressures to rush through work is relatively low” said Yi-Ping Huang.


Measures 2 External Client Communication: Cross-Company Team Building


In the contract manufacturing industry, adjusting working hours also requires consideration of client perceptions. Ardentec's clients include both domestic and international giants such as Apple, Texas Instruments, TSMC, and Macronix, all with high standards. How do Ardentec employees take their vacations without worry?


According to “A Guide to Implementing the 4-Day Workweek” from Harvard Business Review, communicating schedules in advance from different perspectives with stakeholders can solve the problem of client disturbances during vacations. The research suggests that when employees mark their vacation dates on the calendar in advance, it leads to higher customer satisfaction. As Ardentec plans vacation days a year in advance, employees fulfill their obligation to notify in advance.


"In the past, clients were always in a rush on Fridays. After implementing the fixed Friday off policy, clients now cooperate with our vacation schedules," says Yi-ping Huang. When everything is urgent, there is no work-life balance. In the fast-paced technology industry where product specifications and technologies change rapidly, managing client demands is a challenging skill.


To enhance client trust, Ardentec conducts team-building activities with international clients. Clients fly to Taiwan and spend an afternoon with Ardentec employees. Senior management of Ardentec explains the origin of the rotating three-day weekend system and the vision of treating talent well. In an era where international corporations are increasingly concerned about supply chain human rights, measures to take care of employees' work-life balance often gain recognition from major international companies, thereby enhancing cooperation willingness.


By carefully planning vacations and work, actively communicating with clients, Ardentec has achieved a 90% implementation rate of the three-day weekend, with few instances of recalls due to client demands.


Measures 3 Leadership Leading by Example in Taking Vacations


Culture is the foundation that supports good systems. In addition to unified vacation planning for employees, senior management reminds each other to take vacations and stagger their vacation times. "Other company bosses ask you, 'How dare you take a vacation,' but our boss asks, 'Why aren't you taking a vacation?'" Yi-ping Huang laughs. Supervisors would inquire if they notice an employee hasn't scheduled a vacation yet, and may even help plan the best vacation time, like suggesting August for optimal rest.


When interviewed, Chris Chou, head of HR, had just returned to Taiwan after a 20-day vacation. When top-level management takes vacations, it allows employees to imagine pursuing work-life balance. In consideration of employees caring for elderly family members, Ardentec offers employees with family members aged 75 or older or with major illnesses the option to work from home for one day per month, with over ten employees applying for this benefit last year.


After implementing the rotating three-day weekend in 2021, the median salary in 2022 was not affected by the decrease in working hours, but increased by 100,000 TWD. Coupled with a low turnover rate of only 8%, this proves that reasonable working hours and high profits are not mutually exclusive."


Source : <Cheers> https://www.cheers.com.tw/article/article.action?id=5103133&page=1