A Special Company for Special People: Hwashin Instrument Korea
During my visit at Hwashin Instrument in South Korea, I got to know a team that is motivated in their jobs, loyal to their employer, and treats eachother like family. And it’s no coincidence. The company’s efforts to improve the lives of its employees and create a strong bond among the team are among the most impressive I’ve ever seen.
Hwashin Instrument’s headquarters is located in the busy Gangnam area of Seoul (yes, that is the Gangnam from Gangnam Style). The company is a truly unconventional one, and I kept noticing little details that made this increasingly clear to me.
My host, Automation and Voltammetry Product Manager Min Cheol Song, picked me up at my hotel on my first day in Korea to take me to Hwashin. The company’s red brick building is one of the older buildings in the Gangnam district, where reflecting glass towers compete for the highest spots in the Seoul skyline. But Hwashin is anything but out-of-date. The first thing you’ll notice, before even entering the building, is Hwashin’s fleet of electric cars, which is lined up at the building front to charge whenever the field staff isn’t out visiting customers. And it continues inside.
In the seminar room and in the lab, you’ll find about 20 acoustic guitars. To my host, who’s worked at Hwashin for more than two decades, this was so normal that he didn’t even bother to address this until I asked. «Many people in the company were interested to learn how to play the guitar,» he anwered. «So the company bought some and also invited a professional player to teach us. Some people still practice during their breaks.»
Hwashin is a company that obviously cares about the happiness of its staff, and this doesn’t end after work hours. Six times a year, Hwashin organizes so-called Hof Days on the company rooftop after work hours have ended. Hof is the Korean word for pub or bar, and the Hof Day celebrations are all about getting together as a team and drinking beer, wine, and the Korean favorite soju. Or somaek, a mix of beer and soju designed to make the light Korean beer stronger. Here’s what happens after some beer and somaek:
Once a year, Hwashin takes its entire staff, about 70 people, on a trip. Destinations alternate between domestic and international. The recent trip to the Thai dream island Phuket has stayed in everybody’s memory and came up many times during my visit. Experiences like these have brought the team closer together: they are family to one another.
But Hwashin also thinks of each individual’s needs. Each employee can take 3 months off with full pay to study English in an English-speaking country. And after 10 years at Hwashin, employees get one month of paid leave. The team at Hwashin knows that these are extraordinary conditions that most employees of other companies can only dream of. They give back to the company by working hard and by keeping their expertise and experience in the company for many years or even decades.