Features

Maggie Wong – Empire Office

HR leader boost outreach to bring ‘Empire’ together

For 77 years, ever since the first desk was delivered to a Wall Street firm, Empire Office has helped its customers create workplaces—and brands and company cultures.

Maggie Wong says she didn’t know how intricate the industry was when she was recruited to join the company in 2022 as vice president for human resources and talent management.

As Empire Office helps its customers define—or redefine—their workplaces, Wong is helping guide how the company’s workplaces and talent will be defined post-COVID-19 pandemic.

Maggie Wong | Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Management | Empire Office

Maggie Wong | Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Management | Empire Office

This year, she launched initiatives focused on physical, mental and financial health such as incorporating a lifestyle spending account and administering a steps challenge. Wong also added a Gympass fitness subscription and the Calm app for meditation and mental wellbeing. She’s also bringing employees together at Empire Office’s eight locations for activities, events and supporting charitable causes such as St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I’ve been an HR professional since 2011 and it has evolved from where I started,” Wong says. “It’s more people-centric and we’re champions of company values and culture while still being a trusted business partner.”

Furnishing culture

Empire Office was founded in New York City by Abraham Gaslow in 1946 and remains family-owned and operated with Abe’s son, Larry Gaslow, serving as company chairman and Larry’s son, Peter Gaslow, the president and CEO.

By 1950, the company had started installing furniture outside New York State. With eight locations now in several states, its customers include 41 of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies, as well as 154 colleges and universities and 178 health care and medical facilities.

Empire Office provides more than desks or cabinets. It works with more than 500 manufacturers as well as designers, architects and craftspeople to create workplaces that allow organizations and their employees to thrive, Wong says.

Its recent projects include helping transform the retail level of a Class A office building into a mixed-use amenity space in midtown Manhattan. The company also worked with a large banking client to procure, deliver and install furniture at 2,000 branches across the U.S. in the last two years.

Connectivity counts

Empire Office had a flexible in-office work policy before the pandemic began. The sales staff worked with customers at their locations as needed. Conversely, the operations teams in the warehouse continued to work onsite. Wong says a typical hybrid schedule currently has employees in the office three days a week.

She’s focused on boosting employee outreach as well as improving processes for evaluating talent. For instance, she has “Office Champions” at Empire Office’s locations who help coordinate social events such as holiday parties, happy hours and bowling nights.

Wong has relied on Microsoft Teams for a lot of her communications and says the company is looking into improving its office intranet service using Teams and other technology platforms.

Maggie Wong | Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Management | Empire Office

“This is a more centralized and collaborative approach,” she says. “We want to bring excitement back into the office in a hybrid environment.”

Wong and her team are providing a more formal and consistent performance review process with the intent of doing them more frequently.

They’re developing consistent criteria including job knowledge, teamwork, leadership and using interpersonal skills. Those are blended in to align with company values, which include being creative and innovative, flexible and agile, and collaborating to create a culture of excellence, she says.

“We’re engaging employees and their managers to have more frequent one-on-one conversations,” Wong says. “We’re taking some steps to surpass what the environment was like pre-COVID.”

It’s the people

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Wong earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University at Buffalo with concentrations in financial analysis and human resources.

The concentrations pair well for her—the analytical side of finances is matched by her desire to get to know people and understand their motivations. While in college, she also participated in extracurricular activities including volunteering for organizations such as Weinberg Campus and Relay for Life. She was a member of Kappa Phi Lambda Inc., an Asian-interest sorority dedicated to providing service, promoting academic excellence and raising cultural awareness across university campuses and communities.

“I was recruiting in a sense before I knew what it was,” Wong says. She was also an HR intern at Univera Healthcare in Williamsville, just outside Buffalo.

After graduating, Wong returned to New York City, joining Crédit Agricole CIB, the corporate and investment banking arm of Crédit Agricole Group, in 2011 as an HR associate.

Maggie Wong | Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Management | Empire Office

In May 2013, she became an HR associate at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA. In her nearly six years at the agency, Wong was promoted three times and had become HR relationship manager when she joined Revlon as senior manager of HR in February 2019. While at FINRA, Wong also became a Senior Certified Professional by the Society for Human Resource Management.

When Wong joined Maesa as senior HR manager in August 2020, she says she got her first opportunity to build an HR department and set foundations for policies and processes. Maesa, a large beauty brand incubator that partners with retailers including Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters and Sephora, had about the same number of employees as Empire Office.

Wong was named HR director at Maesa in October 2021, but shortly after, Empire Office came calling. The company’s vision, family ownership and the accessibility of its employees resonated with her.

“In my HR role, caring about and developing people comes first,” Wong says. “I serve across all functions and levels to create value and meaningful work to help our people thrive. I truly enjoy helping business teams grow and being a champion of change.”

View this feature in the Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.

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