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Suite Talk: Dato’ Razlan Razali, Sepang International Circuit

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Dato’ Razlan Razali, CEO of Sepang International Circuit explains why its crucial for HR functions to improve their standards and become more professional if they wish to strategic business partners to the company.

You’ve been a motorsports enthusiast from a young age. What led you to this role as head of the SIC?

When I first found out that there was a vacancy for the GM’s position at SIC back in 2006, I put in my resume. I felt that my background in event management and promoting international events, and my passion for motor sports were a good fit for the job.

However, after a 3-hour interview by the chairman, my application was turned down.

Many months later, a head hunter called to inform me that I had been identified as a candidate for the CEO’s job at SIC. I was interviewed. It was two years, before I was finally appointed.

You’ve had a rich career experience taking up roles in consulting as well as business development. What is the one value you have held close throughout?

The value of teamwork. To me, this encompasses many things – communications, loyalty, honesty, all of that comes under teamwork.

I believe that as a new leader, the first thing you need to do is get the buy-in of the staff.

I believe that as a new leader, the first thing you need to do is get the buy-in of the staff.

Once you get their buy-in, your team will support you in achieving your goals and fulfilling the expectations of the stakeholders.

In any company, you need to have a good team, but at the same time, a leader must always remember his team that has supported him. You must support the personnel in turn. Make sure that they are happy, that their benefits are being taken care of, that they are rewarded if they do a good job.

How would you define your management style?

I consider myself a fairly easygoing and informal leader.

I’m happy to have my point of view challenged. I listen to my team – when it comes to ideas, I will listen to everybody before I make the final decision.

I don’t see myself as a disciplinarian – I only enforce discipline when I need to.

I also believe in being fair and rewarding the staff when they perform well.

What is your view of the human resources function, and how far it has progressed in Malaysia?

The HR team or department is critical in any company. I need a good HR department to take note of and address any grievances that employees have, and bring these grievances to my attention so that we can improve things.

I need a good HR department to take note of and address any grievances that employees have, and bring these grievances to my attention so that we can improve things.

As much as I try to be friendly to all the staff, the distinction between the CEO and staff makes them shy away from telling me the details, so for me to have eyes and ears on the ground, I need my HR manager to fulfil that role.

The information I get will help me deal with the situation. Sometimes you have issues that are just rumours, but we cannot act on rumours. I need the staff members to lodge a proper complaint to HR, to enable me to act on the problem.

I also need the HR team to help me take care of employee welfare. I need to make sure that we engage with our employees, and ensure that they are satisfied in their job. For us to make customers happy, our staff must first be happy themselves so they can do a good job catering to customer needs.

I welcome the evolution of the HR function in Malaysia, and the increasing professionalism.

Sometimes in niche industries such as motorsports, it can be difficult to find the correct HR manager who can manage all the personnel who are from varied backgrounds and have varied skill sets to fulfil varied job functions.

I agree with the idea of raising the bar of the HR profession to improve the workplace practices and talent management initiatives in their organisations.

In your organisation, what can HR do better in its contribution to the business?

From a HR viewpoint, an organisation such as SIC has rather niche requirements.

The HR team not only has to know the HR function but also the motorsports field as well as events management, in order to identify the right person for specific jobs.

They would also need to have their ear to the ground, to know if certain people with specific skills sets are looking for a job.

I agree with the idea of raising the bar of the HR profession to improve the workplace practices and talent management initiatives in their organisations.

On the whole, it would be good if the HR team had existing knowledge on the industry, but more importantly, they would need to pay close attention to building their knowledge as quickly as possible to perform better in the HR function.

Given the unconventional nature of your job, what challenges do your team face on a day-to-day basis? How do you help them overcome them?

One of the major challenges of this job is how much commitment it takes, which can take a toll on our personal lives.

Many of us find it hard to switch off from the job. I even have some ex-staff coming in to volunteer. This job is ideal for a person who craves adrenaline and to always be on the go, and doing something.

As someone who is their leader and also in the same boat as them, I try to offer a work-life balance and ways to de-stress.

Have you had a mentor in your career? What is the top advice he/she gave you?

My father is the pillar of my character when it comes to things like how I approach work.

He instilled values in me that I hold firmly to – values like remember where you come from , and remember the people that have supported you and contributed to your success.

In terms of a mentor within the industry, my current chairman Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir and SIC board member Tan Sri Azman Yahya are my two great mentors.

We share a great passion for motors ports and I am learning from them on how to make SIC better. In terms of work, professionalism, and business acumen, they have been great role models for me.

What is your secret to de-stressing? What do you enjoy in your free time?

I am a passionate fitness enthusiast, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. I find that breaking a sweat is relaxing, and I am lucky that the track provides a ready place for running or cycling.

So, in other words, the job comes with a built-in de-stressing facility for me.

Workforce Mobility Interactive: only regional conference on employee mobility and expatriate management issues. Limited to 100 HR leaders and senior mobility specialists,
request your complimentary invitation now »

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