Certis' Tan Toi Chia

Tan Toi Chia, Chief Corporate & Human Resources Officer, Certis believes HR must calibrate the right balance of physical and virtual engagement for the optimum employee experience.

Tan Toi Chia's diverse career spans key positions in large government-linked organisations to multinational corporations. At Certis, he leads corporate functions to accelerate the growth and performance of the group to develop Certis’ 27,000 global employees, set the strategic direction of the business, and strengthen Certis’ position as a tech-enabled security partner globally. 

He will be speaking at the upcoming Accelerate HR 2023 conference, on the topic 'Embedding ESG into corporate culture: Building sustainable businesses in a shifting global economy'.

In conversation with HRO's Lara Samson, Tan talks about the need to offer employees the flexibility they need while helping them strengthen their connections in the organisation in a hybrid working environment.

Interview excerpts below: 

What, in your view, are the top challenges and opportunities of leading HR in your sector and remit?

The pandemic has significantly altered the way we work today. We can no longer operate the way we did before, with the shift in what employees are looking for in their careers and a focus on flexibility in how they want to work. HR must help their organisations rethink employees as partners and enablers, and the role of the organisation is to provide the platform for their employees to thrive, all bound together with a shared sense of purpose and values.

You have probably heard a lot about quiet quitting recently, where employees are becoming less invested or are only willing to work within a defined scope or hours. While this can be alarming to some, the trend does suggest that employees want more out of their careers. As HR, we must review our policies and initiatives to evolve alongside changing employee needs and ensure our colleagues continue to feel engaged.

Employees want a balance between days working in the office and at home. How do we then build an engaged workforce in a hybrid setting? While we have been dealing with “work-from-home” for the past two to three years, we now need to calibrate the right balance of physical and virtual engagement to offer employees the flexibility they need while helping them strengthen their connections in the organisation.

At Certis, our staff have shown themselves to be high performing even with full “work-from-home”, so we are only asking teams and departments to set one day in the week to head back into their primary office to build a sense of team. This has been very well accepted, but HR must continue to listen to evolving needs and constantly adapt.

Q With most organisations looking to recover and rebound, where are you finding the headcount your team needs, and how are you coping with the talent shortage?

Recruiting tech talent continues to be a challenge in Singapore and the region. To engage and attract this group of talents, we ran an integrated campaign to boost our identity as a tech-led organisation. The campaign ‘Pioneering Innovation’ included a video, social media ads, introducing a referral scheme to our colleagues, and showcasing this content in recruitment fairs. With stiff competition, we needed to show them why Certis is different and how we have a fun and exciting workplace that offers opportunities for them to grow and perform at their best.

Beyond this campaign, our digital and social media platforms are constantly being updated with what is happening in the world of Certis. One of the reasons is that both current and potential employees can share our wins, understand what happens at work in Certis, and get to know what makes us unique. That way, candidates considering a career with us feel confident about how they can be aligned with our purpose and values, and current employees continue to stay engaged.

We also try to tackle talent challenges by designing our company with employees at the core – making work as seamless as possible. One example is how we try to harmonise work with people’s lives. We have three offices that employees can choose to work from. This gives them the flexibility to decide where they can work most effectively any day of the week. Another example is how we design apps that provide our employees a hassle-free experience.

One of these apps is Allegro, our one-stop employee platform that is easy to use and offers fast approvals for things like leave applications and employee claims.

Q Brain drain is a real concern in Asia at the moment. In this time of manpower shortage, how are you and the team preparing to manage these talent-related challenges?

Caring for our employees! Organisations need to be empathetic towards their employees and provide engagement with purpose. We must be able to enable them to make an impact that is aligned with their interest.

We have an initiative called 'Individual Development Plan', which allows our employees to chart their development goals for the year. People managers will then need to help their team meet these goals by finding suitable training, courses, on-the-job training, coaching or mentorship.

We also make it a point to prioritise our employees’ wellbeing. We run regular programmes to help train our people to be adaptable and equipped to deal with new stresses. This includes regular lunchtime talks from qualified professionals to stories in our weekly global employee newsletters about mindfulness and making time for themselves.

We always ensure that our employees know they are in a safe workplace. We have an 'ALIVE Charter', which encourages our employees to speak up in meetings as we appreciate that their views and experiences shape different perspectives and help them feel like they can be themselves at work.

We always start with what our employees or potential employees want and design programmes and policies around them.

Q Looking towards 2023, what's the biggest change that you believe needs to take place in HR?

Over these past couple of years, the value of strong HR leadership has been squarely in the spotlight. HR has been called upon to steer organisations through challenging COVID-19 times. On the one hand, we need to keep employees safe and protect jobs, while on the other, transforming to meet new business needs and employee expectations.

To undertake this strategic responsibility effectively and efficiently, a few things come to mind that I believe HR leaders and teams would benefit from. The first is operating with the highest level of credibility, reliability, and empathy, key ingredients in the trust equation. Achieving this allows HR to lead change confidently and persuade colleagues to take the sometimes difficult steps needed to transform.

The second is an enterprise-first understanding of business and organisational needs so that resources, policies, and initiatives can be crafted to support these outcomes. Very seldom, if ever, is anything done because of an HR outcome.

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