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Faces of HR: Why Chan Mei Lynn of Tan Chong Group advocates building problem solving capabilities



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Chan Mei Lynn, General Manager, Group Human Resource, Tan Chong Group, shares critical people management advice, including for women who want to excel in today’s HR industry.

Q What do you think are some of the top challenges women leaders face in the workplace?

Sociologically and culturally, the demographics of the top management team in many established organisations may not have changed that much, even with the many initiatives in the last 10 to 20 years to have more women at the top. I believe the challenges women leaders face in these workplaces continue to be similar to old challenges of garnering equal respect and breaking into the ‘boy’s club’, no matter how good they are.

However, there is a different space where women have become their own bosses. Many are entrepreneurs in their own right or work in start ups and newer established organisations where they have garnered the respect from their colleagues based on their individual capabilities.

Then, as the company evolves, their challenges are no different from that of men – i.e. to help the company move from the ‘start up’ modus operandi to that of a more established firm which needs to fall back on standard processes and procedures to ensure effectiveness and efficiencies. Men and women in these types of organisations appear to have more of an equal standing, and it is more about what each one is able to bring to the table.

Q What is the most critical people management advice you would like to share?

I believe that our world is in an era of transition, and many individuals and companies are caught in a cultural dilemma between the ‘tried and tested way’ of doing things versus taking risks to try doing things differently.

Most people are not inherently risk takers or creative. Hence, one of the most critical abilities that organisations and leaders need to figure out is how to build problem solving capabilities at all levels in the organisation.

This ability, together with that of understanding how the younger generation think and behave today will help managers to meet the engagement and retention requirements of today’s workforce.

Q What is a word of advice if you would give to women who want to excel in the HR industry of today?

The corporate world of work today is becoming more complex. For women to make it in the HR industry today and be thought leaders in this field, it requires a lot more tangible skill and knowledge than before. This may not necessarily be different in other functions either.

To garner the respect from colleagues and business partners, women will need to be knowledgeable from both the business and HR perspective, communicate in the language of business and finance, and know what HR levers to use to support the business in achieving the business goals. Success through these specific and targeted HR initiatives can be seen in monetary ROI and builds the trust and respect that HR practitioners (and perhaps specifically women in HR) need.

It would also help for women to be logical, rational and systematic in the way they approach issues. Couple that with a good understanding of sociology and psychology to manage both the employees and management, and I believe that would help women to make it in this industry.

Q What do you want delegates to get out of your session during the Learning & Development Asia 2019?

I would like to challenge the delegates to look at equipping female leaders in the workplace from a multitude of perspectives and perhaps solve the problem differently. Rather than seeing the glass as half empty, see at it as half full.

For example, rather than looking at championing diversity in the workplace, perhaps we could look at championing equality in the workplace instead. When we look at things from various perspectives, the solutions, initiatives and messaging can be better customised and more targeted, and hopefully outcomes, will then be better and more aligned.

Ultimately, are we clear about what it is we are trying to achieve? And are the initiatives and solutions we put in place geared towards achieving those objectives, or are we just jumping on a band wagon because other organisations or HR leaders are doing it and it is deemed as ‘best practice’?


Catch Mei Lynn’s session  at #LearningDevelopmentAsia this 25-26 September 2019 happening at Aloft KL Sentral as she addresses the topic of women in leadership.

As a special promotion for our reader, use the promo code “LDAFOHR10” to enjoy 10% off your ticket price.

Visit the event website to check out the stellar speaker list and reserve your seat! Or you can simply email our friendly colleagues at adrianr@humanresourcesonline.net and reggieo@humanresourcesonline.net to find out more.”

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